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I’ll show you my faith by my works, alright…

September 12, 2009

At Standing, Sitting, Lying Down, Katie L recounts an experience she had at a Mormon Enrichment Night. After seeing the agenda and what was taught at that event, she realized how people might think Mormons are overly works-centered. She wrote:

…I can’t help thinking we’re missing the forest for the trees here.  Far more important than any of these attributes is being Christ-centered.  And by focusing so much time, effort, and energy on peripheral goals, we are neglecting the core of the matter: a saving relationship with Jesus…and all the fruits that come out of it.

Call me touchy-feely, but it seems to me that the more we focus on the practical to-dos–and less on the core principles of the gospel, which are faith and repentance in the Lord Jesus Christ–the more we we become a religion about DOING SCHTUFF and less a place to worship our God and Savior.

This is a common criticism of the church, and even though I don’t think I still have a horse in this race, I must say that I do not understand the complaint (or the faith-only community in general). From a (biased) outsider standpoint, the Mormon approach, when conducted ideally, seems more fruitful.

As a brief overview, I think this is an age-old struggle about how salvation comes. One side — the side that Katie is “representing” (at least partially, for this post), is the faith only side. Salvation and grace, undeserved and un-earnable, is brought by faith in and worship of Christ. Many Christians nowadays will use the term “building a relationship with Christ,” whatever that means.

The other side — the Mormon side, and the one I’ll be defending (at least partially), is the faith+works (or fruit, if you prefer) side. NOTE: I didn’t say “works only” (although the contention from the faith side is that so much emphasis on works pushes out and deemphasizes the role of faith.) Salvation and grace, still undeserved and un-earnable, is brought through faith, which can only be made live with fruit/works.

And from this come so many programs. So much “SCHTUFF to do.” It is the Mormon way. It’s easy to get the picture that Mormons overemphasize works (especially with such “saving ordinances” as baptism and temple endowments), but I’ll sidestep those ordinance issues.

Rather, I’m curious about the set “SCHTUFF” that Katie L expressed suspicion about. What “trees” does Katie think members may be missing the forest for? Well, looking at her previous paragraph to the ones I quoted, we see:

It’s nice to be spiritually-minded, prepared for emergencies, engaged in loving family activities, physically fit, service-oriented, personally fulfilled, and mentally strong.  And it’s nice to have support as you attempt self-improvement.

So, she is arguing that these things are nice, but REALLY, it’s the worship of Christ that’s important.

At this point, I have a two-fold disconnect. From a Christian perspective: what the heck does a relationship with Christ or worship of Christ entail if not SCHTUFF done?! (The answers I’ve heard from aren’t comforting…The worst of which is the idea of “cheap” or “free grace.”)

My second question is from an apostate or nonbelieving vantage point. How does worship of Christ build upon or surpass the SCHTUFF listed? To

I think the Mormon crowd answers the first question in an adequate way. Worship/relationship faith in Christ IS best cultivated by doing schtuff. Doing schtuff is not inimical to a relationship with Christ, but is rather the means of showing the relationship with Christ. James 2: 18 is this comment, succinctly stated. (The question then becomes…what “schtuff” is the right schtuff…and this is where one can still have disagreement with the church.)

Yet even they don’t (I feel) answer the second question adequately. Because I can “do schtuff” (all of the stuff listed above) without worshipping Christ. I don’t see the value-add of church and Christ! Now, the church would like to say that baptism, endowments, eternity, etc., are things I can’t do without the church and Christ, and perhaps they are correct, but without convincing me of the need of these things, this appeal fails. Rather, I look at these practical ideas — being prepared for emergencies, being engaged with family, being service-oriented — and realize I can do that anywhere.

Jack drafted an analogy to try to explain the role of the relationship with Christ separate from the “stuff to do”, but I think she got it confused. I would instead say that sex is part of “stuff to do,” even if it’s stuff that most people don’t have to put on a list to do it. So, sex, along with other things (maintaining emotional connection, engagement in family activities, service orientation, etc., — sounds familiar from the Mormon list, right?) is how you build the marriage. These things are not inimical to the marriage.

