Friday, February 19, 2010

Faith and Reason

This is an excerpt of my last reply to a group of theologically minded friends re an on-going conversation/dispute we have been engaged in. I post this here because I think it provides fair insight into just how I think about these kinds of questions:

OK here's the thing - I accept the notion that it is possible to believe a thing without proof, but I categorically reject the notion that it is possible to know a thing without proof.

There simply is no way to prove a proposition like the existence of God, or the physical resurrection of a dead man - these are supernatural faith assertions. The first words of our creed are "We believe" and not, "We know." What I call "dogmatism" is the insistence that people must accept as certain particular propositions that cannot be proved with evidence that any reasonable man can accept.

I left evangelicalism and joined the Episcopal Church (and resigned the professional ministry as a consequence of this decision) precisely because I no longer had any stomach for the sort of myopic and uncritical dogmatism that seems to characterize most popular American evangelical thinking. Yet at the same time I still wanted to remain a believing and practicing Christian of robust orthodox faith. However, I did not want to trade one form of fundamentalism for another. I did not want to substitute the provincialist biblical fundamentalism of the conservative-evangelicals that I had outgrown, for the more sophisticated "ecclesiological fundamentalism" increasinlgy prevalent in certain liturgical circles these days. If I had wanted to do that I would have - to use a phrase Frank Valdez likes - "swum the Tiber" and become a Roman Catholic.

I am attracted to the eucharistic and incarnational theology of Anglo-Catholicism and consider it far more spiritually mature and intellectually tenable than the culturally accommodationist folk-theology of the evangelicals - which is why I am an Anglican. But I refuse to absolutize any of it - I see this as a form of intellectual suicide that I am unwilling to commit. More importantly, like my friend Bruce Wright, I don't want to make the spiritual and moral mistake of closing myself off to the belief that God can and does work outside these presuppositional constructs of "truth" that human beings have erected.

One final thought - It is interesting to me that all you guys seem really into the whole "modernity vs. post-modernity" controversy that seems to have taken the theological world by storm these days. Participants in this controversy seem to equate "modernity" with entirely negative historical/cultural developments like market-capitalism and the nation-state and are therefore dismissive of it for these reasons (and the modern Market and State do seem to be good things for Christians to be somewhat dismissive about - I don't much like 'em either! lol!) however, when I think of "modernity" I am inclined only to connect it with the development of a way of thinking - specifically what Thomas Paine, writing at the end of the 18th century, called "The Age of Reason." Frankly I have a lot of respect for "Reason" as over against mere authority.

Personally I never gave much thought to the whole "modern vs. post-modern" thing until some of you guys started inundating me with it. Until very recently I just accepted the idea that faith and reason could be reconciled based on the fact that they asked and answered different questions. Faith addresses itself to questions that reason cannot answer and therefore does not ask. For me it's always been that simple - I have never felt compelled to create a whole new school of thought about a very old question!



  1. John, I am with you and Bruce, but you knew that already. I tell you...attending a fundamental Baptist University has me shaking off the dust each day and having to remind myslef that I don't have to agree with everything I am being 'taught' just shake it off, put in the work, and avoid the most controversial points. There have been times they were unavoidable and I have had to stand my ground, like opposing Jay Adams, but fortunately I had a more progressive prof that handled it well...LOL..
    keep up the good work in putting your thoughts out. I so enjoy them and they enrich and support my own. Thank you!

  2. Good post. I feel to many Christians pick the Bible apart word by word and try to read too much into it. The message is simple.

  3. Thx. Barb, Smitty but just an FYI - you both should be aware that this was posted in response not to people who were arguing as Biblical fundamentalists but as Ecclesiological fundamentalists. That is, substituting a fundamentalism of the Bible (a trap these guys would be much too smart to fall into) for what I think of as a fundamentalism of "the Church." The fellows I was in dispute with are fellow Episcopalians, but have adopted a far more radical (and frankly inflexibly dogmatic) Ango-Catholic orthodoxy than I am pre-disposed to accept. If you read the above in that light, it might make more sense where I was going.

  4. As a layman who avoids the organized church I wouldn't understand the intricasies of the argument above. My only thoughts on the matter would be that I feel to m,any people get too caught in trying to understand the meaning of things in the Bible and miss the deeper meaning. Kind of like not being able to see the forest because they are to focused on the trees. No disrespect intended, just my thoughts.


  6. Hello Anonymous - if u really believe what ur telling me to examine why do u not reveal who you are? Why post in secret? All this does is undermine your credibility with me. LOL!

  7. Also there is a problem in the web addresses you provided and I cannot find them - so whatever point you had to make is not available to my investigation.

  8. numb nuts, copy and past the link in the url, hit return, wait for it to refresh, then read.

    and that Mr. Anonymous

  9. I hear you like his Heretic!

  10. Numnuts huh? Well that about takes care of that - I'm really not much interested in anythng u might have to say now. I dont put up with that kinda stuff here.

