I met Tim Stratton almost fifteen years ago, but have recently become friends with him when I developed an interest in philosophy. I attended the first semester of Reasonable Faith UNK and I have always been interested in science, mostly social science academically and philosophy recreationally. I believe my initial draw to Christian Apologetics came from the fact that these people at Reasonable Faith were the few I knew who were willing to engage in deep discussion and debate. Singling Tim out, he is intelligent and challenging and did not take the typical easy outs Christians seemed to usually take in a debate when I would engage in questioning the validity of their belief structure. If he did not have a ready answer to one of my challenges, he was willing to say, I don’t know or I’m not sure, let me get back to you. And then HE WOULD!
Initially the class was a mental sparing match. Many times I was the only skeptic in the room and I enjoyed the back and forth as I attempted to score points for the side of skepticism and agnosticism. I view the question of God’s existence, in terms of one’s belief, on a sliding scale. One extreme is absolute unquestioned belief in God’s certain existence. The other is having no doubt that there can be no God. Either extreme is where fools exist.
I grew up on the former extreme of the scale and slowly ended up somewhere on the latter end. I considered myself a skeptic, but through much discussion with Tim (as well as my own research) I began to question the merit and implication of such hard skepticism. It becomes difficult to function in a society when the only thing you can be certain of is your own existence. I have always considered myself a moral entity and typically acted accordingly. But where did those morals come from? Why do they matter? I should follow my own morals, because I feel bad when I do not. Also, having a code helps guide me through life with a better structure and purpose. But what if someone else has a drastically different set of internal guiding principles? How can I fault individuals without an objective morality as the basis? But if objective morality exists, then so does God!
Another long path I traveled was the debate within the Kalam Cosmological Argument. This tends to be the piece de la resistance of the Christian Apologist, including one of the main obstacles I encountered when debating Tim. [If you are not familiar with this concept, Tim has written about it extensively here, here, and here]. My first argument was that we cannot discuss “before” time, because without time being in active effect there is no before, during, or after. This is an abstract concept that has some validity, but falls short, in my opinion, of being a strong objection. My next argument was that we cannot discuss the properties of nothingness, because we have not observed nothingness and the closest thing we can observe to nothingness has particles appearing and disappearing from it. Going back and forth with Tim and some professors at the university who attended Reasonable Faith UNK, I can say that although it is true we have not observed nothingness, scientific attempts at a vacuum are far from nothing and cannot be correlated as being anywhere near nothing. Also, the nothingness postulate is somewhat weak, because we can conceive of nothingness in a philosophical sense, thought we cannot observe it in a scientific one. The final argument against this theory was that Kalam’s argument was contingent on Neo-Lorentzian time theory (the A theory of time) and Einstein’s B theory of time would render Kalam’s argument inadequate. Tim describes both arguments eloquently and skillfully in his writings so I will not waste time summarizing either.
Backing up for a moment, I have experienced many things in my few years on earth. I have felt a spiritual presence many times. My studies in psychology make it more and more difficult to trust the flawed perceptions that occur in every mind, but at some point, “You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice. If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.” What more of a connection do we have with reality than our senses? Feelings are not necessarily the most accurate, but a great many truths have come from the subconscious mind. Dreams, intuitions, meditations, prayer… I believe the last step I dove into, previously dabbled in, was prayer. Meditation was already a practice of mine and I consider prayer to be a more intentional, focused and purposeful type of meditation. I am a thinker, not the most intelligent thinker, but a serious thinker none the less. I need to have a good reason to have a belief. I am and will continue to be skeptical of claims and statements. The true skeptic believes in nothing beyond their own existence. I have decided to be a reasonable skeptic, and thus, I now have a reasonable faith. Once the argumentative acrobatics become unreasonable, and the burden of proof becomes too heavy on the individual stating a case, no real knowledge or insight can be achieved.
I have only captioned a couple arguments and viewpoints that I have discussed with Tim over the years. He never got angry with me, he never belittled me, and he took my positions seriously. Although, I was a little off, a little misguided, I challenged him and made him a better thinker and he returned the favor tenfold. For some people the spiritual aspect of theism holds their faith in place, I needed a cognitive road to travel, which lead to my enriched spiritual path.
Thank you Tim Stratton, you will never know how important our interactions have been. I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to put all of this in words and how difficult it is for me to put it in so few words at that. I could go on, but it is not as much about me and my path, it is about focusing on your path. Whoever is reading this, you must question, search, feel, love, think, pray, meditate, study, align your body and mind actively and attempt to discover where the Spirit wants your mind to reside and your deeds to be drawn. I encourage you to follow the evidence wherever it leads!