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Apply Yourself December 9, 2008

Posted by caseyww in Faith, Personal.
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This week I thought I’d share a little more information about myself via an application my church has their volunteers who help with the worship ministry fill out.  A little back story: I’ve been helping run the sound system at my church for a while now and was recently asked to answer the following questions.

(By the way, this post is in no way a criticism of the application itself or of Coast in general.  While my answers may not be exactly conventional the application is certainly appropriate.  Even further than that, Coast’s response to me has been one of acceptance and grace even in doubt.  Therefore, I do want to preface sharing these thoughts by saying that I appreciate Coast’s uncanny welcoming of dissent and the space for me work out faith.)

Personal Relationship with Jesus (Describe how and when you came to know Jesus):

Bang! Right out of the gate huh?  The old go to answer that I’ve typically relied on is: “I was raised in a Christian home with devoted parents where, for as long as I can remember, I was always encouraged to involve Jesus in my life.  Therefore, I can’t pin-point a moment of conversion…He has just always been close.” But if we want to speak frankly this isn’t quite honest.

The truth is that for a long time I’ve been worshiping a vague incomplete construction of Jesus.  My image (and I would argue ‘our image’) was shielded by my refusal to engage glaring inconsistencies in the church’s portrait of Jesus.  Can I claim to ‘know’ Jesus without seriously vetting the problems with the Gospels (like conflicts between Matthew and Luke in the genealogy of Christ or why Mark doesn’t see fit to even mention the virgin birth)?  If I’m willing to admit that the Gospels aren’t inerrant (which by internal conflicts alone we can assume they are not) what does it mean to ‘know’ at least some false things about Jesus?

Now I suspect I’m twisting the way you meant ‘know’ and that you are really asking about when I ‘knew’ that Jesus is the resurrected son of God and that these historical snafus didn’t really matter in the long run.  I’m not there yet.

Understanding of Worship and Coast Vineyard worship philosophy (Describe your understanding of what worship is and what it is for):

Worship is about attention and pursuit.  We all worship many things with our committed action.  Things that vary from sex to friendship to food or yes even the divine.  At best our attention is fixed on that which is most mysterious in humble awe.  At worst our attention can be compulsive in expectation of vain reward.

However, I think you’re asking more about Coast’s worship cocktail (post modern evangelical served neat with a twist of multi-ethnicity?) .  All kidding aside, the tradition of holding service and gathering people in song is a great way of focusing community attention.  However, we need to be very careful with the responsibility endowed by a congregation when directing their worship lest we lead people to drink at mirages by dimming the lights and playing flawlessly.

Desire to be a Worshipper (Describe your experience with worship and the place of worship in your life):

I’ve played a lot of songs and bled on my guitar plenty.  Mostly I was trying to be authentic but at some point I realized I was trying too hard to force faith to feel a certain way.  Sweeping.  Worship at Coast is mostly a place of inner conflict for me these days.

For example: where once I found it really easy to let “God of wonders beyond our galaxy, You are Holy” roll off my tongue I now find myself wondering “Do we have any idea how vast and  beautiful the universe really is?”. Somehow it doesn’t feel right to make a blunt declaration about the galaxy and our place in it without seriously discussing black holes, relativity or the big bang and even further, how our view of divinity is or is not in contention with the real expanse of the universe.

Personal pursuing of God and integrity in personal life (Do you feel that you are spiritually ready to take on the responsibility that being in front of the congregation brings.  Explain.):

Well this fits nicely with the responsibility I was alluding to earlier, doesn’t it?  I believe I am more spiritually genuine and honest today than I have ever been before.  However, I don’t expect to be judged as such by my community.  I understand that my answers above look more like crisis when viewed on Sunday mornings.  So this question is really for you.  Am I spiritually ready to turn knobs from roughly half way back in the congregation?  Are you comfortable with serious doubt controlling your mix every other week?

Calling by God for Ministry (Explain why you believe that God has called you to minister to Coast specifically in the area of worship ministry):

I can’t say I’ve been called.  I have no supernatural revelation on which to base my service at Coast.  I do know that I value community and that helping out is an important part of investing in relationships to me.

