A hard time finding God
A reader writes of his struggles while watching Attenborough and more.
Published: 22 June 2014 (GMT+10)
Steven B. wrote to say that while he was enjoying Creation magazine:
Flickr/Charlie Cowins (CC BY 2.0)
I am having a tremendously hard time finding a personal God as it is like playing tennis with the other side of the net in heavy fog. My prayers are hitting the ball and it disappears into the fog never to return; no matter how hard I try.
I believe it may have been Einstein who said that doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different answer was insanity. I am beginning to wonder if my cries to the Lord may fall into this pattern?
I watched David Attenborough’s Rise of Animals today. Although I cannot accept life from zero, it seems hard to reconcile the fossils and skeletal forms that have been collected from around the world. Certainly, it makes the Adam and Eve story seem a pleasant story for simple folk. Can Christianity really adhere to a young earth when fossil records, notwithstanding C14 problems, show the earth to be many times older? Cosmology is at odds here as well.
It is a horrible feeling to be where I am, to think that God may not be as we have been taught. Perhaps this email may galvanize Him to return a serve in my long game of tennis with Him.
Kind regards, Stephen B.
Dr Carl Wieland responded:
Speaking as a former atheist, I understand where you are coming from. Nonetheless, I also know that when I say what follows, it’s not just talking about me; my colleagues include a number of Ph.D. scientists, including from relevant disciplines.
That is, they are not just ‘barely able to hang on’ in the face of a flood of contrary evidence, but the shoe is on the other foot, truly. They are excited about the way more evidence than ever keeps stacking up in favour of the Bible’s history being accurate.
When you talk about ‘all that evidence’ (not your words, but the impression your words give) it is almost as if the existence of large numbers of animals and fossil forms is an argument against Genesis history. But the question that has to be asked is, does that logically follow? Or is it (nothing derogatory intended here, we are all creatures influenced by much more than reason) an ‘impression’ reinforced by the fact that those narrating things about these facts are continually assuming the opposite framework? When one starts with the biblical framework (even if just for the sake of the argument) and looks at the same evidence, it makes the world of difference.
If it were not so, then how could the same things which one person finds a threat to biblical belief be seen by others as reinforcing them?
Consider just a handful of ‘big picture’ things that have emerged in the past few decades, even though the number of people at the coalface of creationist research is very few. Remember, nothing is an immutable argument (that is true for anything in science and philosophy) but all I am trying to point out is that the picture that some paint of creationism as some sort of a rearguard action by people desperately holding on to the vestiges of biblical reality is far from the truth.
In reality, the shoe is (or at least should be) on the other foot. Consider just a few:
- The elucidation of genetic entropy, refined with supercomputer analysis (Mendel’s Accountant) by one of the world’s most qualified geneticists in terms of background and experience (Dr John Sanford, inventor of the gene gun and still able to be referred to as a professor at the famous Cornell University). The implications seem clear: if higher organisms had been around for more than 100,000 years, they would be extinct through ‘error catastrophe’ in their DNA codes. This is based on a powerful reality from operational science. I’m talking about lots of observed mutations accumulating with each generation, which is an irrefutable fact. Some 60 new mutations at least in every newborn human baby, for example. To long-agers, it needs ‘explaining away’. The straightforward understanding of that fact, reinforced by supercomputer simulations, is that the millions of years cannot be real. It caused Sanford to become not just a Christian, but a biblical (Genesis) creationist. Now, the animals and fossils you talk about are realities, too, but it will hopefully be clear that the weaving of historical ‘just-so’ stories (by Attenborough and co) around these observed facts, no matter how beautifully presented on DVD, etc., is of a different order of scientific veracity than the ‘number-crunching’ that falls out of population genetics once this mutation rate is taken into account. And these realities are consistent with the biblical ‘big picture’. We are deteriorating, right here and now. Sanford’s talk on DVD on our store, Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, is very significant, and if you have not seen it, I think you would find it most encouraging and helpful.