The two-fold question again arises. What is a healthy marriage, if not for the laundry list of SCHTUFF to do (of which sex is simply part)? And secondly, why is the value-add of marriage, when all of the laundry list items can be done outside of marriage? I hope the only value-adds of marriage and the church aren’t the tax breaks…

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16 Comments
  1. what the heck does a relationship with Christ or worship of Christ entail if not SCHTUFF done?!

    Andrew, this is a really good question and I’ll have to think about it some more. Let me give you some thoughts just off the top of my head.

    I think a relationship with Christ begins with a fundamental sense of recognition that you (I mean the universal you) are broken beyond repair. It is a yearning to be whole, and an understanding that you cannot do it yourself–because you are the very thing that’s holding you back.

    So you turn to God (or does He turn you to Him?). And he mends the broken parts.

    As a result, you are filled with gratitude, love, awe, and loyalty. And that produces obedience, humility, service, and personal righteousness.

    In other words, the “schtuff” is not the relationship in and of itself: it is the FRUIT of the relationship.

    Anyway, it’s late and this is shooting from the hip. Would love to get your feedback and continue the discussion…

  2. Oh good, I knew you would do your own post on this. The more people who know what a sick person I am, the merrier.

    I still think it’s tragic to put sex on a “stuff to do” list. Unless you’re on a fertility schedule or something, and I have it on good authority that that’s a whole lot of no-fun.

    I will try to get back to you on your question later today. Gotta go get ready to visit the next church on my list.

  3. I’m also confused as to how sex should be on a list of “stuff to do”. Frankly, that kind of creeps me out. It reminds me of in 1984 when Winston would have sex with his wife because it was their “duty to the party.”

    Am I missing something here?

  4. re Katie L:

    OK, this sounds like a pretty interesting answer. But I’m just thinking of the practical aspects of it (for both LDS and non-LDS).

    So, it seems like what people are thinking is that the LDS focus on the fruits/works/whatever makes it SOUND as if they don’t feel as if they are “fundamentally broken.” So then, would this be what people rant about when they say Mormons don’t focus enough on faith?

    My problem seems to be the opposite. It seems that when non-LDS Christians focus on the fundamental brokenness and how Jesus will mend that, that they abdicate everything else, regardless of fruits/works. Come to think of it, I think I wrote about this as it pertained to a poem by Maya Angelou, and I hated it then.

    And from an apostate position, the answer creeps me out. Your position is recognizing fundamental brokenness (a diagnosis provided by the Bible), and then getting a solution (provided by the Bible). And throughout this all, the peer review has been out on the Bible. Because all the other peers are offering different diagnoses and different solutions.

    That being said, based on MY approach to the marriage/sex analogy, I can see how your answer makes sense. So, could it be said that humanity’s fundamental brokenness (loneliness, need to companionship, whatever) leads us to yearn to be whole, and that is the value-add of a permanent marriage? So then, it makes sense that sex, the family activities, etc., etc., are just fruits of that marriage. At least theoretically. From the apostate position, I’d be skeptical of saying “all humans are fundamentally broken and need to enter a particular kind of marriage.”

  5. re Jack:

    Again, I can approach this two ways.

    1) It might be that sex isn’t on the list of “things to do” but is something you just want to do. But we can see with the LDS list of “things to do,” people can have certain commandments that they “want to do.” Some people love genealogy. Some people love canning/food storage. So, we could export sex as the (mostly) generic “what people love to do.” That being said, it still COULD become “things to do.”

    2) It could become “things to do” by merit of everything involved. Since it takes two to tango (!), the “things to do” are working with your partner on peak demand times, intensity, availability, preferences, etc., etc., Forgive me if I’m naive about this, but I don’t think it’s naive to say that people aren’t all sexually synchronized with every partner they could ever have. And especially for people who abstain from sex before marriage (which would count for most Mormons), they don’t get to “try before buying” and see the specifications of what they are getting. So they have to deal with whatever incompatibilities may come.

  6. re Hypatia:

    That’s kinda extreme, but I think for the analogy, the idea is to make it purely about sex and the relationship. Not, sex, the relationship, and the party. (Or, in our condition, sex, the relationship, and the church/God/scriptures.)