  11. That's what I hear! - Lighting up ;)

  12. John, are you going to run and hid from here too like you are on facebook? Looks like your boy president is starting turning on you liberals! Remember he did promise "change". HAHAHAH

  13. Run and hide! What does that mean? If you are supposedly a Christian - then why would you insult me? That would be contrary to our faith in oh so many ways! If I un-friend somebody on FB its because they are consistently engaging in dialogue that is intended to insult and demean someone personally rather than putting forth a real argument. I'm afraid I just have a zero tolerance policy on ad hominem. If you can't follow the rules of proper debate, than the dialogue is over before it begins as far as I'm concerned. Or to be more blunt - if ur an asshole, I don't have time! Hit the bricks and go bother somebody who actually gives a shit! Really!

    "men quarrel because they cannot argue"
    - G. K. Chesterton

  14. So much for ones opinion John. I know for a fact that you delete those on Face Book who challenge you or have a different opinion than yours!! You only tolerate ass kissers and it is so fucking obvious!! I know, i'm one of your friends there, HAHA. I have talked to those who you deleted, and they told me it was over something so stupid! And your going to be a lawyer, just what this world needs!! More fucking liberal lawyers defending terrorist, rapist, murders, and child molesters. I see you left evangelicalism for the cult of Episcopal Church. I guess it was a major conflict between your liberal/progressive views and the gospel truth. So you joined a church that's teaching DO NOT follow true Christianity. You sir need to reevaluate your salvation, you are being led a stray from the truth!

  15. Your post on FaceBook: Let me get this straight - Larry King is getting his 8th divorce, Elizabeth Taylor is getting married for a 9th time, Britney Spears had a 55 hour marriage. Jesse James and Tiger Woods are getting busy with everyone, yet the idea of same-sex marriage is going to destroy the institution of marriage?? Really? REALLY?? Repost to your page if you agree - Proud to support equal rights for everyone.

    Gods answer!

    ...God will win in the end you and the rest who are for gay marriage will be damned to Hell, and you call your self a minister!

  16. Don't go slamming Ronald Reagan John! He is noting like you 'boy' obama the fake president!!!

  17. John! I see you support and you're a card carrying member of the ACLU?

    ...atheist and pro-Soviet communist organization. And you dare call you're self a Christian!

  18. They say: We can't say Merry Christmas anymore, now we have to say Happy Holidays. They say: We can't call it a Christmas tree, it's now called a Holiday tree?, because it might offend someone. I say: If you don't like our "American Customs" and it offends you so much then LEAVE!!!!. These are traditions & HOLY days to most Americans... ....MERRY CHRISTMAS !!! :)

    Come an get me you GODLESS, GOD HATING, VIRULENT ACLU!!!!

  19. A victory for the Sodomites!!! You liberals just keep giving the Lord more reason to destroy this nation. Remember, he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for the same thing!!!

  20. Where is the ACLU on this??? Oh no where! there behind it!! See who you VOTED IN OFFICE!!! and it because of you fucking liberals!!!! Freedom haters!!

    TOMORROW - December 21st - the FCC rules and regulations are slated to take effect.
    YOUR Internet freedoms will then VANISH!
    This could be the very worst "Merry Christmas" present that you have ever received.

    I know, not too many people know about this. That is precisely why YOU must fax every single Member of Congress right now----TOMORROW WILL BE TOO LATE!

    Barack Obama has a "Christmas surprise" for the American people. It's based upon the FCC's self-imposed December 21 deadline to implement new Internet rules.

    Mr. Obama wants to take control of the Internet through FCC regulation. We're talking about YOUR Internet. YOUR ability to contact your friends. YOUR relatives. And YOUR elected representatives in government.

    This "stealth" use of new FCC rules and regulations will sneak up on us just before Christmas. TOMORROW! Quite frankly, not too many people know about this; or took the notion serious because, after all, we have the 1st Amendment to the U. S. Constitution to protect us. Right? Wrong!

    The FCC is ready to add the Internet to its "portfolio" of regulated industries. The Obama Administration wants to take control of the Internet tomorrow! (even though the regulations won't "officially" go into effect until after the holidays). FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that he has circulated "draft rules" that he says will "preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet." No statement---I call it a bald face lie---reflects the vast gulf between the rhetoric and the reality of Obama Administration policy.

    Obama's FCC is ready to steal our Internet freedom by simply declaring it has the "right" to regulate it. Here's the underlying problem for Barack Obama. Internet journalists tend to report the news without coloring it with the brush of "political correctness." They challenge the lies that the Obama Administration puts out that the so-called "mainstream media" simply accept and repeat as the truth.


