Faith: As Relationship? Or Science Experiment?

Dry-Ice-Science-ExperimentsFaith is a very personal thing for me. The reasons that I love and married my wife are also a very personal thing for me. Yet, I would find it difficult to pinpoint irrefutable evidence for the countless reasons why I love my wife: Documentable, historical, testable, provable evidence in support of my “love” and “devotion”.

I guess I’ve become a little discouraged after taking on a project on the differences and similarities of Christian vs. Atheistic belief with a friend of mine; one who happens to be a skeptic and underwent what he called a deconversion from a rather conservative branch of the Church of Christ several years ago. Not discouraged regarding my own faith, but discouraged that, in my humble opinion, there is a lot of what I have always taken for granted to be the truth—even more so, the simplicity—of Christianity. Discouraged in that it can be difficult for me, as a journeyman wordsmith, to formulate a platform for my personal beliefs against a well-crafted, or at times well-entrenched, skeptical argument counter to those very same beliefs. How can I pinpoint irrefutable evidence for the myriad reasons why I love my Savior? Documentable, historical, testable, provable evidence in support of my “love” and “devotion”? Especially when most evidence is so unique to my experiences and so deeply personal?

The wholly inadequate answer is: I can’t. All I can do is tell my story. My story isn’t a science experiment. My story is a relationship; a relationship with a woman viewed through the lens of twenty-plus years of personal experiences.

My marriage has been a very positive one. I know many of our strengths as a couple, and I know many of the areas (though not all) where we could use some work. Everything that I read on relationships, on love, on marriage, everything, is filtered through that lens. The experiences of other couples are filtered through that lens. Romantic/comedy movies are filtered through that lens.

So when I see couples treat each other badly, it saddens me and sometimes pisses me off. When I see tabloid magazines trumpeting which celebrity is being cheated on, which one’s “hooking up”, which one’s getting a divorce, it turns my stomach. The overriding thought on all this is often, “It should not be this way.”

But what if my marriage wasn’t such a positive experience? What if I were a bitter divorcee that firmly believed all women are nothing more than (negative), (negative), and (expletive), and all they’re after is (negative), (negative), and (expletive). How easy would it be to see other couples treating each other badly and think, “See? Typical!” Or to read the tabloid headlines of celebrity relationships gone bad and root for their demise because it serves them right for trying to live in such an impossible, archaic institution?

My point, and I do have one, is that you can find encouragement and support for whatever mindset you bring into a relationship; whether that be a marriage, employment, familial, or religious. Positive or negative. And, you’ll find plenty of people to cheer you one within each sphere. The more you read, the more you learn, the more you experience, and the more peripheral encouragement you receive—down whatever road you’re traveling—the more entrenched in that mindset you will inevitably become.

The question I have is this: Was there ever really meant to be such thing as a “negative” relational experience? Are they inevitable? Or, are they a symptom that something was, or is, broken? Something that may be fixable rather than discarded?

I’d love your thoughts in the comment section below…

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8 thoughts on “Faith: As Relationship? Or Science Experiment?”

  1. I don’t think there was ever meant to be such a thing as a negative relational experience – I think it is a symptom of something that has been broken. I mean.. everyone may have a different reason for how they reacted in the past to a certain situation – if a person didn’t have satisfying or fulfilling experiences, they would have had unsatisfying and unfulfilled experiences that could cause a lot of emotional scarring and self-loathing (that can also happen unknowingly).
    I think there are a lot of people scarred from negative relational experiences – one of whom I am quite close with and interact with daily. He had things happen in his life that he unconsciously blamed on God and the people in his family and now he is a strong Atheist.
    It’s sad to see because a lot of the past dictates how he presently behaves. I think negative relational experiences are fixable. I think it is about identifying and addressing the issues and working through them in a positive manner.
    I try to encourage him and be his cheerleader and oftentimes he asks me how I am so optimistic about things all the time. I say it is through God – I know that I am able to do all things because I am a child of God. He doesn’t like this response as he is somewhat like the friend you describe at the beginning of your post needing “documentable, historical, testable proven evidence..” in order to believe in the existence of something. I’d love for him to feel the love God has for him.
    So I think what I am trying to say is that I don’t believe there was ever to be such a thing as negative relational experiences and I think it is a symptom of something that IS broken that can definitely be fixed.
    I hope this makes sense. I am sorry about the essay 🙂
    Apple

    1. I, of course, wanted people to come to their own conclusion but I feel a lot the same way you do. And, Ha!, don’t worry about the ‘essay’; your comments are always welcome here! ~ Kent

  2. Great post, Kent. I have mixed feelings on this topic… I thought of a couple of different things as I was reading your post:

    1) I think you’re right to bring up the personal nature of a relationship with God. No matter the subject, we all approach things from a certain perspective, and that perspective heavily influences the conclusions we ultimately draw. I think it’s important to remember that, and to recognize the value we pull from that belief/relationship.