Personal Journey in Multi-Ethnicity (What is your experience and/or journey in the area of multi-ethnicity either in your life personally and/or at Coast?):

I value multi-ethnicity because I believe it is one of our only tools in combating covert racism and xenophobia rampant in the church and American culture at large.  We all have a natural tendency to trust those who look and act most like us which has evolved through thousands of years of tribal group dynamics.

However, in a global world we can no longer trust these instincts to accurately inform us about who is most worthy of our friendship or compassion.  Only by systematic exposure to those who are different than us will we ever overcome inherent bias.  Forcing our community to sing uncomfortable songs or touch foreign skin tones helps us to be better global citizens by redefining the scope of our tribe.  What a beautiful goal.

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Comments»

1. Matt - December 10, 2008

To all: Casey wasn’t being metaphorical when he said he’s bled on his guitar. I’ve seen the bloodspots. Casey, you might want to think about strumming a little softer in the future.
Casey, I think I disagree with what you said about “God of Wonders”. Look, the title of the song is “God of Wonders” – black holes and a mind-bogglingly large universe are wonders, right? How does knowing more about them detract from that? Do you want physics lectures from the pulpit? (OK, that actually sounds pretty cool, but…) I think that’s imposing your (and my!) specific flavor of worship on the rest of the congregation, who might not get any worshipful benefit from it.
I was reminded of Dr. King’s quote about Sunday morning being the most segregated hour of the week in America for that last answer.
-Matt
PS Missed you this last weekend. I was sad I couldn’t be at the wedding. I did have some pretty awesome daddy-daughter time, though, so that was nice.

2. Matt - December 10, 2008

I mean, the savings in band-aids and new guitar strings alone would make softer strumming worthwhile, right?
-M

3. caseyww - December 10, 2008

Matt-

Thanks for the comment. You asked:

Look, the title of the song is “God of Wonders” – black holes and a mind-bogglingly large universe are wonders, right? How does knowing more about them detract from that?

Good question. I suppose it depends on whether knowledge makes one more or less confident in your beliefs. Personally, the more I learn about the universe the less confident I am in the stories told by a prescientific society who literally thought the stars were pin holes into an outer realm. The universe is certainly wondrous and I could be convinced it approaches holy in the awe it inspires but does it really jive with our Judeo-Christian concept of God? Do the heavens really declare His majesty or do they declare that humans have an overblown sense of purpose in a place too vast and too strange for them to imagine.

Should we be giving physics lessons in church? I have no hesitation in saying absolutely yes. We should be talking about truth in church. If we want to really inspire humility perhaps it would be better to learn about gamma-ray bursts or the importance of e-coli in digestion instead of being told that humans are the darlings of creation or that anyone not adhering to our brand of faith will be conveniently burning in everlasting torment?

(By the way, do check out Bad Astronomy…you will like this blog a lot!)

4. David - December 10, 2008

I agree with Casey on the point of understanding more of the science of the universe brings us closer to understanding our existence. One thing I’ve noticed is that the more I learn and see about the physical world tends to increase this feeling I have that there is something behind it (which one could call God).

Now I’m not referring to the “Intelligent Design” hypothesis as I don’t actually know what it is (haven’t read anything about it really).

Now that “feeling” I referred to, I cannot yet convert into faith. Maybe I’m not even capable of doing that… as that means believing something without proof (or am I simplifying the definition too much?).

However, regardless of that, I know that my learning over the years and the things I’ve seen, that “feeling” tends to increase… and I suppose there might be some point in which it becomes indiscernible from faith?

5. bear - December 10, 2008

This is an a amazing topic this week, and before I can even post, I am hoping beyond hope that any Intelligent Design conversation will be tabled for its own post some day.

