What Would it Take?

May 12, 2010

What would it take for you to give up your faith?

Not just a pile of cash or something like that.  More like what kind of scientific discovery would it take for you to give it up, stop going to church, admit to yourself that it’s all not true?

It kind of amazes me how no matter what scientists discovers, Christians usually find an explanation that leaves Jesus unharmed by science’s evil advance.

For example, scientists have come up with lots of data about the brains of religous people and all the chemical reactions that happen when people pray and go to church.  There’s archaeologists who make new finds that don’t always line up with the Bible.  Plus, there’s all those fossils that “prove” we came from apes, and Stephen Hawking, who can prove everything about the universe with just his brain.

This week, it was announced that babies seem to have an internal sense of morality, that they know the difference between good and evil.  This seems pretty obvious to me.  Babies cry everytime something remotely “evil” happens to them.  Then they turn two, and choose to be evil.  I’m sure some people will think this points to a genetic disposition toward religion, or other ethical belief systems.  I happen to think it proves more of what C.S. Lewis was saying in Mere Christianity.

Anyway, it got me thinking about all the things Christians hold dear, hoping that some loudmouth scientist doesn’t come along and “proves” that belief is wrong.  What would it take for you to admit Christianity might be a hoax?

Evolution is a fact.

This is the big one.  Creation vs. Evolution!  I don’t think they’ve done it yet.  But if they really found a living “missing link,” some ape who didn’t fully evolve, but somehow could use perfect English to buy Little Debbie snack cakes at the grocery store, would you drop Genesis? 

To me, if I can look around today and not believe we evolved from apes, there’s probably nothing that’s going to change my mind.

Fish don’t eat people.

The Old Testament has some real doozies.  What if they proved that Jonah could not possibly have survived inside a fish for three days? 

If they proved this, I would wonder just how they proved it.  Who volunteered for that study?  I went to Quintiles for a day to try to get into a medical study once, and that one day was bad.  I won’t give you the details, but it involved a lot of urine…so much urine. 

But I digress.  Being in a fish wouldn’t be like in Pinocchio.  Fish aren’t hollow.  It would be gross.  But I’d be able to let that story go and still be okay.  How much of the Old Testament could you let go of, if you had to? 

The Israelites weren’t monotheists.

That one’s a trick.  Some smart guy archaeologist made that announcement a few weeks ago.  According to his studies, the ancient Israelites “may not have been true monotheists.”  No kidding?  That’s what the whole Bible is about!  The Israelites did not want to be monotheists, and God was always forcing His views down their throats like the biggest evangelical ever!

Mary wasn’t a virgin.

Now we’re taking off the kid gloves.  This one would be tough, as I personally think it’s important.  I don’t treat Mary the way the Catholics typically do.  In fact, I’m not really sure what Catholics are doing with Mary, and I’d like one to enlighten me.  But I do think it’s important that Jesus was concieved supernaturally.

But again, how would anyone go about proving she wasn’t a virgin?  The, um…”traditional” means of proving virginity isn’t exactly available to us.  And if it is, it’s got to be locked away in some church, which makes me shudder to think about.  Still, I think I could do without the virgin birth and still be a Christian.

Aliens.

What if aliens exist?  Are they, or we the pinnacle of creation?  Are they redeemed, or will they be in heaven?  Some people would probably have a problem learning that God was doing a lot of things outside the Bible.  I fully expect that God had his holy hands full with other things besides the Israelites.  After dealing with them, I’d need a diversion when I came home from work.  Not to say that Jesus was visiting other alien planets, because we’re the best.  But if the aliens tell us about how they populated our planet and embedded themselves into our minds, we’re all going to be eating a lot of crow for making fun of Tom Cruise, and that won’t be fun.

Thomas’ name was really “Steve.”

I actually think this is the case.  It’s a conspiracy, actually.  Over half of the disciples were really named “Steve.”  Bartholomew?  That’s a name-made-up-by-an-evil-conspiracy if I ever heard one.  I don’t think it’s a big deal, really.

The “religious” gene.