    2) While it’s important to consider the personal value of a belief, is its utility just as important as its veracity? I don’t know if there’s a simple “yes” or “no” answer for that question. It would probably be good if people spent some time really thinking about that when they’re examining their own treasured beliefs. In a situation where they’re mutually exclusive, is it preferable to believe in things that are true, or in things that are useful?

    3) Is there supposed to be a “negative” relational experience? This is a good question… My answer would probably depend on how we categorize things like Zeus. Do we have a relationship with Zeus if we don’t believe in him? Would it be appropriate to describe that as a “negative relationship”? And if so, does that even mean anything? Are we supposed to feel a particular way about it?

    1. Good questions Nate:

      In a situation where they’re mutually exclusive, is it preferable to believe in things that are true, or in things that are useful?
      I would think that things can be either true or useful, or both, regardless of whether someone believes in them or not. If you’re talking about a personal experience, can you believe in something that is untrue? Not something that another person may deem as untrue, but can you believe in something while knowing it to be untrue? I would think the same questions could apply to something useful as well. Not as someone else deems it as useful or not, but the validity of the ‘thing’ would have to be beheld within the person.

      Do we have a relationship with Zeus if we don’t believe in him? Would it be appropriate to describe that as a “negative relationship”?
      I don’t think “belief” has anything to do with it in this situation. I don’t feel I have a relationship with Zeus in the same way I don’t feel I have a relationship with President Obama or Jennifer Aniston. Regardless of whether I want one or not, I just don’t. That I do or don’t believe in Zeus is not a factor. So, to me, this is not so much a “negative relationship” as simply a non-relationship.

  3. Atheists I have talked to say relationships with God and wife are not parallel because even if you hate another person you don’t have any doubts that they exist. I think the parallel is still useful, but they are right about that difference.

    I feel the “solution” is different to how you have expressed it.

    1. The options are not just documentable, historical, testable, provable evidence vs blind faith – in most of life we don’t go to either of those extremes, but we seek the most reasonable or most probable conclusion.

    2. After much reading and thinking I believe christian belief is the most reasonable conclusion. I believe that is as objective a decision as I can make.

    3. Others conclude differently. I think the reasons why we each see the same facts differently are complex, but come down to the fact that none of us can be totally objective, and belief is a matter of willingness as well as facts. For example, we choose different criteria and different evidential requirements. I think atheists I know choose unreasonable and question-begging criteria, but I presume they also think the same about me.

    I agree it is frustrating, but I also believe this is a spiritual matter, and requires prayer as much as logic and evidence.

    1. Thanks, Unkle. Your observations are always thought-provoking and welcome.

      Atheists I have talked to say relationships with God and wife are not parallel because even if you hate another person you don’t have any doubts that they exist. I think the parallel is still useful, but they are right about that difference.
      I understand why they would think that way, and yet part of the passion within ‘our side’ of the debate stems from the failure of the ‘other side’ to grasp that this is how we feel about our relationship with Jesus. (At least I do) To me, it’s highly personal. And much of the ‘proof’ I hold for the existence of God is through strictly personal experience. My question is, how can you effectively offer that as ‘proof’?

      I think the reasons why we each see the same facts differently are complex, but come down to the fact that none of us can be totally objective…
      Exactly!

      I also believe this is a spiritual matter, and requires prayer as much as logic and evidence.
      Also agreed, and I would add that it, too, requires faith.

  4. My relationship with my husband and my relationship with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are closely intertwined, and I believe that a family unit is the most basic “organization” of the church. I cannot separate them. Marriage is sacred, and it is the very best, and blessed, opportunity to grow to become more like my Savior. We can see evidence all around us that Satan is targeting marriage and family relationships with a vicious determination. I think we underestimate the power of God that is manifested in the marriage bond of a man and a woman. When we love, support and stand together united in our faith, no power on heaven or earth can destroy us, and Satan trembles. When we stumble, we can lean on each other and turn to God for comfort and strength.

    As far as “evidence” of God, I often reflect that we have so much evidence, we almost don’t need faith!!! He is EVERYWHERE and he has given us witnesses of him all around us. I guess the key is in having “eyes to see” and ‘ears to hear.” That gift comes to those who seek, pray, experiment on the words of Christ, and sometimes cry a lot!
    And it takes time–you can’t give up because you are confused or doubtful.

    I think the real key is trying to follow Him and then tasting the joy and love that comes from living the principles he taught. Of course, just because we are Christians, it does not follow that life will always be hunky dory. We also suffer and bleed and fall down, but if our foundation is Jesus Christ, we can always get back up again and we know that we are not alone.

Talk to me, even if you disagree! I'd love to hear your comments!

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