By now you have trekked a long way with me in this blog, and together we have covered a lot of ground! However, the journey is not done. There is much more interesting terrain to cover. In some ways, the best scenery is just ahead!
After considering the way commonsense should guide our choices about who we trust concerning faith, starting in this entry we take our pursuit of a beneficial faith to the next level.
First, though, a brief review …
By now you have trekked a long way with me in this blog! However, the journey is not over. There is more interesting terrain to cover. In some ways, the best scenery still lays ahead!
After considering the way commonsense should guide our choices about who we trust in the realm of faith, starting in this entry we take our pursuit of a beneficial faith to the next level.
First, though, step back with me for a brief review …
The Bottom-Up Approach we employed in the previous posts proved to be quite useful. It yielded some surprisingly strong conclusions about the deficiencies in various faiths and worldviews. Through that approach we learned that …
- Some popular worldviews contradict their own bold assertions and, therefore, should not be taken seriously.
- Other religions lack evidential credibility to their major claims. After objective investigation they should be discarded.
- Some are devoid of the practice of loving ethics. If a religion cannot change a life for the better, how can it be true?
- Some fall far short of providing comprehensive explanations for life’s crucial questions. These gurus betray their ignorance.
- Certain faiths speak with little confidence; in their hesitant tone they reveal their ignorance and confusion.
- Then there are faiths which are improperly motivated. Their recruitment is a scam to benefit from people’s credulity.
Through the application of those 8 commonsense tests, you should now realize that the road forward is not as crowded with options as you once thought. Admittedly there are many trees in the forest of faith, but the number of reasonable & trustworthy faiths has already been thinned significantly.
For example, we saw that with all its boasts, atheism has no beginning point from which to begin a positive construction of truth. It fails as a worldview just because it explains nothing. Agnosticism wilts under the weight of its own assertions. Pantheism, and all the religions dependent on it, cannot move past its self-contradictions. Islam and Mormonism lack factual credibility. Buddhism is far from comprehensive and leaves the most important questions of life embarrassingly unanswered. Hinduism has proven nontransferable to the world and unpersuasive to most cultures. It does not behave as truth for the world. Dualism falters under logical contradictions.
What we discovered is that most formal religions and worldviews have huge and glaring blemishes unworthy of a wiseman’s trust.
Where does that leave us now? We can narrow your choices even more by employing the Top-Down Approach!
We cautioned you before that you were bound to hit a ceiling with the Bottom Up Approach. Sooner or later you would realize the limits to what your commonsense can investigate and evaluate. We warned you that you could only know so much from the application of logic based on your past experiences.
The same is true with man’s collective knowledge. Though there have been some impressively erudite men and women who have made their mark on philosophy, science, and ethics, mankind only knows so much. His certainty is quashed by lack of knowledge. Without knowledge, only speculation remains.
So, there is no avoiding it! You and I are going to need help understanding things beyond our sight and senses. The limitation of the Bottom-Up Approach calls for Someone or Something from beyond to solve life’s mysteries. This “X Factor” must unlock the black box and let us in the know. He/She/It must reach down to us (or out to us) and reveal what is true. In short … the inadequacies of the Bottom-Up Approach call for the resources of the Top-Down Approach.
An illustration at this point may help. Many thinkers in modern times theorize that, considering the immense size of the universe and the sheer volume of planets in existence revolving around billions of stars in billions of galaxies, the odds are that there are a plethora of planets besides earth which house life – even intelligent life. (This is predicated of course on the theory that life can develop spontaneously and evolve naturally) Furthermore, they theorize, that given the extreme age of the universe (as they also theorize) some of these life forms must be more advanced than our own. If this is so, (and they believe it likely) then these life forms may have the capability of spanning great distances and communicating with us here on earth. Some even think they might be able to travel here and make direct contact with us.
Of course, at this point in human history it’s all just a theory. How can anyone bound to Planet Earth know for sure whether anyone is out there? There are those who claim contact with extra terrestrials, but without tangible evidence, nothing has been proven. One way to know is to search for the evidence. This humanity has done! Using the Bottom-Up Approach humanity has turned its eyes and ears to the stars to see if there is anything which can be detected by those efforts. The Hubble Space Telescope is maybe the best example. It has been set in orbit to take farther and clearer pictures of our Milky Way Galaxy and galaxies so distant the sheer size of the universe boggles the mind. That acclaimed telescope has just celebrated its 25th anniversary in space, having been launched in 1990. There still are hopes it will find inhabited planets or at least planets which appear able to house life.
