How Great is our God

Question: do science and religion conflict? Oooh, how’s that juicy can of worms for you? So often we see these two ideologies pitted against each other in some sort of cosmic war. Scientists need practical evidence that God can exist. The religious don’t care about science, because God is bigger than all that. How can both exist in the same world? They both describe truths, so how can they both be correct? Mustn’t we all, in the end, choose one or the other?

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Watching my plant, Brontosaurus, grow gives me life.

I don’t think so. I love science, biology specifically, though I appreciate the other disciplines. And I’m totally committed to my faith. I think science and faith can be reconciled in ways that we just need to take the time to understand. I’m actually really surprised I haven’t written about their intersections before. So. Let’s dive in, shall we?

A lot of the questions seem to revolve around the origin of the universe and evolution.  We ask, how can the Earth be as old as science says it is, or how can evolution be possible, when Genesis says something else? Shouldn’t we trust the Bible, the source of truth? OR, shouldn’t we trust these cold, empirical facts that have been proven countless times? Nothing proves the existence of God, and how can we trust something we don’t have proof in? Now I’m not here to give robust, theologically and scientifically sound answers to these questions simply because I don’t have all of the knowledge necessary to do so. So I’m sorry to introduce those questions and then not answer them. But I still have something to say, as evidenced by the paragraphs of words below this.

I think the funny thing is that both sides have a limited view of God and a puffed up view of human knowledge. On the exclusive faith side, we fall into the trap of thinking we understand the Bible perfectly, that the way we have read it for all of history is the only way it can be read. I’m not saying the Bible isn’t true; I’m saying we need to give ourselves a little less credit and accept that maybe it’s a bit more complicated than the way we picture it, that we cannot understand it fully, that we cannot understand God fully.

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Every time I see Junior, the snail, I fall a bit more in love with the world.

And science has a similar story, saying, “The way we understand the universe is infallible because it matches everything we’ve designed for it to match.” I am reminded of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, where there are aliens (called beasts) who have been blind for all of their history. How do explain the concept of sight to them? We cannot assume that what is objective and proven by our standards is truth because maybe we don’t see the world as it purely and objectively is. And we cannot assume that we can explain God using science. We cannot even look to science as a method to prove the existence of God. Nothing can undeniably prove that God exists. Everything in life merely points to His presence, and we choose whether to accept this evidence or not. It’s not called faith for nothing. Again, I’m not saying that science isn’t good or trustworthy or useful, but we need to look beyond just ourselves.

But Brianna, you say, why would you say something so frustrating?? Why can’t our perception be infallible?? Why can’t we explain God and the universe with our own means??  I get the frustration, really, I do.

As with most things, I really wish that I totally understood God. So it’s disappointing when I just can’t wrap my mind around the concept of the Trinity, how Jesus can be both fully God and fully man at the same time, or even the concept of eternity. Those are difficult concepts! And I struggle with these, wishing I could just understand when I realize that by doing so I’m attempting to put God in a box. Who am I that I think I can understand God? The God who created the universe and laughter and spiderwebs, who knows every cell in my body and every place my feet have touched, who knows every single person in the same way. I think about that, and I realize how silly and small I am to be doing this. Not that we shouldn’t wrestle with hard questions, because hard questions are good. But I think there’s a lot of peace to knowing that we will never be able to wrap our minds around a supreme and holy God. Let God be as big and mystifying as He is, and just worship Him for that.

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Don’t get me started on how spectacularly amazing bacteria are.

In my own experience, studying science has done nothing but increase my faith in and awe of God. In my biology classes, I learn about the machinery necessary for
making new cells, machinery so specific it blows my mind. I learn about how robust our bodies are at fighting diseases and keeping cancer at bay. I learn about microscopic creatures that can do so many amazing things, and we haven’t even discovered all of them yet! And God created all of that! It’s incredible! I look under the microscope, and I see the beauty of creation, the wonder of life. Just the other day, I was sitting in my dorm room and thinking about how God knows every single particle in my dorm room, how I don’t have a concept of how many particles that is, and that’s only for a tiny room in the city of Williamsburg, in the state of Virginia, in the United States, on the Earth, in our Solar System, in the universe. Just….wow. There are no words.

Help my Unbelief

So I talk a lot about the fact that I am a Christian on my blog, but I haven’t talked much about my experience as a Christian or about God. And I think it’s time to change that. And for me, at least right now, that goes hand in hand with a story about my semester.