Sorry for the editorial plug.

more later
Bear

6. Mark - December 11, 2008

Casey –

Intense questions. “When did you come to know Jesus?” – Wow. Like you I was raised “knowing” Jesus or at least being told to keep him an active part of my life. But actually coming to know him and accepting him as Savior and son of God has been something I’ve wrestled with. I’ve always felt like there were things larger is at play – ah the gift of mystery. But exactly what that is I’ve found changing throughout my life. In high school it was the idea that Jesus died for us. I couldn’t understand why his death was necessary for our salvation. There was some divine law or justice that just didn’t make sense. Why was the sacrifice of his life necessary to save man? I still wonder, but at the time I thought – maybe God saw no good in man and seeing his son willing to die for us restored his belief. But this reduces God to the limitations of human emotion and limits his perception in a way that seems rather un-Godlike – so still I search.

More recently I’ve being seeking guidance/answers to question and doubts I’ve had in my personal and professional life. My faith has been part and been tested by this. My walk with Jesus – the quiet I’ve been told to seek doesn’t seem to lead to ready answers. And the Jesus I’ve understood seems to change. Is he American Jesus equally comfortable with fundamentalist ideas as he is with corporate greed. Is he the Jesus understood through inconsistent gospels? Is he the Catholic Jesus I’ve been raised with whose death comes with great guilt? Any way you get the idea. Understanding him through gospels and institutions – don’t know know where exactly that gets us. Where am I with “knowing” Jesus? I’m not sure.

7. Nancy O. - December 12, 2008

Mark,

I was raised in the Catholic church (went to Catholic school, etc.). When I was 15 years old I searched and searched for God through the means by which I was taught – to no avail. One night I decided to talk straight to God, instead of trying to reach Him through praying to saints, etc. It was then that He touched me and showed me He is real. Needless to say, I did not remain with the church and I have attended and left many others. It seems like there is always something in the doctrine being taught, or whatever, that hasn’t been right. So for me, what it comes down to, is a personal one-on-one relationship with God, which is powerful and incredible. I don’t label myself with any particular denomination, as I have found there is no need to.

It touched me to read that you are seeking. I pray you will find the treasure, which is priceless and worth searching a lifetime for.

8. Benjamin - December 13, 2008

Honestly, I looked more at the questions on the Coast volunteer sheet thingy than your answers Casey. I was waiting for it, and I know it was coming, the question that pisses me off:
“What is your experience and/or journey in the area of multi-ethnicity either in your life personally and/or at Coast?”

Let me just say: Jesus-fucking-Christ!! I’m sick of these pop-culture multi-ethnicity themes infecting faith-based communities. I’m not even going to argue my reasons against it, just pick something else for awhile. Let’s go back to women’s rights in the church. A few ‘glass ceiling’ arguments, please? Why not some environmentalism? Health and ‘body as a temple’ discussions? Or, I don’t know, maybe a good ol’ lesson on doctrine (unless that tends to be too ‘mono-ethnic’).

However, Casey, I think you proved your own point here: you tend to not examine those things which you already believe. Your answers to the other questions mostly tend to beg the questions themselves, except this last one. Your faith in multi-ethnicity remained unquestioned.

Could you the same about creationism as you did about multi-ethnicity here: “I value multi-ethnicity because I believe it is one of our only tools in combating covert racism and xenophobia rampant in the church and American culture at large.” Even if you don’t believe creationism, it is pretty obvious that widespread belief in creationism would combat racism and xenophobia better than multi-ethnicity “by redefining the tribe” in your terms. With such high and important goals, why not believe in creationism? Or, why did you not question your faith (and, apparently, Coast’s faith) in multi-ethnicity like you did when asked about worship and integrity?

BTW, my official stance is that Bear did not encourage/bribe/blackmail me into supporting the editorial on creationism.

9. Eric - December 13, 2008

Benjamin — how exactly would belief in creationism (by itself) help to combat racism and xenophobia? To my mind, belief in creationism can and has be used to justify all kinds of racist and xenophobic beliefs (as can and has belief in evolution; I’m not pitting one against the other here). What do you have in mind?

The vitriol in your comment only makes me think you have some issues with your own ethnic identification. Please convince me otherwise.