- The repeated, and totally unexpected, discovery of lots of fragile structures, soft tissues, and fragile molecules in e.g. dinosaur fossils, long after physical laws would indicate that they should have disintegrated from thermodynamic considerations, regardless of any preservatives or fixatives or protective casing.
- The discovery of seemingly very strong evidence that radiodecay rates are not immutable at all (look up e.g. ‘rate’ in the search engine)
- The way in which even secular geology is finding itself increasingly forced to head towards a ‘neo-catastrophism’ to explain what is really found in the field, things which the old ‘slow and gradual’ explanations cannot cope with. Of course they will be reluctant to use the interpretative framework of a global flood, consistent with humanity’s tendency to reject a sin-judging God at all costs (Romans 1, 2 Peter 3:3–5). But some of the catastrophic forces required to explain some field observations are so massive in extent as to beggar belief in anything other than a global flood cause. (E.g.: The Shinarump Conglomerate; conglomerate is a type of rock that requires moving water to have the energy to pick up, transport and deposit pebbles and boulders. The Shinarump (exposed at Grand Canyon) covers 260,000 sq km of the continental United States. In today’s world, formation of conglomerate happens only on a small scale, and only during local flooding which gives it enough energy to pick up gravel and boulders. Then there are the Olgas, (Katatjuta) in Australia, an entire mountain range made of conglomerate, extending kilometres deep underground, all made of sizeable boulders that have been transported and deposited and are now cemented together. No uniform, slow process is known that could do this. In fact there is simply no modern-day analogue; there is nothing, not even the largest floods known today, that is in the process of forming such deposits, no matter how much time were allowed. Local floods simply don’t last long enough.
- The realisation from genetics that all the ethnic groups worldwide are in fact astonishingly closely related—so much so that it has forced hasty ‘rejigging’ of theories of ‘human evolution’—as one would have to insist must be the case given biblical anthropology. Even Neandertals (once thought to be our part-ape ancestors) have been shown by DNA sequencing to be human after all. And in fact there is a real crisis developing in the whole neo-Darwinian explanation, so much so that several secularists are now pondering what will possibly arise to replace something that clearly doesn’t ‘work’ (the mechanism seems to be the only game in town, but has huge mathematical problems). See for example: A review of The Altenberg 16.
One could go on a bit more, but all I am trying to do is show you that it is worth stepping back from the picture painted by those convinced of the ruling paradigm, and considering the evidence on the basis that the Bible is true; as I said, start doing it ‘for the sake of the argument’. As someone once said, “If I hadn’t believed it, I wouldn’t have seen it. ” Consider, too, the following; are all those things I mentioned above likely to be just coincidences?
And when one also looks at the whole naturalistic worldview driving the sorts of things which Attenborough and co. extol, we find it full of incredible contradictions and improbabilities bordering on impossibilities. It effectively involves believing in a string of stupendous miracles but with no sufficient cause, such as the origin of everything from nothing in the big bang, inflation, the origin of normal matter, the origin of stars, the origin of life, the origin of sex, and the origin of mind and morality, etc. In short, the alternative to what the Bible describes is that ‘nothing times nobody produced everything and everybody’.
Sir David Attenborough
© 2008 Zapruder’s Other Films, ABC (Australia)
At the same time, I would also continue to pray for God to reveal Himself to you, not necessarily by way of some voice from the heavens. In the NT, Paul never appealed to people’s emotions (feelings) in his preaching, but rather their reason. The Bible does not call us to blind faith. The change may need to come via the way you think about the world around you, breaking free of the interpretive framework within which all that evidence (which we see as wonderfully consistent with creation, on the whole) is presented all the time. Attenborough has some marvellous photography, but is hardly a dispassionate observer. The whole tenor is one of assuming naturalism (nature is all there is), and a lot of circular reasoning.