So, it’s September of this year, right? (Not right now, I’m using this as a way to tell my story.) And I’m at school, I’m an RA, I’m taking cool classes, I’m a small group leader. Everything’s going great. And I go to this worship thing that was part of a prayer event on campus. I didn’t stay long, and I don’t remember most of what happened that evening. But I do remember this: I was praying, and something inspired me to say, “God, break me. Break everything that I trust in, so that I can trust in you instead.” And then, you know, I left soon after that. And I don’t remember when I started noticing the consequences of that prayer, but boy, did they come.

One of the smaller issues was waking up in the morning. I’ve always been very good about hearing my alarm and getting out of bed in a decent amount of time. I started sleeping through my alarms, even after I made them as loud as possible. And this wasn’t a big deal, but it did raise some questions about my health and whatnot. I think I’m just sleep deprived. Even this morning, I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off and then fell back into a deep enough sleep that I didn’t even hear my alarms go off. So that’s an interesting issue, and we’ll see what happens next.

My freshman dorm.

My freshman dorm. 

A bigger issue was loneliness. I went from having the great freshman dorm experience, with all of my best friends living just down the hall to living in a single for the first time in my life really, with my friends scattered across campus and even off campus. And that didn’t bother me for a while, but then it started becoming a problem. I felt so isolated in the room I have to myself. I don’t usually mind eating alone, but I felt like it was becoming a habit, a habit that I didn’t enjoy. One night was so bad that I just flung myself on the floor and cried. Soon after that, I went to the campus Counseling Center because I wanted to figure out if I have a form of social anxiety or not. And the counselor I talked to said to me, “Well it sounds like belonging is your real issue here.” And I know belonging is an issue for me. I’ve written about it. But to hear it from someone else’s words… It was an emotional time.

But I’m okay now, and I still don’t know exactly what has changed. I think it’s probably a lot of small things, like talking to people more and being more intentional with my faith. I think a good part of it is that I’m going more out of my way to help my friends. And maybe they have more problems, maybe it just feels more out of the way, or maybe I’ve just taken this role on. But I love it. I love being able to serve them and love them. And I’m not saying that to make myself look good. I’m just in a position to care for people right now. One day, I’ll need them to care for me. And that’s okay. And I tell them to let me know if they’re not doing well, which makes me reflect on my own actions this semester. Because in the depths of my loneliness, I wanted people to just know I was having problems and come help me, but that’s ridiculous. So I’m trying to get better about telling people when I have problems the way I ask them to tell me.

More recently, I’ve had issues with academics. Organic Chemistry II is really hard, guys. I thought I was going to do well because I’m good at memorizing. But everything looks the same, and I did not do well keeping on track of things at the beginning of the semester. And now my grades are starting to show. Just the other week, I got a midterm back. It was embarrassing how terribly I did. Really. And I don’t want to write that on this blog that so many of my friends and a good number of strangers will see. But I want to be honest, and that’s the honest truth. I’m ashamed, really. And when I got my grade back, I felt like a failure. I questioned my career goals and my abilities as a student and so much in my life.

So I got that grade back two Fridays ago, right? And I was still feeling pretty down about it at the beginning of last week. And then came Wednesday. I have small group on Wednesday, the small group that I lead. And that has also been an interesting story because for several weeks at the beginning of the year, I didn’t have anyone coming to my weekly Bible studies. And that was discouraging, and it made me question whether I should have been doing it in the first place and whatnot. And then people started coming. Last week, I had four people. And we had an awesome discussion. Really, it was so good. And I was grinning afterwards, because it made me that happy. Two of the girls actually texted me and told me that it was great. And it’s not because of me. They’re all just really comfortable with each other, so conversation comes easily, and they’re not afraid to share about their lives.

And now I’m finally bringing this story back to God. Because it was God that did this good work. It was God who was with me when I picked out the passage, where a father says to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” It was God who brought each of those girls that night and inspired conversation. It was God who was faithful. God took this thing that wasn’t working and showed me that20150626_195502 He can make something beautiful out of it. When my life is going well, it’s because God made it that way. And when my life isn’t going well, I can still point to His faithfulness throughout my life. I can say, “Well, Orgo isn’t going well, and I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen with it. But God was faithful with small group and in so many other parts of my life, so He will be faithful with Orgo. He will put me where I need to be.” And there will be days when I doubt. There will be days when faith isn’t easy. There will be days when I try to find security in my abilities instead of in the God who provides. There will be days when I say, “God, I don’t understand what you’re doing.” But He is good, and He will bring me through.