I think this is might be a bigger threat than finding “codes” in the Bible.  Scientists are hard at work mapping out the whole of human DNA.  They hope they can find every behavior rooted in our genetic code.  They’re looking for “fat” genes and “gay” genes, and someone’s probably looking for a “Jesus” gene.  I’m not worried.  If they ever find it, and prove that all religious people are playing out an instinct given to them by their genetic makeup, I think I’ll finally become a Calvinist.  Election win! 

I guess I am pretty closed minded.  Unless they actually found a corpse with a pen in his hand and a piece of paper that said “My name is Jesus of Nazareth, and I am not God, nor did I rise from the dead, as you can see,” then I don’t think they can “prove” anything that can make me lose my faith.

I guess that’s how Christianity has survived.  Christians used to be threatened by Galileo saying the world was round.  Turned out, it didn’t matter so much.

What would it take for you?  What would put Christianity in serious doubt?  Is your faith impervious to the continual advancement of science?  Or is your faith more threatened by the questions that science can’t prove or disprove?

40 responses to What Would it Take?

  1. …I don’t know……I guess I haven’t really thought about it. But I live to (try) to bring glory and honor to God, and I guess if He weren’t real then I’m still living a ‘good’ life. Is that a win either way, or a cop out?

  2. If they could disprove the resurrection then that would cause me to give up my faith. Everything else is less important.

  3. I tell my children…there have been many time I have tried to give up my faith… walk away say it wasn’t real…but the EVIDENCE God has placed in my life, the miracles that He has done in me and my husband, make it where even if I wanted to…I CAN’T!

  4. Honestly, I’m not threatened at all by any kind of science or finding or etc. I’m all for anything they find out there. The whole deal with finding Noah’s ark recently is probably a hoax imho. Both sides can prove anything with evidence. I don’t think there’s anything that could happen that would force me to give up my faith. It’s part of who I am. Abandoning my Southern Baptist roots would be detrimental in who I am. Just call me Tony Stark. “The suit and I are one, you take away the Iron Man suit, you’re taking away Tony Stark.

    nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com

  5. Bravo Matt! I’ve been recently been involved in some back-and-forth over all these topics plus Global Warming, the existence of God, the validity of the Scriptures and the discovery of Noah’s Ark. The naysayers hate the word “faith”. If I hear the words “empirical evidence” one more time I am going to puke. I think, as Christians, we need to coin the term “miracle evidence”!

    Because I know Jesus, I don’t even need the Bible to live out my faith (I read it at least 5 times a week). Sure, there is a lot of stuff for God still yet to speak to me, but I’ve read it cover to cover 7 times in 7 different translations. I’ve studied some Greek and Hebrew. I know that I know that I know that God is faithful! And I experienced that at my conversion. Now I can commune with Him anytime (learned how), share in fellowship with His people, hear His voice, pray with power, and even love the unlovable (well, most of the time unless they cut me off in traffic). Because I know Him, I don’t need to know where the end of the universe is, and what’s on the other side of the wall. I don’t even have a lot of questions for Him in Heaven. I just want to hang out free of pain and suffering worshipping Him without someone complaining about the sound system.

    Jesus loves me this I know – but for now, because He told me personally. Any evidence that the pot smoking scientists have would be suspect – especially if it’s on NPR. 😉

    I guess we are thinking a lot alike this week. That should be scary for you. Check out this post from the 17th.

    http://fireandgrace.blogspot.com/2010/05/dont-touch-that-dial-real-proof.html

  6. these and many others questions force me to wrestle with my faith..and i must admit..i believe that is why God leaves them unanswered..the Israelites struggled with monotheism (probably because they lived in survival mode and their gods provided food, rain, and blessings)..but because we have evolved (yes, i used that word) in our thoughts and learning, then we must be tested in that way..so with our big ole brains we have to wrestle with these questions that would appear to prove or disprove God..
    i dunno..what do you think?

  7. Matt,
    Great thoughts…I think sometimes I give up my faith in smaller events throughout the day…and I don’t even realize it. I surrender to the norm of the world’s flow before I awaken to the bad taste in my mouth. The “big ones” I’m not concerned about… probably would trust the news any ways…

    Peace,
    Jay

  8. Nothing will make me lose my faith given some of the things I’ve faced without doubting God’s existence. Science can wail away at religion…and, to be honest, I have serious doubts on the motivations of scientists out to “disprove” Christianity…but I’ve seen too much to doubt Him.