    So, really, sex becomes a “duty to the relationship.” Is that creepy?

    Jack is saying that sex doesn’t sound like a duty. It’s something she and Paul want to do. (And most people want to do). So I provided 2 ways to approach it.

    1) It could simply be that for the particular couple, it is not seen as a duty. But then again, to go back to our analogy, we can look at several commandments in the church and find a few that we didn’t see as duties because we just naturally wanted to do them. So it doesn’t break the analogy.

    OR

    2) Instead of the actual sex, think about everything involved with it. Chances are, you and husband are not automagically synced in every aspect. So your ‘duty’ is to understand your partner (and he you), what times are good, what turns up the heat, what will lose the momentum, etc., etc., In this case, even if the actual sex isn’t a “duty to the relationship,” (because you both want it)…doing all of these compatibility steps most certainly IS a duty to the relationship…the sheer number of people who go into counseling because they failed to work with their partner on this issue is testament to that.

  7. So then, would this be what people rant about when they say Mormons don’t focus enough on faith?

    I think that, yes, this is a big part of it. Mormons tend to focus on our “child of God-ness” over our “fallenness,” which has a ton of consequences both in doctrine and practice. This is one of them.

    And from an apostate position, the answer creeps me out. Your position is recognizing fundamental brokenness (a diagnosis provided by the Bible), and then getting a solution (provided by the Bible). And throughout this all, the peer review has been out on the Bible. Because all the other peers are offering different diagnoses and different solutions.

    Actually Andrew, I came to a recognition and understanding of my brokenness completely INDEPENDENT of the Bible. At the risk of getting overly personal, I suffered for many years from depression, anxiety, and a severe case of perfectionism. I never knew the Bible taught much at all regarding our “fallenness” because it’s not something that was emphasized in my experience growing up Mormon.

    It was from within that I just knew I was broken. I knew I needed help. And it wasn’t until I turned to God–specifically, Jesus Christ–that I found it.

    From the apostate position, I’d be skeptical of saying “all humans are fundamentally broken and need to enter a particular kind of marriage.”

    You know, I’m only halfway there myself. “All humans are fundamentally broken”–I feel like I can get behind that. I’ve seen enough of humanity to be able to say that I think this is kind of undeniable, part of what makes the human condition so fascinating, so sympathetic…and sometimes so icky. Let me know when you meet a perfect person, and then I’ll rethink this.

    As to the second part…I’m not there yet. I can’t say for sure that ALL humans need to enter a PARTICULAR kind of marriage in order to be healed. At this point in my journey, all I can say for sure is that it worked for me.

  8. I think that, yes, this is a big part of it. Mormons tend to focus on our “child of God-ness” over our “fallenness,” which has a ton of consequences both in doctrine and practice. This is one of them.

    That’s what I thought. If that’s the case, then I’m afraid (from both a Mormon AND an apostate position) I find the non-LDS Christian approach (as far as it emphasizes fallenness over child-of-God-ness) personally despicable. I’d rather have the positive, upbeat approach of Mormonism than the humiliating one of mainstream Christianity (and I know…the response is: “well, there’s still a positive, upbeat part to the rest of Christianity — that is the joy in Christ” — but that response still seems inadequate to me.)

    Actually Andrew, I came to a recognition and understanding of my brokenness completely INDEPENDENT of the Bible. At the risk of getting overly personal, I suffered for many years from depression, anxiety, and a severe case of perfectionism. I never knew the Bible taught much at all regarding our “fallenness” because it’s not something that was emphasized in my experience growing up Mormon.

    It was from within that I just knew I was broken. I knew I needed help. And it wasn’t until I turned to God–specifically, Jesus Christ–that I found it.

    This is a completely fair answer (and I kinda anticipated that someone — eventually — would bring something like that up.)

    So, I do not deny or denigrate your experiences. I would simply point out that for others it could be different. For whatever the “fallenness” is, they might not view it as “fundamental,” and as a result, they might not view Christ as the one who must be turned to to resolve. This is fine with me — because I do not believe one size fits all. But can it be fine for a religion that insists that there is a straight and narrow path, and that there is only one way, truth and light? I meet plenty of people who are universalist enough to say it’s fine with them. I meet plenty of others who disagree.