Epylle Spydre

A Word from Your Christian Friend

I recently came across this post about the privileges Christians have in this country. And I know that, as a Christian, I cannot speak to the persecution that people of other faiths and beliefs experience. And maybe they are the “right people” to talk about Christian privilege. But I think another perspective might be valuable on this issue, so here I come.

20140104_120152It’s true. I have a lot of privileges as a Christian in this country. Wherever I go in the country, it is never difficult to find a place to worship. Almost everyone I come into contact with will have a basic understanding of what I believe. I have gotten off school for my religious holidays all through public high school, and I will get off for Christmas at a public university next year as well. While sometimes exaggerated a little, my faith is not caricatured in the media in the same way that others are. And, this part breaks my heart, I will never be called a terrorist or some other derogatory term because of my faith (oh, and by the way, terrorist jokes are not funny. End of story.). Yes, I’m privileged. And it’s sad because there is a lot of stereotyping and prejudice that goes on for people of other faiths or beliefs. And I’m sorry that people don’t respect or make an effort to understand those beliefs.

Privileges like these are definitely a blessing. But I would also say that they encourage apathy within the Christian church. If I say I’m a Christian, I could be anywhere from a just-going-to-Church-on-Sundays type of person, or I could be a Gospel-preaching-praying-loving person with Christ at the center of my life. The post I’m using as my inspiration mentioned that our faith can be part of our identity without it being defining (I’m not the “Christian friend”). But why not? What would happen if Christians let their faith be defining? Why can’t I be the “Christian friend?” There would be more questions, debates, and maybe even attacks, if we started being more open about our identity in our faith. 

As terrible as it seems, there is something to be said of the faith of the persecuted Church. It’s inspiring listening to people who have almost been killed because of their faith. I have it so easy.  

I can’t say what everyone’s response to the knowledge of our privilege should be. For me, I am thankful for posts like that to make me aware of everything I take for granted. I know that I really don’t understand what it’s like to be stereotyped, discriminated against, and attacked because of my beliefs. The funny thing is that I actually was a religious minority, but I left when I was nine. So it doesn’t really count.

But honestly, I think the real response to this should be discussion. We may not believe the same things, but we can still be friends. We can still talk. I can still respect this piece of your life, and you can respect mine. It’s not too difficult, guys. 

Epylle Spydre 

Believing in the Unbelievable

A friend asked me to make up a story recently, so I did. Unfortunately, I had to send him the story in a text, so I didn’t get the chance to elaborate on it. So I’m going to do that here! (I actually also took out one part because it wasn’t important. All good fun.)

Once upon a time,—I know that’s cheesy start, but bear with me— there was a squirrel named Maximus. This particular squirrel was courageous and dreamy, unlike all of the other squirrels. Fancies would pop into his head, and he would follow them on many wild goose chases toward nothing. Everybody knew him as Crazy Max, but he didn’t care, for he lived in a world full of fairies and dragons and all sorts of fantastical things that the others didn’t believe in.

One day, Maximus saw a brilliant rainbow. So brilliant, he decided, that he would go out and find the end of it. Everybody wished him a fond farewell, sure that he had gone completely off his rocker. But Maximus didn’t care, for he was filled with courage and faith.

Off Maximus went, and before he knew it, he ran into a fox. Since Maximus didn’t know how to find the end of the rainbow, he decided to ask the fox. The fox, thinking he was a very stupid squirrel, didn’t answer him, but instead tried to gobble him up. And while Maximus wasn’t the brightest, he was one of the fastest squirrels, and was able to get into the safe branches of a tree. The fox soon left, and Maximus decided to keep going, though more warily than before.

Still in search of the end of the rainbow, Maximus found an owl. Knowing that owls were supposed to be the wisest creatures, Maximus hastily approached the owl and asked him how to get to the end of the rainbow. The owl was a firm believer in reason and logic, and therefore, thought the “poor little squirrel” to be “completely and absolutely deranged”. Considering it his civic duty to dispose of the creature that was “probably rabid”, the owl also tried to eat Maximus. This time, Maximus couldn’t hide in a tree, so he found a hole in the ground. He was thoroughly terrified of the owl and couldn’t believe his bad luck. Eventually the owl left out of frustration, but Maximus stayed in his hole, cowering in fear. But eventually, his exhaustion won out on his fear, and Maximus fell asleep.