  9. Wow…that’s a big, big question. I struggle with that notion from time to time; occasionally the thought will enter my head, “what if none of this is true?” I will say that I like to think I have strong faith, and I believe that God doesn’t need to be proven or disproven. He’s bigger than that…far bigger than our human-limited minds can fathom. His thoughts aren’t our thoughts, and His ways aren’t our ways.

    Deep down, I think I believe that my faith shouldn’t depend on any proof one way or another; what good is it if it isn’t really and truly faith?

  10. If faith is anything other than participation in a properly ordered relationship with God, anything could destroy it: earthquakes, storms, personal disasters, scientific discoveries, half-baked psychological theories, rain on a picnic, a giant zit on your nose, a Pepsi commercial,…

    What would it take for me to give up my faith? My forgetting who I am and where I belong in the divine order of things.

  11. As a scientist, let me just say that in my mind, there is nothing that science can discover that cannot, in some way, be possible through the workings of God. I don’t pretend to know the methods by which God could have created us, but if the evidence points to evolution as His tool of creation, then it probably is. Or at least it’s our human perception of His tools. Finding a religious gene and discovering some sort of innate morality, to me, only strengthens the idea that we were made to serve our Creator. Theologians have been saying for centuries that people have an inherent desire to find God; now scientists say it too.

  12. None of the things you list really bother me. I am not a biblical literalist, and my faith is not based on the validity of miracles or bizarre events like being swallowed by a whale. I honestly can’t imagine anything I could learn that would “destroy” my faith in God. My faith isn’t based on evidence, so no disproving of anything would have any effect.

    In church, on the other hand… I’m very close to giving up on that altogether. And I know that there are some amazing churches out there, but it really feels like most of them are full of people who care more about getting together for pot lucks and for some old-timey, feel-good hymn-singing than to really worship God or serve other people.

  13. Oh, and to answer your question about Catholics and Mary:

    Catholics honor Mary as the mother of Jesus. She unquestioningly submitted herself to God’s will to bear the savior of the world. She bore Jesus, raised him, taught him, was one of his closest followers, and ultimately suffered the loss of her child on the cross. She of all people was the closest to Jesus and understood him and his purpose more than any other human being.

    The idea that Catholics “worship” Mary isn’t true. They “honor” her for the reasons above (among others). Catholic prayers to Mary are not like prayers to God. Rather, they ask Mary to pray on the asker’s behalf — much like you might ask your own mother (or friend, or pastor, etc.) to pray to God for you.

    I’ll admit that the idea of talking to dead people is kind of weird, but there’s no reason to think that souls in heaven would suddenly stop having regard for the souls still here on earth. But, as with anything, there are certainly people who take the idea too far, and the honor given to Mary actually does begin to border on worship.

    • Wow… I am looking for the opposite. I go to churches where the worship music is through the roof (not to many hymns written for electric guitar), people get healed, there are prophetic words that come to pass, the presence of God so strong one can hardly stand at times, but when it’s over, you can’t find anyone to hang out for a coffee, never mind show up at a pot luck.

    • Thanks for responding to my request for a Catholic perspective! It is very easy for Protestants to misunderstand the relationship Catholics have to Mary. (At least I hope we’re misunderstanding.)

  14. an interesting read for you might be “Act of God” by Charles Templeton. it’s a fiction read about what would happen if someone found the bones of Jesus. actually i think in the story they find the bones of Simon the Zealot along with a parchment saying that he stole the body of Jesus.
    it’s definitely not G rated though. i have a copy, wanna borrow it? it’ll be easier just to go to the library.

  15. Maybe this is a cop out, but it seems to me that if your “faith” can be lost (or gained, for that matter) based on any evidence, then it wasn’t really faith in the first place.

    But I often wonder how different I would be without it. Always having been the “good” kid in a Christian home, but at the same time very logically-minded, I firmly believe that I would have had a very different life. Why not do the things that make you feel good now if there’s no authority to whom you are ultimately responsible? Why keep promises (or make them in the first place)? As long as I’m not breaking the law (or at least not getting caught at it), what’s the harm? Oh, I still probably would have recycled and done other “good” things, but my rationale would have been very different.

