October 23, 2011
God Told Me to Run
When I was a student at BYU, many young men were coming home from missionary service eager to get on with their lives and praying for guidance to find a future marriage partner. A not-atypical returned missionary—after receiving what he presumed to be an answer to prayer—would go to a young woman and tell her that God had revealed to him that they should marry. This sometimes resulted in great confusion for the young lady and it happened often enough that the church’s ecclesiastical leaders assured BYU co-eds that they were equally entitled to inspiration before making a decision as important as marriage.
A corollary to this is the declaration made by multiple presidential candidates that God told them to run for office. This, I’m sure, will sway many fundamentalists who will accept the assertion as “revealed word” and vote in accordance with it. However, when it comes to group decision-making, the claim to having received revelation is, in my opinion, a death knell. This is due, in part, because there is no way to prove the claim and therefore no demands for proof, a condition that leaves little basis for examination. It’s deemed enough to say, “God told me so.”
The problem with this, however, is that where there is no examination, there is no debate. And when ideas aren’t compared and discussed, there is no progress. Take, for example, the case for global warning: No logic or empirical evidence can sway fundamental Christians from the idea that God gave them dominion over the earth and that if global warming becomes a problem, the righteous can pray it away. Never mind that this is tantamount to kicking the ball into God’s court. Never mind that He helps those who help themselves.
This idea was addressed by Harvard physics professor, Lisa Randall, who recently wrote in a Time magazine article, the following:
With science, we put together observations with explanatory frameworks, whose predictions can be tested and ultimately agreed on. Empirically based logic and the revelatory nature of faith are very different methods for seeking answers, and only logic can be systematically improved and applied.
Combine this idea with the difficulty of reaching agreement on matters of faith and it’s clear that reliance on revelation is dangerous. There are over 10,000 Christian sects that profess a wide variety of beliefs. Which of their interpretations of sacred text is correct? Furthermore, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere in this blog, anyone who thinks the Bible is consistent in its worldview simply isn’t paying attention. On nearly every important topic of the day, the Bible can be used to support a range of conclusions that leads to moral ambiguity.
When it comes to personal issues, inspiration can be an important part of life. It is not helpful, however, when directing the lives of others.
Posted by Alan Bahr