10. whytey - December 13, 2008

So… your last two posts have led me down sort of a rabbit trail (in a very wonderland-y sense) of thought that I’m going to do my best to comment on now… I make no promises, however, as to the clarity of said response (dang that was wordy)…

So here we go, I was sort of reflecting the way in which you have a tendency to not outright discount, but in a very sort of paternal way, pat prescientific societies on the head and say “aww, that’s sweet, you obviously have no idea what you are talking about since you couldn’t possibly understand the neurological implications of what you are discussing” similarly, when discussing worship you indicate that we should be slow to establish our view of divinity without first understand the extent to which the universe is expansive and complex (this is a gross oversimplification yes, but hopefully one that isn’t all that offensive)…

so here we go… to say that a prescientific society should not be trusted when making claims of spiritual communication is in itself, I think a little to much of a presumptive leap for me. I understand the argument that such a society wouldn’t fully understand the neurological event they were experiencing, but all the same, this wouldn’t mean they wouldn’t be able to identify an event that was out of the ordinary. For example, if I arrive in Haiti with the medicine necessary to stave off the spread of TB (yeah Paul Farmer) then the people may attribute that new wave of health to the wrong source (voodoo, local witchcraft, good weather, religion, etc.) but that doesn’t mean that they can’t identify something out of the ordinary when they see it. I’m not arguing that dreams are always from God and I’m not arguing that every dream attributed to God is from Him. But, I think of Antony’s comment from a previous post about risking false positives and ask is it worth losing the dreams that are special to maintain the security that comes from never risking being wrong. All this to say, Moses in all his prescientific-ness, when laying down the record of dream interpretation may have not fully understood what was happening, but there is no reason to say that he wouldn’t have been able to distinguish a run of the mill dream, from a dream that had life or cultural changing consequences… just a thought there…

on the worship tip, I think that a deeper understanding does more to reveal our own arrogance when approaching the divine than to make us pause when praising his divinity. I’m thinking about a quote by Tozer that could basically be paraphrased to say, the moment that you think you can wrap your mind around the divine, you blaspheme. Meaning, we don’t have the ability to fully comprehend the divine and the recurring revelation that the universe is much, much more complex than we yet understand should be reason enough to make us reevaluate what we are saying when we say something like “God of wonders beyond our galaxy”…

and I really like your comment about being wary about leading people to mirages…

11. Nancy O. - December 13, 2008

Casey,

Dimming the lights and playing flawlessly in worship and honor of God does not lead people who have objective trust in a very real God to drink at mirages.

You are responsible for the depth of your spiritual understanding. God is responsible for the breadth of your ministry.

12. Nancy O. - December 13, 2008

Casey,

From what you wrote above, it appears to me that at this point you place more importance on the world’s external signs than on God’s internal presence.

Is it fair to say that you have never known God’s internal presence?

13. caseyww - December 15, 2008

Nancy-

No, that’s not fair to say. You cannot reconcile my doubt with your faith by chalking it up to a deficient experience with God where I relied more on the ‘world’s external signs’ than ‘God’s internal signs’. You have asserted multiple times that once someone has a “transformative personal experience with God” (TPEG) that all these questions will be resolved. You are absolutely wrong on this point. Three things here:

1. I cannot prove to you that I have had a TPEG nor am I interested in doing so. All I can say is that I have been as faithful as I know how to Jesus. I’ve been a worship leader at multiple churches, a Bible study leader, a college fellowship leader and a missionary abroad. I have preached the Gospel and introduced friends to Christ. I have heard what I thought was God’s voice and, yes, even had dreams that I thought were divine. I have prayed for salvation, healings, revival and restoration. I have prophesied and spoken in tongues. I have studied the Bible carefully and patiently. I have been devoted with my utmost in response to what I thought was Jesus’ call on my life.

What I have not done is suspended my critical thinking faculties to assume that any of these subjective experiences can give me any leverage against dealing honestly and authentically with actual evidence. Unfortunately, many aspects of my faith have not stood up to genuine critique. I’ll be honest, for you to insinuate that their fall was the result of my not having a TPEG instead of considering that the pillar of faith itself was faulty to begin with is a bit offensive.