  16. None of your points would change anything for me. As Princess Leia points out, and I don’t think this is a cop out at all, if your faith can be lost based on evidence, then it wasn’t faith in the first place.

    Science doesn’t change what I think about my faith, because God invented science. Evolution may or not be a part of where we came from – that’s totally immaterial to me. The Bible speaks truth, but every part doesn’t have to be taken literally in order to see the truth. God is still God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and how He did it doesn’t matter. He certainly doesn’t have to ‘splain Himself to me.

  17. Simply put, even if someone comes up with evidence that “disproves” Christianity, one can always fall back on Pascal’s Wager, which states that living the Christian way is the best because you have everything to gain (Living a good moral life, with the possibility of a good afterlife) and nothing to lose (Living a selfless life is bound to put you in the good graces of another deity, and if we all turn to worms… well, at least your time on earth was well-spent.)

  18. Great post. Great comments.

    I’ve struggled with several of these issues – especially the creationism/evolution debate (though your “invasion of the Steves” is indeed frightening, Matt.) All my life I was taught that embracing evolution required walking away from my Christian faith, that the two could not coexist in harmony, and that I had to choose.

    Surprisingly enough, I now consider myself a Christian who fully embraces evolutionary theory. Crazy right?

    What I learned through the painful, doubt-ridden process of arriving at this position is that faith is remarkably resilient. Like a living organism, it can adapt to change in order to survive. I think it’s important that we leave room for that. We don’t want our faith to be in the precarious position of being once scientific discovery away from extinction.

    I love Augustine’s perspective on this. Centuries before Darwin, he said of his interpretation of Genesis: “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it

    So I guess I’m not as worried about the ways the science might “disprove” Christianity..Though an alien invasion would certainly make things interesting!

    • What a wonderful perspective. I’m with you 100%. I think Christians run the risk of saying things like “I totally disagree with science” because they are afraid that this might debunk their current hypothesis and faith in Christianity. This actually hurts the Christian cause instead of helps. It’s okay to not understand how the puzzle pieces all fit together. It’s okay, (I think) to say, “you know what, because we’re talking about GOD here, evolution and Genesis could both be true, because with God all things are possible. I think we’re better off saying “I don’t know how that happened” and trying to figure it out, than taking a stance on something we don’t believe in just for the sake of being “right” or defending our faith. If our faith is indeed true, it won’t matter what science proves….the two can co-exist.

  19. Personally, i think that scientists have already proved that it takes something supernatural to create the earth. Just look at what we’ve done with our “scientific” knowledge of the last 50 years: Severe pollution problems; massive increase in cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, as well as a host of other chronic illnesses; chemicals infiltrating all parts of our lives including prescription drugs, vaccines, cleaning products, personal care products, water, food, things that look like food, things masquerading as food & frankenfoods; the list could go on & on.

    When we start messing with “Mother Nature” – our environment as God created it – all that results is mess. To me, everything else aside, it shows me that God must be creator & author because everything we touch seems to disintegrate with our “help.”

    • Blaming scientists for those modern problems is sort of like blaming farmers for a badly-cooked meal. They may have originated the concepts, but they weren’t (necessarily) the ones who abused them in harmful ways.

      • I guess i wasn’t thinking about it as blaming scientists so much as the concept of “we’re smart enough to know what we are doing” as people in general – seems to be disproved by the mess that we’ve made of God’s creation. Yes, i specified scientists, who i do believe have an abnormally high regard for what they create & their thinking process. But it seems to me to be typical of modern life in general.

        Didn’t Time magazine or Life or some other one declare “God is dead” about 40 years ago? Well, look at what has happened in the mean time.

  20. I love the WNYC Radio Labs podcast. I was listening to a whole bunch the other day and contemplating exactly what science is. Radio Labs loves poking around the edges of science and mystery and they regularly call scientists with difficult dilemmas for problems. This one was on animal minds. You regularly hear scientists say things like “scientifically we can’t say that or we can’t know that” and when they push them further they say “but if I were to speak non-scientifically I would have to say that yes that ape sure seemed to be doing X”.

    Tim Stafford on his blog is reviewing “Deeper than Darwin” http://bit.ly/bWcAdg which asks some really interesting questions about our assumed sorting of reality.