    You know, I’m only halfway there myself. “All humans are fundamentally broken”–I feel like I can get behind that. I’ve seen enough of humanity to be able to say that I think this is kind of undeniable, part of what makes the human condition so fascinating, so sympathetic…and sometimes so icky. Let me know when you meet a perfect person, and then I’ll rethink this.

    When you say “fundamentally broken,” I think this implies that perfection is impossible. But saying, “I’ve never seen a perfect person” does not equal to “perfection is impossible to achieve on our own.” (seeing enough white swans and no black swans doesn’t let us come to the conclusion that black swans don’t and cannot exist.) So, when I say that I’m not sold on the fundamental brokenness of humans, it’s not that I’ve seen a perfect person…but that I don’t believe absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

    This is similar to a point I argue against strong atheists. Lack of personally (mileage may vary…) persuasive evidence of a god does not mean God does not exist, or that God cannot exist. If God cannot exist (or people are fundamentally broken), then you have to provide something more to back that up than just the sight of many, many, many imperfect people (or many many years of not seeing God).

    As to the second part…I’m not there yet. I can’t say for sure that ALL humans need to enter a PARTICULAR kind of marriage in order to be healed. At this point in my journey, all I can say for sure is that it worked for me.

    I’m glad to hear this part. Because if it turns out humans are fundamentally broken (even though I spoke out against that earlier…I think I’m humble enough in my position that I could see how conceptually it could be true), I think it’s charitable to admit that different people can have different ways of addressing that brokenness. If God exists, I simply hope he see it similarly. Scriptures from many religions aren’t too comforting.

  9. I find the non-LDS Christian approach (as far as it emphasizes fallenness over child-of-God-ness) personally despicable.

    It’s hard to swallow for many, and I can definitely see why people reject it. All I know is that I have personally always been keenly aware of my own weaknesses, cruelty, and imperfections, so this concept made perfect sense to me when I encountered it.

    Having said that, at this point I am still not sold on the complete depravity of man, just his brokenness.

    So, when I say that I’m not sold on the fundamental brokenness of humans, it’s not that I’ve seen a perfect person…but that I don’t believe absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

    I think this is a case of trying to prove a negative, which is impossible. And you’re right, we’ll never be able to prove that a perfect person DOESN’T exist simply because we lack evidence that one does. Of course, are you willing to grant that same leniency to believers? We’ll never be able to prove categorically that, say, Nephi didn’t exist just because the archeological record hasn’t uncovered evidence about him. Or Quakers on the moon, for that matter.

    But from the evidence of history, art, observation, and experience, don’t you think it’s more reasonable to conclude that there is no perfect person than that there is somewhere, someplace, some anomalous individual living a quiet, unassuming life which fits that description?

    I’m not saying what you have to do with that information. You don’t have to believe in God, or Jesus, or anything at all as a result. I’m just trying to establish that although on its face it’s kind of a jarring–even insulting–proposition, the evidence suggests that it’s really not unreasonable to accept as a basic premise of human life that we’re all kinda screwed up at least on some level.

  10. I think this is a case of trying to prove a negative, which is impossible. And you’re right, we’ll never be able to prove that a perfect person DOESN’T exist simply because we lack evidence that one does. Of course, are you willing to grant that same leniency to believers? We’ll never be able to prove categorically that, say, Nephi didn’t exist just because the archeological record hasn’t uncovered evidence about him. Or Quakers on the moon, for that matter.

    As I’ve noted, this is already what I do. As an atheist, I do not say, “I believe God doesn’t exist.” I say “I don’t believe God exists.” Does the distinction make sense?

    Similarly, I don’t argue that Nephi didn’t exist. Rather, I don’t believe he did and I don’t have persuasive personal reason to believe he did.

    Now, if I or anyone argues that Nephi doesn’t exist, then it wouldn’t be because of absence of evidence. Rather, they would probably be arguing that Nephi doesn’t exist because he couldn’t have existed because there is something *fundamentally* wrong with the narrative. In this case, people would have to bring up evidence that makes it logically impossible for Nephi to have existed. Absence of evidence does not cut it.