2. Your question reveals an argument which is a self-fulfilling prophesy type of standard that effectively insulates believers from ever having to acknowledge the validity of dissent. It allows you to say that someone’s serious doubt is the result of their never having had a TPEG instead of actually grappling with the questions raised. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy because it allows you to retroactively categorize people at will based on your idea of what a TPEG is. No matter how faithful someone may have been, once they question their belief you can always just assume that they never had a TPEG to start with and therefore your faith should not be shaken by their questions.

3. If God is the creator God you claim he is then his presence should be overly apparent in the external world. Romans 1:20 says that God’s works are clearly on display. What do you do when the works the Bible attributes to God are actually not attested to by evidence in the real world? I choose to not ignore the disconnect.

14. Nancy O. - December 15, 2008

Casey,

I never asserted that “once someone has a “TPEG” with God, all of these questions will be answered”.

I’m so sure!

Nor have I asserted that it is wrong to question whether the Bible (or any other book) contains lies.

You wrote that for a long time you have been worshipping a vague, incomplete construction of God. You wrote that you can’t really “know” who God is without first vetting problems of the Gospels.

I disagree. I believe people can really “know” God without the Bible.

It is illegal to possess the Bible in some countries but there is no doubt that there are people in those countries who still “know” and love God because He reveals Himself to them through His internal presence, His Holy Spirit.

The reason why I asked you if you have ever experienced an internal presence of God is because you said you don’t really “know” Him. I didn’t ask that question because you doubt the validity of the Bible.

Could you have genuinly spoken in tongues and have prophesied without being first filled with His Holy Spirit? If you genuinly spoke in tongues and phophesied, then the answer to my question is yes, you have experienced God’s internal presence.

I didn’t ask you to prove to me that He has filled you with His presence.

I just asked the question.

15. Nancy O. - December 15, 2008

To answer your last question:

“What do you do when the works the Bible attributes to God are actually not attested to by evidence in the “real” world?”

I am now praying that God reveals the truth all those who seek it.

The truth is that when I read the bible I believe it. It feeds my spiritual soul. I believe it is God’s Word because God speaks to me, commands, and leads through it. I believe it is a gift. I treasure it.

But even without it – I would know Him.

And that’s enough for me.

16. caseyww - December 15, 2008

(RE: Comment #14)
Nancy-
You said:

I never asserted that “once someone has a “TPEG” with God, all of these questions will be answered”.

I’m so sure!

But before you’ve said:

I cannot explain with words how God’s presence in my being left no doubt or question of His existence but I know that even the greatest skeptic would fall at His feet and without question proclaim that Jesus Christ is real if they were blessed with His touch as I was.

I can say I know they understand more than I do but I have something here that answers all the arguments, whatever they may be. He is Jesus Christ. I do not know what geology and scientists say. I may not understand all about history. I may not comprehend all things that they argue, but one thing I know – it is a matter of absolute consciousness to me – that I, who once doubted, have been made to see.

The Holy Spirit within us is for guidance. He opens up to us one truth after another by His light and by His guidance, and thus we are “taught of the Lord.”

It is hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it.

When God touches anyone, there is absolutley no doubt whatsoever that He has done so. If He fills you with His Holy Spirit, you know it. If He speaks to you through dreams, you know it. How can anyone convince a person who is doubtful of His existence that it really was Him that touched them?

For those who have experienced the presence of God, they know exactly what I am talking about…and if it takes a lifetime to defend Him, it is worth it.

Am I wrong in seeing a connection here?

17. Nancy O. - December 15, 2008

None of what I said answers the questions about the worldwide flood, or the other lies you claim the bible proclaims Casey.

All of my quotes above are in relation to God’s EXISTENCE.

For those who have experienced the internal presence of God, His touch – there is no question about His existence.

Yes, you are wrong if you think I was saying in any of the above quotations that all your questions relating to biblical lies can be answered.