When we read the Psalms we find some of them are prayers to God of a person crying out the sort of thing you are saying. But the solution is not to abandon reason and follow the leading of those who believe in creation without a creator (e.g. Psalm 42). We look at Job and he went through a lot before he came into a wonderful experience of the presence of God, but he never gave up on God.
A solution to doubt and depression is not to be found by immersing ourselves in the thoughts of those who think that there is absolutely no purpose or meaning to life (such as Attenborough), but by putting our thoughts to what is good, which comes from God. The commandment is to “Rejoice in the Lord always” and to think about the good things (Philippians 4:4–9). I think also of Hebrews 11, the recounting of the ‘saints’ of old who persevered, “these people were all still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” (v.13). If we feed our minds on the thoughts of those who hate God, we will only spiral down to despair. Our only hope is in God. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). When Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”, He was referring to what comes from God, not the world that is in rebellion against God.
I hope that can somehow be helpful, even if only in part….
PS. I note that I did not mention C14 dating; but this is actually the creationists’ friend. See this chapter in the Creation Answers Book, creation.com/cab4. Actually, I wonder if you were to spend the same amount of time spent watching Attenborough by searching the 9,000+ articles on our site using the search engine, whether you would not find many more answers than you realise, already there, for any questions that arise. (E.g. see the numerous Attenborough rebuttals in ‘Related Articles’ below.) For instance, I doubt whether you would have been concerned about C14. I recommend as a start a thorough digestion of The Creation Answers Book.
Great response Carl to a serious questioner. Before I got acquainted with creation science, shows such as Attenboroughs would have made me quite uncomfortable - they didn't make me question my faith but did slowly erode at the foundations. Thanks to CMI, I can now watch Attenborough and other similar documentaries and am able to distinguish between the actual evidence and the story behind it, which is all based on false assumptions.
One point though - Stephen did seem (to me) to be aware that C14 dating is the creationists' friend. His reference to C14 was in contrast to his belief that fossil records show the earth to be old. It was a concession to the biblical view in this case.
Thanks, Gavin. On rereading, I agree that in my PS I have likely misrepresented his reference to C14, though perhaps not quite in the way you suggest. I think on reflection (he has not replied to this point) that his was just the common conflating of 'C14' with radiodating in general. He seems to have been saying, 'OK, despite some problems with radiometric dates, fossils seem to be old'. Whereas real insight into C14 joys for creationists would seem to make it hard to still think that the fossils could be old (how can 'Carboniferous' coal, e.g. still have non-contaminant C14 in it unless it is only thousands, not millions of years old?) Hopefully, even despite being somewhat misguided, the response will still encourage him to check out the sources given on both radiometric dating in general, and C14 in particular. Thanks again for the pickup.
Dear Steven B.,
Your personal experience is valid. As Einstein said, "The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility." If something doesn't make sense to you while others keep telling you that it does, it is up to you to decide what seems more logical. Reason is the best way to come upon truth, not blind assumption. I shall leave you with a scientific fact to ponder over non-evolution related.
The first true measurement of light-speed came in 1676 by a fellow named Olaf Roemer. He noted that the time elapsed between eclipses of Jupiter with its moons became shorter as the Earth moved closer to Jupiter and became longer as the Earth and Jupiter drew farther apart. This anomalous behavior could be accounted for by a finite speed of light. He calculated that the speed of light was something like 2.14 x 10^8 m/s. This measurement, considering its antiquity, method of measurement, and 17th century uncertainty in exactly how far Jupiter was from the Earth, is surprisingly close to the modern value of 2.99792458 x 10^8 m/s. These modern values are obtained using devices called laser interferometers, which can very precisely pin down speeds and distances.
If Earth and the universe were only 6,000 years old, we would only be able to see stars with a maximum distance of 6,000 light-years. Otherwise the light would not have had time to reach us.
Let’s put this in context.
The Milky Way galaxy is approximately 100,000 light-years across, with our solar system about 28,000 light-years from the center. This puts us about 22,000 light-years from our galaxy’s outer edge. If the universe were only 6,000 years old, we would see only a fraction of the 200 billion stars in just OUR galaxy since light from others would not have had enough time to reach us! I hope this helps.