    But from the evidence of history, art, observation, and experience, don’t you think it’s more reasonable to conclude that there is no perfect person than that there is somewhere, someplace, some anomalous individual living a quiet, unassuming life which fits that description?

    Firstly, no, I don’t. This is again the fallacy of atheists who use the “absence of evidence = evidence of absence” reasoning. It is not “more reasonable” to believe that there is no god than there is somewhere, someplace, some anomalous deistic deity living a quiet, unassuming life which fits the description. This is not to say that it’s more reasonable to believe there is a god hiding in the gaps. The fact is this is a false dichotomy. RATHER, it is “more reasonable” to lack belief in such a god.

    But SECONDLY, you’re not just claiming that perfect people don’t exist. Because if this were all, I wouldn’t be too bothered. Rather, when you talk aboutfundamental brokenness, you aren’t saying that “there is no perfect person.” You’re suggesting that there can be no perfect person. So, when strong atheists argue there is no god, sometimes they argue this way because they believe god is logically contradictory. In this case, what they are saying is that there is a fundamental problem in how god is constructed which suggests it is impossible for him to exist. But when they are argue this, they do not argue this because they don’t see evidence of a god. No, they try to reason that certain traits of god are logically impossible.

    If you want to show that humans are “fundamentally” broken, you have to do more than show that there has never been a perfect human. You would have to argue that a perfect human is logically impossible, rather than situationally impossible.

    I am not saying that somewhere there is a perfect person hiding (or that somewhere, there is a god hiding). To both of these, I do not believe. What I’m saying is that this argument does not show that there cannot be a perfect person. Even if we could factually determine that ever person living and every person who has ever lived was not and is not perfect, this wouldn’t give us the evidence we would need to say that humans are fundamentally broken and imperfect.

    So, once again, I’m not asserting that there is a perfect person and quite frankly, I don’t have to. I’m simply pointing out that if you want to claim a fundamental brokenness (which Christianity does), then you’ll have to back it up with something more than the ubiquitous lack of perfect people.

    I’m not saying what you have to do with that information. You don’t have to believe in God, or Jesus, or anything at all as a result. I’m just trying to establish that although on its face it’s kind of a jarring–even insulting–proposition, the evidence suggests that it’s really not unreasonable to accept as a basic premise of human life that we’re all kinda screwed up at least on some level.

    I disagree…I think — and I’ll be blunt and rude — that this is a lazy and hasty conclusion from the evidence (and again, I say the same to strong atheists if they argue absence of evidence = evidence of absence). The only case when it would not be unreasonable to accept such a conclusion is if you find hasty generalizations not unreasonable. If that’s the case, fine, but that’s far from showing that it is categorically not unreasonable.

  11. As I’ve noted, this is already what I do. As an atheist, I do not say, “I believe God doesn’t exist.” I say “I don’t believe God exists.” Does the distinction make sense?

    Makes sense.

    Now, I’ll be honest: I’m not much of an intellectual or rhetorical giant, so I’m not completely sure I’ve followed your entire argument. But if I understand you correctly, I think what you’re saying is that…

    1)–The lack of evidence doesn’t PROVE that no God (or Nephi or perfect person) exists; rather it simply offers no compelling reason to believe. So you lack belief in these things as opposed to affirming positive belief in their non-existence.

    2)–My assertion that there are no perfect people DOESN’T prove that a)–a perfect person can’t logically exist; and b)–that human beings are therefore fundamentally flawed.

    I can certainly see where you’re coming from on the first and appreciate your consistency and fairness. On the second, I admit I’m unprepared to respond because I haven’t considered this question in depth.

    To resolve the issue, I guess we’d have to decide first what we mean by “fundamentally” flawed. And then I’d be interested to hear what you think would be required to prove or establish that humanity fits the bill.

    Sorry I don’t have a better answer here. If this were a debating tournament, I’d have to concede the round. 🙂

  12. 1) Yes, exactly!

    2) Yes, exactly again.

    You’ve got it down perfectly. Also, in either case, should personally persuasive reasons or evidence (it can’t be just any kind…it has to be personally persuasive), my position can change.