When he woke, Maximus decided to continue his journey. Tired and scared and starting to believe that maybe he was wrong about the rainbow after all, Maximus’ motivation had left him. He blundered on, still following the rainbow, but not even bothering to look at the rest of his surroundings. That is, until he stumbled on a mountain of toadstools. Confused, Maximus looked around him. He had found the end of the rainbow! And here, at the end of the rainbow, was the fabled city of the fairies. Along with the mountain of toadstools, they also had beds made out of cobwebs and the whole place sparkled with dewdrops. All the fairies, blue, pink, green, red, and many other colors, surrounded Maximus. One regal-looking fairy came up to him and asked him how he had found the place. When Maximus responded out of the honesty in his heart, this fairy told him, “Because of your great faith and courage, we will make you our king!” Maximus was honored and delighted, and he lived the rest of his life with the fairies, resolving many of their conflicts with the squirrels and other creatures of the rest of the world.

The end.

I enjoyed writing that. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Now, I’ll only do a little bit of philosophizing, because I don’t want to make this post super long. I guess if you could give that story a moral it would be about the virtues and wisdom of faith, even when faith goes against wisdom. Because faith is built upon that which does not have experience or logic to back it up, it can often go against wisdom, or rather, reason. The book I just finished this morning, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, agrees with me: “If you say that you believe something to be true, you might mean one of two things—that you’re still weighing the alternatives, or that you accept it as a fact. I don’t logically see how one single word can have contradictory definitions, but emotionally, I completely understand.” Once again, faith goes beyond logic, but as Picoult points out, it makes perfect sense in our emotions. Faith is a part of our souls and by its very definition, goes beyond logic. But just because it doesn’t make sense logically doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Just a thought.

Enjoy your lemonade,

Epylle Spydre

The Light Inside Us All

I haven’t done much research on this topic; I’m only relating to you what I learned in history last year. This mysterious topic that I’m speaking of is that of the philosophers’ view of  human nature. Thomas Hobbes believed that humans are evil by nature, and Jean Jacques Rousseau believed that humans are good by nature. We also spoke of this when we were reading Lord of the Flies by William Golding: are people good by nature and corrupted by society, or is it society that is good but corrupted by people??

I cannot answer this question without bringing faith into the question. It’s impossible not to. My faith tells me that humanity was sinless before the Fall, but because of the Fall, we are all born into sin. Another literary allusion I can make is to “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. Read it, and tell me what you think of the baby’s significance. But that really isn’t the point. The point is that because of my faith, I believe that human nature is flawed, even from birth. That would point more to Hobbes’ idea of humanity, but Hobbes is widely thought to have medieval philosophies that are cast aside and only good as a way to see what our inferior minds thought before the Enlightenment.

The answer, therefore, is much more sophisticated. Well, maybe I can’t say “therefore”, but my mind isn’t satisfied with “people are sinful by nature and that’s that”. I mean, I believe it’s true, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that people are evil. I’m doing work for AP psychology next year, and they’re talking about where we get our personality from: our genes, or our experiences? It’s a legitimate question. I haven’t finished the reading, so I don’t actually know which one is “more correct”, but I do believe that both are correct. In a reference to human morality, it’s even more difficult. Are people bad because it’s in their genes or are they bad because of their experiences?? I’m a science nerd, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of genes, but I would say experiences is more prevalent. People may be born into sin, but that doesn’t mean that people are born with evil personalities.

Sorry, I believe I’ve digressed. I’ve been thinking about a line in the movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Sirius Black says to Harry, “The world isn’t split up between good people and Death Eaters. We all have both light and dark in us.” I think that is the best answer to the question I posed above (the one with the philosophers). We all have characteristics of good and evil in our hearts. We all may be born into sin, flawed beyond any hope of perfection, but just because we cannot be perfect does not mean we are so bad.

I side with Rousseau on the matter, because I believe that even in the hearts of the wickedest of people, there is a scrap of goodness in them. It may be hard to imagine that little piece of hope in Sauron, or where a serial killer might have good intentions, but I believe that they’re there. Now, this may not be true in all cases, but I believe that most of the people who wreak havoc and harm around the world are the ones who are the most broken. They are the ones in pain. Something in their past broke them beyond repair, like Roscuro in The Tale of Despereaux. Roscuro was said to have his heart broken, and when your heart breaks, it doesn’t come back quite right, to paraphrase the book. I believe that this is the case with the world’s villains. They’re just broken inside, and they hid the little light of goodness in them. And I pity them, because most of them don’t have the opportunities to find those little lights again.

Sincerely,

Epylle Spydre