Note: I have no money to buy books, little time to read them, and no English library from which to borrow them. This thread is more or less a rehash of other threads I’ve posted. The summary is: Give me reasons to be Christian. Explain to me why God is not communicating directly with me, and why God is not leading me to answers. Explain to me how God interacts with us as our Father. Explain how we know God is there and taking care of us.
I have been troubled recently by the thought that, apart from ancient history, there is nothing in my life that demonstrates God’s presence or activity. This point becomes apparent trying to explain Christianity to Japanese who have never heard of it, who know nothing about Christianity. You can try it yourself as a thought experiment: Imagine explaining to an adult who knows nothing about it, and who has no connection with the Middle East or Western Civilization, such that you must defend every claim of fact and justify every point.
The matter boils down to, “Why should I become Christian?” “Because of some uncertain and ancient history two thousand years ago in the Middle East.” It’s an absurd reply.
If you want to use philosophical arguments, if you’ll create or point to an open thread for each one we can discuss them, but I have yet to find one that isn’t false or uncertain.
Regarding alleged miracles, the problems I have been unable to overcome with each of them have been verifiability, statistics, and connecting God as the cause. Briefly explaining each point:
Regarding verifiability: The event allegedly occurred in a remote location at a remote time with insufficient documentation so I just have to take the word of a stranger who published a book. The Church does not publish miracle commissions’ data and findings for public scrutiny. There are rumors that they exclude witnesses who have a natural explanation (e.g. a “Dr. Ranjan Mustafi” in relation to a Blessed Teresa of Calcutta miracle).
Statistics: For example, when people report favors and miracles from Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, one must ask, “What is the probability of this occurring naturally? How many others are praying for the same thing who God is not healing?” That is to say, the real question: “How do we distinguish divine agency from chance?” (I’ve recently found a reviewer of Craig Keener’s Miracles raising this question. It is an important one that Christians should consider and have a good answer for, since the Church teaches that God expects us to use our brains.)
Identifying God as the cause: To go from ‘strange event happened’ to ‘God did it’ it seems you need some precise timing, some established message and context (as at Fatima or Akita), show that it’s not mere chance, and have some argument that it was God and not some other supernatural power, some other deity or demon.
Ultimately, it appears to me that when I attempt to see the foundation of my Christian faith, what I find is uncertainty. I cannot claim any intelligible personal experience with God (“eating what looks like bread” is not persuasive), and the times I have narrowly avoided death, God’s action and the presence of angels has been uncertain. Philosophical arguments appear uncertain at best. History appears uncertain. (See for example Dr. Bart Ehrman pointing out discrepancies in the Bible, e.g. whether Jairus’ daughter was ill or dead. He asks how we are to trust unknown sources that disagree on or change details.)
When I pray, or sit quietly in a church, I become uneasy by the silence: It reveals an apparent lack of God, and either my brain conjures up unrelated thoughts or my own thoughts, or else I fall asleep the longer I wait. I pray before bed, and my dreams are always random and unrelated – and, remarkably, as if my Christian faith and God did not exist. (My dreams tend to be of a kind where the question and presence of God are both completely absent.) Occasionally I’ll have Christian-themed dreams (e.g. the Rapture is occurring, when I was a Protestant child); recently I even had a dream that God had finally healed me and gave me a message to deliver about who was responsible, and I woke up suddenly and completely immediately after being given the message to deliver so as to remember everything – and then I discovered I was not healed, so it seemed again a random dream, and a particularly cruel one for God to allow.
So it appears to me the Japanese are completely justified in their atheism and eschewing Christianity. The problem I am now facing is how to justify remaining a Christian on a daily basis, when my Father is giving me the silent treatment and apparently doing nothing. I sometimes think, “I cannot point to any one thing because God is actually doing everything; God is responsible for literally everything here that exists, so it’s like being in a painting pointing at some ink and asking where the painter is and why the painter isn’t doing something.” The problem with this argument is that it raises more questions than it answers, e.g. it implies that God is responsible for holding Mohammedan warfare in existence and actively participating in every single evil act by holding it in being each moment and causing our physical laws to continue applying. In other words, if there is ‘divine providence’ whereby God brings about good, then its antithesis wherein God brings about great evil also exists. I suppose this has traditionally been called ‘divine wrath’.
Ultimately, I’m tired, and I just want this game to end.