    ACLU continuing its war against Catholic hospitals

    An organization that aims to drive Christianity out of the public scene is continuing its attack against religiously based hospitals.

    For the past six months, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has tried to persuade the federal government to intervene and force religious hospitals to perform abortions, even though it may be contrary to that religion's beliefs. The law group has even gone so far as to write the Department of Heath and request a deeper look into the matter.

    Jeff Field, director of communications for the Catholic League, tells OneNewsNow the ACLU is coming at pro-life hospitals again after a Catholic bishop excommunicated a nun and stripped a Phoenix hospital of its Catholic designation when the nun approved an abortion. (See earlier story)

    Looks like your buddies at the "A Communist Led Union" are forcing the Catholic Church to commit murder!!! Your super liberal views are for 'Pro Choice'!!! That's just another term for murder!!! NO CHRISTIAN WOULD ALLOW THIS IN OUR COUNTRY, SO THEREFORE YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN JOHN FEENEY!!! Lets see, you want the Holy Bible removed out of our government, schools, and homes,(your words on this blog) you are pro choice, you're a card carrying member of the ACLU? and you support the Sodomites, like gay marriage! Yeah, that's awful Christian of you! I guess this one of the reason why you got out of the priesthood, man's liberal laws were more important than Gods laws!!

  22. ACLU on the prayer prowl again!!!

    The ACLU of New Jersey has won a temporary court order calling for an immediate end to city council members offering prayer at meetings in Point Pleasant Beach. A spokesperson for the ACLU-NJ says the practice violates the New Jersey constitution because it shows a preference for one religion over another.

    ..."I'm sure that the ACLU would have no problem if this were recast in, say, Dearborn, Michigan, and perhaps all the city council members were Muslim and they had Muslim prayers," he suggests. "You never hear a peep from the ACLU when it comes to non-Christian religions."

    You god hater are at it again! The sky is falling!!! They are praying!!!
    My goal in life is to destroy the godless ACLU and expose them as a Communist Organization!!!


    cut and paste the link.

  24. Exposing more truths of your association with the godless ACLU!!!

    Chairman Lewis' gift helps the ACLU promote their anti-Christmas agenda such as:

    Removing nativity scenes from public property

    Banning songs such as Silent Night from schools

    Refusing to allow students to write about the Christian aspect of Christmas in school projects

    Renaming Christmas break Winter break

    Refusing to allow a city sponsored Christmas parade to be called a Christmas parade

    Not allowing a Christmas tree in a public school

    Renaming a Christmas tree displayed on public property a Holiday tree
    In addition to their war on Christmas, the ACLU uses gifts like that from Chairman Lewis to:

    Sue states to force them to legalize homosexual marriage

    Force libraries to remove porn filters from their computers

    Sue the Boy Scouts to force them to accept homosexuals as scout leaders

    Help legalize child pornography

    Legalize live sex acts in bars in Oregon

    Protect the North American Man Boy Love Association whose motto is "sex by eight or it is too late"

    Censor student led prayer at graduation

    Remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.


  25. John Feeney via ACLU Nationwide
    ACLU Lens: Citizenship At Birth Under the 14th Amendment
    Today a group of state legislators announced they will introduce bills in their state legislatures intended to deny Americans the fundamental protections of the 14th Amendment by requiring states to deny standard birth certificates to many U.S. citizen babies born in the U.S. to immigrant parents.

    No big surprise here. So, YOU in favor for ILLEGAL INVADER'S stealing from the US taxpayers!!! Then the IRS should double your taxes to pay for their free ride then!! There should be a bounty for ILLEGAL INVADER and save this country from bankrupt!!! The 14th Amendment only applies to those who are in the system, paying their way, following the laws, and learning English!!! Once AGAIN you fucking godless commy bastards are trying to destory this county!!

    Deborah Lawwill ‎*sigh* Neocons. Will they stop at nothing to take our rights away? Another sheep-pole, lost soul for the A-C-L fucking U!!!

  26. John Feeney
    guns, guns, guns!!! yesterdays events in AZ and now this morning at FSU! I think its time the constitutionally fallacious interpretations of the 2nd Amendment got put to rest! If your not a cop, a soldier or a licensed security guard - do you really "need" a gun? YES WE DO!!

    Then the only ones to have guns will be the criminals who you will be defending and protection!!, your fake president can have a moment of silences at the steps of congress, in honor of one of his own being shot. But yet, kids in school can't do it everyday at the start of school because of Communist goddless ACLU!

  27. I had cosidered deleting all the above anonymously submitted comments - but now I think rather to allow them to remain as a testament to exactly why it is that someone like me has such contempt for the world-view herein represented by the commentator (or commentators?). Indeed, I would like to thank the commentator for reinforcing me in my own world-view so thoroughly.

  28. Amen, to that, Brother Feens.

  29. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.