    Regarding to what is meant by “fundamentally” flawed, that is something that is amorphous too. So, it’s not a problem if you don’t have a definitive answer on what it means. Different denominations give different answers, and we have no way of determining which answer is right on this issue.

    Here’s one approach…some people say that man is fundamentally flawed as a result of original sin. Since this original sin is INHERENT to every human that ever will be, humans logically cannot be perfect on their own. Nothing a human can do on his own can clean off his sin. Therefore, no matter what a person does, it is impossible for them to be perfect on their own. This necessitates a savior. Ta da, Jesus Christ.

    My problem with this approach is two-fold. The Mormon in me says: “Man should be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.” The apostate in me says, “Why should I even be buying into a narrative about Adam and the fall? What’s compelling reason to believe this?”

    This second question (the apostate question) cannot be definitively answered by personal experience. So, whereas your previous answer that you know from experience that you’re broken can be used to give you personal reason to believe that there was a fall…it does not conclusively point that the fall narrative is factual.

    That, I think, is the beauty about my position. I’m dealing with reasons to believe or lack of reasons to believe. I’m not dealing with factuality or counterfactuality. (God exists is a statement about facts. God does not exist is another statement about facts. But lacking a belief is not a statement about facts; it is a statement about persuasion and reasons.) Your experiences give you reason to believe in the fall, but they don’t necessarily establish that the fall is factual.

    NOW, taking it from a Mormon approach: “Men must be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgressions.” So, why has everyone heretofore been imperfect? Well, the scriptures also say, everyone has fallen short. Everyone has sinned. So man must be punished for their own sin, but as it turns out, everyone has sinned.

    This approach, however, does not lead to a “fundamental” problem in humanity — and this is maybe why people get upset with Mormons. (Also, if I’m misunderstanding Mormon theology, oops!) It is completely conceivable under the Mormon approach that a person could choose the right EVERY TIME and thus be “sinless.” It is just so highly unlikely because there are so many ways to miss the mark (who has not lusted after someone in his/her heart? That’s sin right there!). So, in the Mormon approach, we are not imperfect because of a fundamental flaw. Rather, we are imperfect because of probability. The likelihood of “choosing the right” every time from birth to death is so minute that it approaches 0. But other than that, the other things are the case. When we sin, we cannot clean this off by ourselves. We need a savior. Ta da, Jesus. The question is…can we or should we do anything else other than just wait for Jesus to spray the dirt off us? The Mormon answer is yes. We should repent. We should be baptized. We should do (enter the list) to the best of our abilities. We will probably fall short (because the probability of perfection is close to 0), but we should still TRY.

  13. Todd L permalink

    Woah… quite the discussion going on here.

    Forgive me if I’m intruding, Andrew, I stumbled upon your blog as a result of frequenting Katie’s blog.

    I have been reading and reading and my head is now clogged with too many words and thoughts to formulate any sort of cognitive response.. But let me just say that I think I can agree with some of what your saying Andrew. I’m very interested to read more of your blog and gain a better understanding on your stand-point(s).

    Quick thought:

    In regards to humanity being “fundamentally flawed”; I don’t agree with that kind of idea.. and on the flip side, I don’t think that humanity has found a “fundamental way of finding peace” either. They ways (of finding peace) that exist right now are severely over-rated and WAY under-par. WE (man kind) cannot rely on mass opinion and beliefs to complete and destroy us, especially and specifically within religion.

    I don’t like using words like WE and US, and I think that religion relies far to heavily on them. Jesus is starting to sound more like a commodity in these religious blogs than a personage that really exists to help exalt and edify you.

  14. No need to apologize Todd; I always love new commenters.

    Sorry for writing too much — I sometimes get in the moment, and that can be confusing to follow. Let me know if I can try to rephrase anything I’ve written and simplify it.

    I agree with your quick thought. I can’t point to a single, universal, one-size-fits-all way to finding peace, so I don’t attempt to prescribe something for everyone. Rather, I think that people need to “follow their noses,” so to speak. You know when you have joy in your life. You know when you don’t. Seek for what brings joy and peace; leave what does not. I recognize though that sometimes people get caught up in fleeting, short-time happiness, however…and they miss up on improving themselves and finding true joy. I think this catches up to people, and they have the opportunity to learn what’s illusory and what’s real.

