Thursday, July 21, 2011

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

What steps do you take if you find yourself doubting that God exists?


Rhett & Valerie said...

Though I haven't been in this exact situation, I have found myself doubting the reality of the resurrection. For me, confiding in trusted, older/wiser believers was a significant comfort. My experience of sharing confidence was a really positive one; I was taken seriously, and treated lovingly and patiently. That was really helpful.


Nita said...

I just sing Adon Olam:

Actually I can understand why someone may call G-d's existence into question, as Heidegger rightly says that G-d cannot exist like trees, rocks, animals, and human beings. I can even see that, in a certain sense, only we humans do "exist." And yet the Being of beings are revealed to us thru language, history, world, and the becoming of all beings. G-d's special self-revelation is beyond all understanding and yet it is made available through faith in His Word, made flesh in the suffering and death of the Anointed One.

Greg said...

Thanks. You are fortunate.

Greg said...

Thanks. Yes!

I see beyond all understanding not leaving us with no understanding, and therefore 'beyond' relates to the privilege of unknowing in the midst of knowing. And the dialogue goes on.

Nita said...

Dear Greg,
Once again, I do appreciate your comments, this time your thoughts re "beyond all understanding not leaving us with no understanding." I think that the Heideggerian problem is ultimately that we have traditionally taken being and existence for granted. Understanding (and self-understanding) is what give us access to meaning and making sense of things, both natural and created beings, living and inanimate beings, theoretical and "poetical," human-made objects, as they relate always already to our own modes of being and existence. We can thus no longer take for granted Aristotle's, Descartes' or Kantian transformations of the Platonic dualism of intelligible transcendent Forms vs. phenomenal, sensible things. It seems that the very idea of revelation, as we understand it in Judeo-Christian, biblical terms, has become more interesting and meaningful if we take this Heideggerian critique of traditional metaphysics into account, as Ricoeur, Levinas, and Marion have successfully revisited a phenomenology of revelation. Lorenz Puntel (from Munich) wrote a couple of interesting books about this problem:
Structure and Being
Sein und Gott (I think this one is about to come out in English as well, they are both available in Portuguese and we had good debates about this issue down here). Puntel tries to "translate" some of these continental takes on G-d into analytic, philosophical terms. Speaking of which, we'll receive Professor Alvin Plantinga in our Dept at Porto Alegre, next month, and he'll give a couple of talks to our graduate program. Yet I still find very difficult to honestly follow this Reformed, epistemological take on the nature of revelation and theology. I simply don't see how anyone could equate an understanding of G-d with an understanding of the things available at hand or the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. G-d's revelation means precisely that there is something which actually transcends all human experience and understanding, and this excess becomes meaningful thanks to special revelation, which is made available to us in history and language. Now, the handing down of the Torah, both oral and written traditions, does imply a hermeneutical fusion of horizons (G-d's Word and our own pre-understanding and existential contexts of experience, historicity, language, socialization, culture etc). Even though I believe that Dr. Schaeffer was responding to both Heidegger and agnostics by claiming that G-d is there (like Da-sein) and is not silent, I don't see how G-d could be "out there" unless we resort to a hermeneutic turn, say, by way of existential appropriations of events, starting with the life and death of the historical Jesus. The gospel is, after all, a scandal, a stumbling-block for both Jews and Greeks. It's amazing how evangelicals tend to miss the mark and make it so naively self-evident! Shalom!

reneamac said...

I don't remember steps; I just remember wrestling---thinking through and thinking through and thinking through, sometimes with angst and tears (usually when heaven and hell came into the conversation)---what I now recognize as prayer.

Greg said...

I'm grateful for your response. It seems to me that, while Heidegger is important in the flow of thought, he left us with the problem of floating round and round in understanding, and as a result never getting through it, in order to come back to it and have it re-directed. I call the trajectory a motion from understanding to explanation to new understanding. If this is feasible the explanatory moment is crucial, as understanding recognizes it can go it on its own.

I do think that the Heideggerian critique of trad metaphysics makes Christian revelation more interesting and meaningful, yet the post-Heideggerian critique of understanding found in Ricoeur, Levinas, and Marion goes even further (especially Ricoeur in aiming to root this revelation in time and narrative).

Thanks for the book suggestions.

By the way, I have been at a conference with Al. Agree with him or not, he has definitely had an impact on philosophical discussion. I personally lined him up in dialogue with Westphal and Ricoeur in a chapter in the book The Futures of Evangelicalism. I too have a difficult time following the views of New Reformed epistemology, but I think one of the main points: we don't have to be enslaved to Reason or Evidence in order to have a credible belief in God, is helpful.

Your last remarks are well taken. The hermeneutic turn is essential and I believe that in starting with understanding, we end with the revelatory life, death and resurrection of the historical Jesus, as this moves us through explanation, and brings us to new understanding.

Often evangelicals have been left behind in the dust, not aware of what's happened, but aimlessly carry on believing it's all so pristinely clear.

Greg said...

Thanks. As I see it, you're saying that this is more an existential process and that thinking through is not really a step that is a decided and conscious action to help dispel doubts. Is that right?

Nita said...

Thanx, Greg, these wise words are so illuminating. I'll keep working on the thought that "we don't have to be enslaved to Reason or Evidence in order to have a credible belief in God." Sahbbath Shalom!

Greg said...


Thanks. Slight but important glitch in what I previously wrote. I meant understanding cannot, not can go it on its own.

If this is feasible the explanatory moment is crucial, as understanding recognizes it cannot go it on its own.

reneamac said...

Yes, for me that was the case. It wasn't a conscious step or effort; it's just what I did, just what happened. Of course, I was 14 or so when I had this faith-crisis. Maybe that has something to do it; I realize it is more common to wrestle with these kinds of questions in one's college years.

I may have talked to the adults in my life about; I may not have. I don't remember. I do know I had adults in my life who would have understood (and probably some who wouldn't have), but, unfortunately, it is not in my nature to talk to others about what's going on inside; it doesn't even cross my mind; I just struggle. Learning to counter this part of my nature is how L'Abri (Jasie really) most impacted my life.

At any rate, all that is to say, yes, for me it was a sort of existential wrestling-prayer.

Greg said...

Thanks for responding and elaborating.

Sisyphos said...

Let the doubt run and explore it. My cowardice of old days should not interfere with myself again. After all what is the worth of an opinion which runs through your fingers like water? Although, what is the alternative? A violent grapping, a maniac lust for possessing of what is out there, pressing it in words, boxing it in numbers.
Maybe something inbetween:
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"
a time to catch, a time to let go.
a time to negate, a time to affirm
a time to possess, a time to be possess.
Or is it possible to carry out both movements at the same time within one self?
Belief and not belief at the same time?
But isnt such self in danger to lose one unifying self, to be split into a polyphonic orchestra of voices, sucking back each others words leaving one speechless?
And in the arena of words the warriors throw their weapons and skillfully pierce each other; yet just words - the mumbling of the beings of dust, the sounds of those so weak and small, those who behind their masks try to collect their broken pieces, consecrating their crying images ...

Greg said...

Thanks. I'm just back from a break, thus the late response. I like what you wrote. And I would say yes to the split self or the self in tension between belief and unbelief, but for me these are not even - say fifty - fifty. In fact, the "polyphonic orchestra" does not lead to being without speech, but to a myriad of ways of speaking that pertains to action that moves in the direction of the truth in love - saying and doing on the way to said and done.