The Hubble has not been the only effort made. Prior to it, listening devices were erected around the planet in remote locations and tuned to the stars. Through them humanity continues to listen for intelligent messages from outer space. So far nothing has been confirmed – nothing at all! That’s a lot of listening and a lot of looking from a lot of locations without reward for the effort or the expense. It may be that we do not have the capability to see or hear far enough. If that is the case, if any civilization does exist millions of light years away, they will have to reach all the way to us – or we will never find out!
This illustrates the limitations of the Bottom-Up Approach. The only way to know if someone is truly out there, is if that someone, more advanced than our own civilization, reaches down (phenomenologically speaking) to us with a clear message. Apart from a Top-Down Approach, no message will be received; the truth will not get through. We will continue to remain in the dark.
If this intelligent being is not out there, obviously no knowledge or answers will be forthcoming. Furthermore, if this person/entity is there but has no interest or ability to communicate with us, again there will be no revelation. However, if both those factors exist, then the Top-Down approach not only can work but will work admirably!
How does this connect to our understanding of a correct faith? It directly connects via the avenue of Revelation.
There are religions and faiths in our world which assert that this Someone out there has spoken and revealed Himself to the world of humanity. These religions claim to possess a message which is superior to any of the philosophies concocted by earth-bound humans. These religions believe they have received a message from some Divine Being, and that it is our responsibility to accept that message, live our lives in harmony with it, and communicate it to others.
If their claim is true, it will obviously be much more helpful than the philosophical musings or limited imaginations conceived by men. Put another way: An ounce of revelation from high above is worth a ton of philosophical speculation from way below. Or, put another way, one peak at the landscape from the mountain top is more enlightening than a hundred maps drawn in the dark valley. A higher perspective always yields more certain knowledge. Only the higher perspective can encompass the whole picture and see how all things fit together.
That’s particularly important when you remember the meaning and definition of philosophy. The ideas generated by philosophors are merely ideas thought up by man to try to make sense of life down here in the valley below. They have no more validity than anyone else’s ideas, because they start with the same ignorance everyone has and never arise above that ignorance. Smarter people do not yield much better results because the resources down here are insufficient. Philosophers may be smarter than the rest of us, but we all still swim in the same pool of ignorance. At best their conclusions amount to creative guesswork bereft of factual proof. So they can’t advance humanity’s understanding.
However, Revelational Religions are different. They claim to convey, not an idea originating from humanity, but a message from beyond – from a greater Being who transcends our experience. These religions assert, not only that God/gods/spirits have spoken, but that He/She/they have spoken definitively.
Obviously these kinds of claims need to be taken very seriously. If any one of them is true, then we already have access to invaluable information about ourselves and life on this planet which science and philosophy can never yield. Their value indeed is extremely high and should be greatly coveted. To disregard them would be arrogant and foolish.
At this point we need to offer a caution. The potential for deception and misleading gobbledegook is also higher – much higher – with revelational religions. For when one claims to have a conclusive message from beyond, that either must be true or else dangerously deceptive. The stakes are higher with the Top-Down Approach. No one should dare to advance any notion about a word from some god which is made up or uncertain. Claiming to have a message from beyond without it actually being from beyond is playing the rest of us for fools.
To reduce the possibility of deception it would help if the intelligence which originated a message from beyond would also provide built-in evidence which we can evaluate. In other words, their message would need to be different in some way. It would need to have clear characteristics which demonstrate it is from beyond.
Indeed, the encouraging news is that this has happened! Though there are various claims of revelational knowledge in our world, one stands out as providing such evidence.
To help us identify this message as genuine, it has been authenticated through various avenues of evidence. This evidence can and should be evaluated.
To some extent we have evaluated that evidence already using the Bottom-Up Approach. However, we also saw that we could not evaluate some of the claims of a religion because it involved things we could not see or test. So we analyzed things we could test such as their internal consistency and evidential credibility. If they were clearly wrong about earthly things we could evaluate, how could they be believed concerning heavenly or spiritual things that cannot be tested?
However there is one revelational faith which passes the commonsense tests and claims to be a message from beyond. That message from beyond claims to be from a loving Creator God who has sent to us both spoken and written communication throughout human history. Now that communication is labeled “Scripture.” Christianity is that revelational religion! It has a message which can be analyzed and seen to be different. Biblical and historic Christianity withstands all 8 commonsense tests. It is internally consistent. It is comprehensive in its worldview. It provides numerous lines of evidence and credibility. It produces a credible human product, cares for people, and it speaks with unparalleled confidence.
Because of that, I now bring you to this great revelation religion to consider its enormous claims for life – yours and mine and everyone’s. No other religion makes as bold and confident claims as Christianity while sustaining it with a wide berth of impressive evidence. In fact Christianity claims to speak with the very voice of God to everyone on this planet.
In our next post we will begin to explain and summarize those claims.