    I think science is itself a tradition/community/language of understanding and proving is always a subset of a common language yet what is is. Ultimately Christianity means nothing if the renewal of all things never comes. Given our short life spans we all usually have to default to a more pragmatic choice of what to do with the century we’ve been given.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post and blog. pvk

  21. These are things I have struggled with, and I finally came to the conclusion that I don’t need to understand how science and faith in God work out. God is SO much bigger than I am, and how presumptuous is it that I would think that I, or any other human, could figure everything out? I think there are so many things that we, as humans, just couldn’t possibly wrap our heads around that perhaps God’s explanations to us were simplified down to the basics – as in He gave us what we needed to know that we may come to know Him. I don’t need to understand how the explanation of Adam and Eve jive with scientific discovery – I just need to trust that there is an essential truth in the biblical account that is unchanged no matter what science discovers.

    It took me a long time to get to this point, but I finally had to realize that there just wasn’t always going to be a suitable explanation and that I had to be ok with that.

  22. Nothing can make me lose my faith. period. (I’m stubborn like that)

    And for what it’s worth….

    if we evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

  23. “Thomas’ name was really Steve”–Have you been reading the ‘Get Fuzzy’ comic strip? LOL

    All of the examples you give would cause us to put our focus on man rather than God. And, based on my limited experience, science is always making corrections to their findings, like butter vs. margarine. Twenty years ago, butter was evil and margarine was the only way to a healthy heart. Now margarine can lead to cancer and butter is not bad. Eggs were bad, but now they are okay. Red wine is good, or is it white? The universe was created by a big bang, or is it just one of many strings? Evolution happened excrutiatingly slowly or maybe had growth spurts called punctuated equilibrium or did aliens that evolved somewhere else put in motion our own evolution? I have a background in science, but I do not put my faith in any findings. I once walked away from God and from religion, though, because of some bad apples in the Christian community. However, that was my fault for putting my faith in the clay jars instead of the potter. Praise God that He was faithful to me even when I was faithless.

  24. I’m less concerned about giving up my faith than I am with living like I have no faith. I don’t want to be what Groeschel calls a Christian atheist. Outside of disproving the Resurrection (which Paul said our faith is futile and we are still in our sins if there is no Resurrection), there is nothing I can think of that would get me to give up my faith. I need to work on truly living like I have faith than just giving lip service to it.

  25. Hmmm…

    I’m pretty sure if gauchos ever come back as a fashion trend that would do it for me.

  26. My faith isn’t just a feeling or even a trust,it is a Gift from the God who called Himself “I AM THAT I AM” I can’t explain or prove that statement & God our Father leaves us with the statement as fact.He is self existing & no matter what collapses around me- even if the earth should burn up – He remains! I agree with Tandemingtroll,we should not put our faith in the clay jars (christians, churches or doctrines/)But in the Potter,our Creator.

  27. I’ve been thinking about this constantly lately. But I agree with the idea that if someone could prove that the resurrection didn’t happen, or the man we know as Jesus never existed at all or something, then I would probably forfeit the faith. Everything else…well…it’s really just icing on my Jesus cake.

    The question of “how much OT stuff are you willing to let slide” is very tricky. Within certain circles it’s downright dangerous to discuss this. But I’ve decided that I will never know the answer to this question, and, more importantly, I don’t actually care anymore. The stories of the OT are important to me, because I feel they explain our relationship to God and why we need a Savior; I don’t need them to ALL be literally true for me to understand their meanings.

    And as for what Catholics are doing with Mary…it’s complicated, but here’s a small sample; this is part of the reason why Mary is “different” in Catholicism. Another main issue is Mary’s role in intercessory prayer, which applies to saints as well (as well as other people like you and me, for that matter). I won’t bore you with other complicated details at the moment… http://www.lifeteen.com/default.aspx?PageID=BGQADETAIL&__DocumentId=501 It’s from a Catholic youth ministry website; the explanations are correct but often better here than at other places, because they don’t use Catholic jargon as much (i.e. Latin and obscure abbreviations.)

  28. I try to underpin myself with the idea that irrespective of science’s discoveries, God created the world. How we get to this point remains His choice.

    Otherwise, science will destroy my little notions of faith.

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