18. Nancy O. - December 15, 2008

I was in the middle of talking with someone else while typing the last comment and I think I should clarify what I was trying to say.

None of my quotes make the assertion that once someone has a “TPEG” with God that all of the questions and doubts that you pose regarding truths/lies in the bible can be answered.

All of my quotes make the assertion that once someone has been touched by the Holy Spirit, there is no doubt of God’s existence and even the greatest skeptic, if touched by His presence, would fall at His feet and know that Jesus Christ is real.

I am interested to know how you interpreted any of my quotes as asserting that all of your doubts about Biblical contradications could be answered.

19. Nancy O. - December 16, 2008

Casey,

You said you prophesied. I believe it. Why? Because the Bible says there will be prophets.

You said you spoke in tongues. I believe it. Why? Because the Bible says men will speak in tongues.

You acknowledge that you have two spiritual gifts that the Bible speaks of.

Am I wrong in seeing truth and a connection in what you claim and what the Bible says?

20. caseyww - December 16, 2008

Nancy-

I didn’t say I was right. All I said is that I was devoted. The only thing I’ll acknowledge is that there was once a time when I thought these ‘spiritual gifts’ were genuine and, yes, this was the result of teachings from the bible. But just because people think they have (or have had) spiritual gifts doesn’t prove anything about biblical claims. I’m not above admitting that I may have been misguided.

21. Nancy O. - December 16, 2008

Casey,

I might be a little dense here, I’m not sure I understand what you mean.

The spiritual gifts of prophesy and speaking in tongues are clearly described in the Bible. Are you saying that just because people have (or have had) spiritual these gifts as clearly described in the Bible doesn’t prove that they truly are gifts from the Holy Spirit as described in the Bible?

In other words, are you saying you spoke in tongues and prophesied but you are not convinced those gifts are from God…they might be from some other source?

22. bear - December 16, 2008

good question.

23. caseyww - December 16, 2008

I’m not convinced those times were truly supernatural instead of me (and all of us by proxy) misinterpreting emotional events. I’m not disputing the Bible promises these spiritual gifts…I’m just not sure it’s right. I’m not sure these ‘gifts’ actually exist. What I’m trying to say is that there was a time when I did genuinely devote myself to practicing what I thought were supernatural gifts. This was in response to your question as to whether I’ve ever had an internal experience with God. I would say yes…but this doesn’t mean that once I started dealing honestly with evidence that contradicted my faith that I didn’t begin to question whether my own experiences were actually authentic interactions with the supernatural.

24. Nancy O. - December 16, 2008

Thank you, Casey. I have spoken in tongues and I can explain what the experience was like, if you are interested. It definitely was not forced on my part – I actually had no control. It was incredible and I know for certain it was the Lord.

A question that’s been eating at me is – if you have discovered evidence that convinces you that there are errors in the Bible – what do or will you do with the rest of the Bible? Will you discount the entire book?

I saw this skit on You-Tube of this guy holding the Bible and talking about how the worldwide flood didn’t occur, so he went to the various chapters where it is mentioned and tore those chapters out, then he talked about the virgin birth and tore that section out, and Jesus rising from the dead and tore that out, etc., etc. etc. Then at the end he said, “There, now all the lies are omitted and the Bible has only the truths.”

I just wonder, because I care (I really do), what you have done or will do with your Bible once you come to your conclusions.

BTW – I never mean to offend. I know I do with how boldly I come across. Sorry for that. I get “fired up” and in a defense position sometimes and I am learning through this forum to stop and think and consider how I come across.

25. caseyww - December 16, 2008

Nancy-

Your question about what to do with the rest of the Bible is a great one. Unfortunately I don’t have a similarly great answer for you yet. I suppose I’m just taking all this one step at a time and seeing where we end up.

26. Nancy O. - December 16, 2008

There is a lot to consider. Your conclusions and the many life decisions made as a result of them are so hugely important. I am rooting for you and I sincerely hope you find clear answers to your questions.