I pondered about publishing this attempt to 'enlighten', with its not-so-subtle (if not patronising) suggestion that 'reason' has to lead to the conclusion of an old universe. As if those scientists and other thinkers who are biblical creationists have not carefully considered this issue. For a careful, reasoned discussion, see this chapter of the Creation Answers Book.
And to suggest that it is not 'evolution-related' is disingenuous; the age issue is crucial to the question of whether biblical creation or evolution represents the truth, and I would be very sure you know this and it is part of your motivation in sending this for the 'benefit' of our readers.
I used to believe, like the questioner, in the fiction of evolution, shoved as it was deep down my throat at school. What people have to realize, as Carl states so nicely and diplomatically, is that evolution is truly a fraud. Attenborough is an Atheist and hates Christianity - does he disclose this during his crockumentaries? Of course not. He markets himself as a 'scientist'. Nonsense. Like Dawkins he presents metaphysical hand-waving as 'fact' replete with pretty photos and naturalistic progression. It is a mental illness to desire that tulips became teachers. They didn't. Evolution is another 19th century dialecticism which offends science and common-sense. It is morbidly anti-human. ....
Evolution retards science. It is an amoral atheistic naturalism. Brand it for what it is.
I grew up unchurched and believed in evolution and sought to be an archaeologist. As I learned the deep evidence in university what we were vaguely taught in high school, I saw the circles, errors and assumptions my whole life was built on just trusting the experts. Thank God that I was referred to your ministry. I think I've read every article on here in the last dozen years. Now I'm a pastor and I've been back to my old university... but as a debater of real science! Thank you for your ministry, it is the backbone of our faith.
Peter S, I appreciated your comment on the need to wait on the Lord for His answers, learning patience in the process.
It is difficult to fathom the depths that the creation/evolution argument runs to. The temptation at first is to put faith in the scientists who trade on the name of science to renounce God. All they have though is mountains of rhetoric not mountains of evidence. (I love to point that out to them)
This is the subject that got me to think for myself. You may wonder why most people do not look too closely at this subject and that is because most people do not want to think for themselves and they think they are happy with a world view that allows them to do what is right in their own eyes.
It helps me to realize that in order for the evolutionists to believe in the 65 million year old time frame for the T-rex they found to contain soft tissue and red blood cells the evolutionists are happy to abandon all known science in order to hold on to their belief. That really tells me a lot about the big debate and causes them to lose credibility when they attack the creation world view as they surely must if they want to be right.
If debating with anyone I always go for the argument from design and fine tuning of the universe first. If they concede nothing on this point then they are not looking for the truth, they are looking for a reason not to believe and may have lost the ability to be rational. I am wasting my time presenting any other argument to such a person.
Overall though creationism has done wonders for my faith because I can have a rational world view and believe the Bible when it says some of the more fantastic (hard to believe if you have a lack of trust of the Bible) aspects of the deeds of Jesus Christ.
I believe every christian has to deal with the "fog" issue you described at some time or other. It is good that you are seeking the personal touch that God offers as well as the intellectual affirmation from the available evidence. In my opinion CMI deal effectively with the intellectual part of your problem. But that personal touch from God is purely between you and God Himself. I recommend you keep putting your requests to God but try not to dictate how or when He is to respond. This requires a lot of patience and humility, something I struggle with regularly. His methods are often not what we expect but very effective and sometimes only realised upon retrospection. One last note, God also requires that we thank Him when putting up requests (Phl 4:6), this is an act of faith regardless whether we're satisfied with the results or not. Again, not easy. Don't give up on God, you can tell from His handy work that His designs are often beyond our comprehension but very effective.
King David composed Psalms that remind us to wait on the Lord as he himself had to do. Just because God does not answer in the way we may expect Him to doesnt mean He is not personal or good or that He didnt create the heavens & the earth.