    So, again, I agree. I don’t think I have a problem with people who do find improvement within the religions, but to insist any religion (or any philosophy) is the one thing that’s supposed to fit all of *US* (as you point out, those collective words) seems to me to bring misery to many. I don’t really know about how to turn Jesus from commodity to actual helpful personage, so if I can, I’d like people to try to focus more on the edification — wherever it can be found — and less on the package of any name (whether that name is Jesus, God, Allah, or whatever “packaged” belief system has grown up.)

  15. Andrew, coming back to this again. I’m more than willing to take your approach and frame this discussion in terms of reasons to believe or disbelieve.

    So here are my fundamentals:

    1)–I believe in God, because I’ve had subjective personal experiences with the Divine that give me a reason to believe.

    2)–I believe in Christ, because I believe in God–and Christ is the most beautiful version of God I have ever heard of…and because I’ve found true healing and peace in my life as a result of my belief in Him.

    3)–I believe mankind is broken because I’ve observed it in my own life and in the lives of every single human being I have ever met. From what I can tell, all human beings seem to be born into pain and suffering on some level–and all human beings seem to have a tendency toward selfishness, pride, and/or conflict with one another.

    I can’t “prove” any of these empirically. I am very much in discovery mode at this point and am not in a place where I would prescribe them for every living soul. However, they work for me–and as I walk in faith and “follow my nose” I hope to come to some sort of clarity on the rest of it.

    Of the three, only the third is based on any sort of objective standard. I get that. But I’m still wondering what YOU would say regarding my observations about humanity. Okay, so I can’t prove on any level the historical reality of the Fall or say with any objective certainty WHY we are this way. So let’s leave that out for now.

    Can you agree that there is ample reason to believe that, for whatever reason, it appears as though we ARE this way (or at least 99.99% of us seem to be)?

  16. To your three fundamental reasons, I would say:

    1) Good for you, but for every person who does not have a subjective experience with the divine, this does nothing for them (as you probably recognize).

    2) Good for you, but even for people who have had subjective experiences with the divine (and of course, for those who have not), they may disagree with you on the particulars (plenty of people refer to the Christian model as one of the most barbaric they’ve come across…not saying I see it like that, but isn’t it interesting how what one person finds beautiful, another does not?)

    3) Good for you (in other words, good that you have an experience that leads you to find the perspective consistent with your experiences), but as for me, I think this is woefully pessimistic and “half empty.” I don’t see that people as either/or (either good or bad). They are both/neither (both good and bad, or neither good nor bad). I see that people both have the tendency for selfishness, pride, and conflict as well as tendency for selflessness, humility, and peace-seeking. To reduce further, in my opinion, seems to say demonstrate a projection of our subjective beliefs. (Your subjective beliefs are laid out here. I’ve laid out mine in response. Contrary to what either of us [or anyone else trying to answer this third point] want to believe, NEITHER perspective says anything conclusive about objective human nature. However, we ARE saying LOTS about OUR OWN personal inclinations.)

    I too cannot prove any of these empirically, and I too am in discovery mode. However, I would differ with you in that I don’t even think point 3 is based on an objective standard (continuing on with what I said in the last paragraph). 3 is as subjective as the rest. The problem is that point 3 is a point made after evidence has come through our lens — and we often forget that the lens exists. Imagine a photograph. In every photograph, there’s a key factor in it that most people nearly always forget about, but this factor impacts nearly everything about how the photo looks. That is the lens. It’s easy to forget about the lens and say that the photo is how the world objectively looked when the picture was taken. The same is true, of course, for how we interpret data about people and the world.

    For me to agree with you that there is ample reason to believe that, for whatever reason, we ARE “this way,” I’d have to expand what “this way” entails. It includes NOT ONLY the selfishness, pride and conflict, BUT ALSO the drives to make amends, seek peace, be selfless, and humble. IN FACT, the very fact that you see the selfishness, pride and conflict and decide that that’s what you don’t want is evidential to me that you have it in you and humans have it in us. And this, for me, gives me no reason to believe that humans are “fundamentally broken.”

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