27. Benjamin - December 17, 2008

Eric,

To answer your question about creationism solving racism and xenophobia in society… I don’t believe it would. I was trying to apply Casey’s point in the first post about how he believes these problems would be solved becoming more “global citizens” who “redefine the tribe.” I believe Creationism would redefine everyone as being created by one source, hence redefining everyone as part of a sort of global tribe.

Again, I don’t think this would completely work. I was attempting to point out Casey’s lack of skepticism when it came to the multi-ethnic beliefs and goals of Coast by suggesting that belief in Creationism aligns more with Casey’s ideological need to be “global citizens” and “redefine the tribe” to achieve his “beautiful goal.”

Hope that helps clarify.

28. Eric - December 17, 2008

Benjamin — that does help to clarify, though I think you’re being unnecessarily cynical about the goal and how it can be achieved — and, I completely disagree. For example, I’m fairly certain that there are many more people in the world of type A than of type B:

A. those who can point to their direct encounters with different types of people and say that those encounters have helped them to accept differences among people.

B. those who can point to their belief in Creationism and say that this belief has helped them to accept differences among people.

Similarly — though perhaps irrelevantly — I think people are more likely to question the unethical treatment of animals based on their direct encounters with animals than on a belief that God created both humans and animals. How big a step is it from “God created some animals for human consumption” to “God created some ethnic groups for exploitation”?

29. Eric - December 17, 2008

Nancy — you say that “It [= speaking in tongues] definitely was not forced on my part – I actually had no control. It was incredible and I know for certain it was the Lord.”

There are lots of things that all of us do every day that are more or less beyond our control. Take your senses, for example: you can cover your eyes, ears, or nose, but you can’t help seeing or hearing or smelling; likewise, you have no control over your sense of touch or taste. You can hold your breath, but you have no control over your breathing. Everytime you walk, or reach, or grasp, or make any physical movement, there are innumerable things that your muscles and nerves and such do that you do not have direct control over. Why should speaking in tongues, out of all of these wonderful and mysterious things, be the end-all piece of evidence for God’s existence?

And why does God want us to speak in tongues anyway? I ask that honestly — I know nothing about speaking in tongues and why it’s so significant to some Christians, other than that it’s an out-of-the-ordinary sort of thing. And this is precisely my point: you don’t have to reach beyond the ordinary to find great mysteries in how little control we have over our own actions and behavior. All of these could be evidence of God; why pick just one or some?

(Also, for the sake of argument, I’ve simply assumed that you mean “I believe with all my heart” when you say “I know for certain”; it’s a subtle but important distinction. You may disagree, but so be it.)

30. Nancy O. - December 17, 2008

Comment #29

Hi Eric,

Speaking in tongues is mentioned 35 times in the Holy Bible. Simply put, it is a gift from the Holy Spirit used to edify God; a “heavenly language” not understood by us but understood by Him.

I will explain my experience when I received the gift and hopefully clarify what I meant when I said I had “no control” when God gave it to me.

I never asked God for the gift and I knew very little about it; to tell you the truth, speaking in tongues sounded more than a little freaky to me. But years ago at a church service I was quietly (and “with all my heart”) expressing my love toward God. Then, “out of nowhere” my arms were literally pulled up, I had no control, they were physically pulled up by the Holy Spirit – stretching toward heaven and this language that I did not understand began flowing from my mouth. During this experience, God filled my spirit full and overflowing with His amazing love.

Since then, there have been a few occasions when I have privately spoken in tongues to God. A few examples of these times are when I have not had adequate words to express the depth of my love toward Him and when I have felt such deep grief that I could not articulate my feelings with my words. Each time, He has filled me with His Holy Spirit. It is incredible. It isn’t something anyone can invent or recreate.

When I say I believe “with all of my heart” it simply means I fully believe – fully means with my heart and this little pea brain of mine 😉

31. Nancy O. - December 17, 2008

Eric,

In # 13, Casey said he spoke in tongues. That is one piece of evidence of God’s Holy Spirit’s manifestation. He said he prophesied. That was another piece of evidence of God’s Holy Spirit’s manifestation.