There is a hoax though, very confident & very large on the surface of things, epspecially in mainstream media & places of learning. Dig a bit deeper if I may say (& maybe God also ?). I found Safarti's book a great challenge to what is going on in schools regarding apparent science.
Dear Correspondent (forgive me, I forgot your name and it isn't in front of me) what have you been praying into the "fog"? You don't say, but the way you approach God in prayer (i.e. your attitude toward God) is very important, as is the content of your prayers. I speak as one who has also prayed into the "fog".
Have you been praying to God, in the name of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, with true faith in Him? Or have your prayers been made without truly believing in Jesus? That won't cut it with God. Please read this quote from Jesus Christ:
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." (John 14:21)
These words of Jesus are not to be taken legalistically (Romans 7:6), but they provide a path to dissipation of the "fog" in finding God that you and probably everyone who has ever embarked on a search for God has experienced at some point. And this is a promise given by Jesus Christ, God's risen Son. Live for the Lord Jesus Christ by faith in Him and both He and the Father will love you and will be manifest to you. As Jesus also said, "...he that hath seen me hath seen the Father..." (John 14:9).
Read the New Testament (I suggest starting with John) and get to know Jesus Christ, and you will also get to know the Father. When you have a relationship with God through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, you will penetrate the "fog". But that relationship is required before God, through Jesus Christ, will manifest himself to you.
One more quote from Jesus: "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29,30)
Friend, in reading Wieland's answer, it sounds like God just returned your serve. Here comes the ball. Are you really up for a game of tennis with the Almightly, or are you just talking again?
I am aware of this individual's feelings. I have become aware of a friend giving up on a literal Genesis and buying into evolution. I have seen the impact of Dr. Hugh Ross related to the destruction of a biblical world view related to origins. Sir David Attenborough has convinced many, or, rather, has destroyed the faith of many.
I would appreciate a more in-depth explanation (from Scripture and experience) of just how many ways God speaks. People tend to look for a Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus experience. And we may have something like that sometimes. However, God leads moment by moment. He brings a Scripture to mind. Did you take the credit for that or give Him the glory? It is impossible to read the Bible without hearing God's Voice, but do you crowd out His Voice with your own preconceived theology? He speaks through another Christian according to 1 Corinthians 12:3. Did you glorify God or the person through whom God spoke? You cannot look at anything in nature and have the thought, "God made this and is holding it all together." unless God is speaking it to you. In fact, if you look at a beautiful sunset without giving God the glory, you are temporarily not listening to Him.
On the other hand, when we see these slick presentations of made-up stories, arbitrary assumptions, irrational thinking, group-think, and outright lies, we are hearing another spirit that is more sinister. If we listen, we will hear God also speaking to us in a contrary message--perhaps through Creation Ministries or by bringing a memory of what we have learned here.
I to have struggled with "fog" when trying to talk to God.
Late last year I was by myself struggling up a steep bush and scrub covered hill when I pulled a muscle in my leg rather badly. After falling into a very prickly bush I stopped and asked God for some help. Continuing upwards I realised my leg did not hurt anymore. It has not hurt since.
Never give up on God, he will be around when you need him, maybe not in the way you expect.
Hope this is useful.
Apart from there being more than enough scientific evidence for the Creator, we can find a personal God in the person of Christ, who is Himself the Creator (John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:10; Revelation 1:8) manifested in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16), as was prophesied throughout the Old Testament, and, who is in fact “the Lord your God” of the Old Testament (John 8:58) who gave us the Ten Commandments (“For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” Matthew 12:8).
To find this personal God, we only have to go to God's word in the Bible and follow Christ throughout His ministry where we can get to know Him/God on a personal level.
I commend Steven B. for asking such important questions. I think his concern is more common than he realizes.
Dr. Wieland provided an excellent response. I have recently been trying to articulate this same perspective but find his response much more eloquent. This article has been added to my browser bookmarks.