Thursday, June 19, 2008

anything wrong with being Agnostic?

Well, no, not really. Unless you want to be able to really give answers about life. If you are content to have a pure emotional situation, then you are fine. In fact, that is all you have, really. Just emotion. I recently spoke with someone very close to me who said belief in God seemed silly to him, and that he is agnostic now. He has decided to go to church in order to please his wife and children, but as for believing in what he was raised with--historic, orthodox Christianity, he has decided to suspend his belief.

"I feel better," he said, referring to his decision to no longer wrestle with asking God to help him to have faith. "For a long time, I asked God to help me have faith, but it never came. Then one day, sitting in church, I looked around at everybody and said to myself, 'This is silly.' So I decided I didn't believe anymore." When pressed further, he told me that the doctrine of hell influenced his decision. Furthermore, he said, the Bible has too many contradictions."
"Such as?" I asked.
"Well, I can't name any off the top of my head."

He posed other evidential problems to me like Jesus' apparent mistake in saying the Son of Man would return before "this generation passes away." I suggested that he give himself a different interpretation: Jesus was predicting his coming in judgment before his disciples' generation would pass away, and this actually happened in A.D. 70 when Titus and his Roman army sacked Jerusalem.

But the doctrine of hell was his big issue. And, believing in God just seemed 'silly.' Besides, he had asked God repeatedly for a stronger faith, had read the Bible, and that stronger faith was never felt, and never came.

I failed to ask him what he meant by this request.

But here's some things for him to ponder....

Agnosticism was coined by Aldous Huxley, which simply means that we cannot know religious truth for certain. Huxley asserts that we have epistemological uncertainty. Immanuel Kant summed up the same point in his bifurcation between the phenomenal realm (the realm of our sense experience) and the noumenal realm (that which is beyond our sense experience: ideas like God's existence and so forth).

Now, it may seem quaint to some, but agnosticism as an epistemological system makes a certain claim that certain ideas cannot be known with any kind of certainty. But how can a system of thought make a claim about the nature of knowledge and truth that denies that certain truths cannot be known? It is as if to say, "You see that fence over there?"
"Yeah," you reply.
"Well," Mr. Agnostic says, "I'm telling you that you cannot know what is beyond that fence."
"How do you know that?"
"It's just not feasible that we can know anything beyond the fence. You can't go there."
"Well, have you gone up to the fence and peered over it, or under it, or tried to look through it?"
"No, of course not! For the simple reason that we believe it is impossible to know what is beyond it. In fact, it's silly to think that you can."
"I see."

You see. If agnosticism is true, then it is also false. It is a contradiction. But, my friend the agnostic isn't an epistemological agnostic. He's more like Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov. Ivan refuses to worship the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, not because he believes in a philosophical system that purportedly defuses the intellectual rigor of theism. No. He refuses to bow the knee to God because he is dissatisfied with the way God runs the world. Ivan points to the ineffable suffering and evil humans inflict on each other and says that he chooses not to worship God because of the suffering and evil that He allows. And Ivan, I think, speaks for many of us. We ask "why?" and we question God's goodness.

Now my friend should really ask himself some additional questions however: Am I going to get up and go to work today? Am I going to stay with my family? Am I going to be honest on my taxes? Will I still give to charity? And on and anon. Because if there is no transcendent, overarching person ruling the universe and giving us meaning and motive, what is there?

1 comment:

T. Michael W. Halcomb said...

...and why hasn't your blog been on my pagereader until just now? I don't know. But I just added it!