I asked Casey about both incidences because each are consistent biblically of clear evidence of God’s existence.

Not sure why you think picked one thing out of the hat or implied anywhere that speaking in tongues is an “end-all” piece of evidence of God’s existence….although, it could be!

32. Nancy O. - December 17, 2008

I should add to my comment #31 that after I asked Casey about both incidences, he clarified in comment #23 that he is not convinced that his experiences of speaking in tongues and prophetic words were truly supernatural instead of him misinterpretating emotional events and he is not sure these gifts actually exist.

33. Nancy O. - December 17, 2008

Eric,

I am not sure but I think it might have been you who shared several threads ago that you are an Atheist (please correct me if I am wrong). If it was you, my following question belongs in that chapter but I am not sure where it is.

Atheism involves the belief there is no god or diety.

If you are an Atheist, do you have evidence to support there is no god?

34. Eric - December 18, 2008

Nancy: my replies to your 4 replies above (#30-33) are all related, so I’ll put them together here. Last one first: yes, you’re right, I am the one who claimed several threads ago to be an atheist. (No need to capitalize it — it’s not a formalized religion.) There is an important distinction among atheists, though: my atheism is the lack of belief in any god or deity, not the belief in the lack of any god or deity. (The distinction is clarified in this short piece in a much more effective way than I can hope to replicate.)

The reason I identify as an “explicit weak atheist” (for an explanation, see here) rather than as an agnostic is complicated, but I’ll sum it up this way: I don’t see any reason to doubt the existence of a god or deity as opposed to any of a bazillion other concepts the existence (or non-existence) of which I cannot prove. In other words, claiming to be an agnostic means (to me) that I privilege my doubts about supernatural beings above my doubts about everything else that don’t have evidence for or against, and I simply don’t privilege those doubts that way.

Finally, you claim that because the bible mentions speaking in tongues (35 times), that someone speaking in tongues counts as evidence for the truth of the bible. This simply doesn’t make sense. First, the bible is not a set of axioms and principles that somehow predict that speaking in tongues will occur; it simply mentions it. We’ve mentioned speaking in tongues several times on this blog — perhaps even 35 times or more — does that mean that someone speaking in tongues counts as evidence for the truth of this blog? (I hope that sounds preposterous, because it was meant to.) Second, an event doesn’t count as evidence for any one explanation unless and until alternative explanations (and in particular, “simpler” explanations in the scientific sense) are dispensed with beyond a reasonable doubt.

35. Nancy O. - December 18, 2008

Eric,

I mearly pointed out that the Bible mentions speaking in tongues 35 times; I did not point to that as evidence of the fact that God is real!

Speaking in tongues is a manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit is real – which is evidence of His existence.

36. Nancy O. - December 18, 2008

Eric,

You believe that one very real event isn’t real or actual or count as evidence unless and until alternative explanations in the scientific sense are dispensed with beyond a reasonable doubt?

You can’t scientifically prove that good and bad exist. You know from experience that they do from what you see and what you experience but you can’t scientifically prove that, right?

We know when something is good and when something is bad. Who has given us that abibility to discern that?

37. Nancy O. - December 18, 2008

Eric,

Thinking about your comment a little more, so here I am again posting another comment regarding the same subject.

It made me smile when you corrected me about capitalizing Atheism. Whether Atheism is a religion or not is debatable. I believe it is; therefore, I correctly and respectfully capitalize the word.

You said you know “nothing” about speaking in tongues. I provided a couple of sentences for you to explain what it is. The first thing I typed is where you can learn more about it if you wish (it is mentioned 35 times in the Holy Bible). That was not an attempt to prove God’s existence, as you indicated.

God manifesting Himself through His Holy Spirit is evidence of His existence – but not to you, because you do not believe that without further scientific evidence. But the “event” of God filling people with His Holy Spirit is impossible to prove scientifically because He is spirit.

This is a perfect example of a circular discussion. You and I will not arrive at any conclusion because no matter what I share you will deny it without further qualifications, which are impossible to provide.


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