On September 26, 2009

Causality

Sorry for the delay in blogging. For this semester I’m attempting to blog, once, maybe twice a week. I have a Grad Class on church history that requires quite a bit of reading and writing and by the time I sit down to write a blog I’m tapped out. So for the next couple of posts I’m going to write about some interesting, less talked about stuff from church History.

Like Julian the Apostate.

He was an emperor after Constantine (who’ll I talk about next week) who reacted to Christianity’s growing influence by trying to destroy the Christian religion.

Now he did this in a few fronts, but perhaps the most well-known stunt he pulled was his attempt to rebuild the Jewish Temple. Before you start thinking how philanthropic Julian was, you need to know the main reason he did this was because the Christian Scriptures quoted Jesus as saying, “This temple will not be re-built until I return.”

Julian’s entire reason for spending a whole lot of Roman money was to discredit the Christian story. But here’s where it gets interesting.

Because at some point during the rebuilding process there was an explosion. This is how one of his friends reported the event:

Julian thought to rebuild at an extravagant expense the proud Temple once
at Jerusalem, and committed this task to Alypius of Antioch. They set vigorously
to work, and were seconded by the governor of this province; when fearful
balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations, continued their attacks, till the
workmen, after repeated scorchings, could approach no more: and he gave up
the attempt.

Now what’s interesting is how historians talk about this even. Immediately afterwards Christians began to look back on this event and saw it as a Divine Intervention. The hand of God prevented Julian’s attempt to spread paganism. But other people saw it another way.

The general take on it from Rome was that it was an earthquake. The more recent historians believe that it was a natural gas pocket that was struck by construction workers, resulting in a huge explosion that can be naturally explained.

But what if both of these are true?

There is a modern assumption that if we can just explain how something happened that we have understood why it happened. But I don’t think that’s true. Just because we can trace back how something happened doesn’t mean that we have effectively written off providence.

Donald Miller makes a profound observation in Blue like Jazz. He says:

“My most recent struggle is not one of intellect. I don’t really do that anymore.
Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in
God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and some other guys who do believe
in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being
about god a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly
I don’t care.”

I think that’s pretty indicative about the conversations that we have about faith vs. science. We talk over ourselves so much that the conversations no longer are about what we say they are about. They’re about which one of us is smarter.

But the truth is that these two sides, at least much of the time, are talking about different things. What if God used a pocket of natural gas to stop the rebuilding of that Temple. Just because we can explain what happened doesn’t mean we have the answers to what all is going on behind it.

The truth is when these two sides of interpreting history are in conversation that they both have faith. People with faith that everything can be explained by what is seen will probably gravitate to a worldview that sees God as either non-existent, or very distant and unconcerned with this world.

People who see a fireball from Heaven will probably gravitate toward a worldview that says God is intimately involved, or at least was, in human history and will tend to be religious.

But neither side is addressing the thing they think they are. Proof, Science, Evidence, Apologetics, these words talk about what happened, but nobody can explain causality, or why things happen with any certainty.

Because what they are really talking about is faith.

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  • http://labelmeplease.blogspot.com Joe

    I don’t believe that the world divides up into such convenient categories. While what your saying does carry some validity, I know plenty of scientists that struggle mightily with questions of God and faith. It isn’t purely a matter of whose smarter, but also what are the implications. If God sends fireballs to quell temple building, then perhaps he sends Katrina to stop Mardi Gras or tsunamis to deal with those stubborn pagans in the Eastern hemisphere.

    Most scientists who hazard any attempt at self-reflection can admit that they carry a bias, or faith. But, this admission rests a safe distance from total fideism. Science in its quixotic attempt at neutrality has to give up the question of why. It is the USE of science that has no choice but to pick it back up. Yet, it seems religious people too often abdicate this responsibility in favor of maintaining the right to say that God gave us AIDS in retribution for homosexuality.

    In other words, science might be more open to providence if not for the hideous manifestations that providence tends to come in.

  • Maynard

    I used to despise hearing and reading things like what I’m about to write.

    With limited knowledge and insight, but with a whole lot of curiosity and opinion about this subject, I used to find myself in arguments and debates. Typically, I’d take the side opposing whomever I was engaged in conversation with. I had a form of godliness and denied the power therein thanks to THE church in which I grew up. However, now since the whole trinity of God is involved in active relationship in my life, I can’t even care about how to explain it. I just know. When I didn’t really have Jesus or the Holy Spirit in my life, I just got frustrated and angry discussing subjects like this. I’ll never convert anyone proving to them that God exists, unless I introduce them to the Savior. I don’t even care what the science says and I’m not threatened by what they say, pro or con. I know to whom it is that I call out in good times and bad. I know Him.

    I don’t even know if this is what you’re talking about and I can’t begin to say why things happen the way they do. I still have a lot of questions, but less urgency about them. I know who has the answers.

    Not trying to be “too saved” like Tyler Perry’s Mr. Brown, but thanks for allowing me to share my 2 cents.

  • http://www.stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Joe, yeah I hadn’t even carried this over to things like Katrina or AIDS. I think in a large part the main things that people of faith talk about God causing is the stuff that is negative, like diseases of hurricanes. I was thinking more “He sends his rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” That is is not so much about who it’s happening to, or what kind of punishment God is wanting to give them (which mostly happens to be exactly like the punishment the person talking desires God to give) but more about God being the how of most things, we just use different language for it.

    Maynard, Love your spirit brother. I am with you, still have a lot of questions, but w.o. the urgency.

    Thanks for weighing in fellas.

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