We don’t know what the future holds. Looking back, things are always so clear. Our failures seem so obvious and our successes so logical.
But looking into the future, all we see is a fog. Nothing is clear. We can plan for an outcome but we don’t see it. We can hope, trust, and believe but we can never be certain.
I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately by Tim Urban. He’s a great thinker and his articles opened up new worlds to me. He discusses artificial intelligence in one of his older articles. It’s a fascinating read.
Tim talks about the future of AI and how it will impact us as human beings. According to the article, some scientists think computers will surpass human intelligence in as little as 20 to 30 years. He uses this graphic to illustrate his point:
His example of describing the different steps was eye-opening. Take a monkey, for example. When it sees a skyscraper, it will think of it as part of nature. It can learn about it, explore the inside and even become comfortable with its existence.
But the monkey will never understand that the skyscraper was built by humans. Or by anyone, for that matter. We can explain our concepts to the monkey but he will never be able to wrap his head around the concept of building a skyscraper.
The monkey is destined to stay on on his step of the latter because it’s brain doesn’t have to capacity to process the information in the way humans do.
Humans are on their step of the latter.
We can look beneath us and see the simplicity of an animal’s logic. We smile and let it do its thing. They’re cut but we wouldn’t ask for their advice nor their opinion.
Our own limitations
We understand our animals and we understand what each of us is capable. But we also understand our own limitations.
We can see an object and interact with it. We can see it, touch it, and smell it. But how do we know it’s really there? All the information we have about it is what our senses send to our brain. Our brain processes the impulses and gives us the best shot it can.
Same thing with colors. We can see about seven million of them. They are generated by photoreceptor cells (cones) in our eyes. These cones respond to the measurements of light which hits them, sending that information to our brain to compute the colors we see.
Cones in the human eye only have a specific range of perception. Outside of that, we are blind. There is no way for us to even imagine which colors exist right in front of us. We don’t have the ability to perceive them. We can’t describe or even imagine them because our brain has no reference point on where to anchor it. But yet they are there and some animals can see them.
Our own limitations are all around us. I don’t even understand how I write these words. My brain processes a vast amount of information, all saved in billions of neurons connected in my brain. Somehow, they all work together and allow me to press the keys on my computer. I can see the letters appear on my screen and I somehow know the symbols appearing on the screen are representations of me pressing the keys.
We understand our own weaknesses to a degree but we don’t know what we don’t know. Our place is with the rest of humanity at a particular step if intelligence.
Our faith starts where our shortcomings begin. What our brains fail to comprehend is the hope we have in Him.
Our concepts, plans, and ideas will only get us to a certain point. When everything else is exhausted and everything looks like it will fall apart, it’s then that we have to look at God.
God sees more than we do. Just like we see more than the monkey does. We can try to reach beyond our capacity but just like the monkey, we will always fail to grasp it. Our situation might seem without hope because our eyes don’t see the light in front of us.
God sees our life through an intelligence we will never understand.
It’s the same way Jesus describes his kingdom in parables. They are not crisp and logical. They have to be simplified and put into a human concept to give our limited brains a glimpse of truth.
I’ve given up on understanding His ways. I will never understand it with my head. It’s like explaining Keynesian Economy to a bumblebee, as Tim says.
However, Tim draws a different conclusion from his findings. His pursuit is to gather wisdom and understand the world within the constraints of his mind.
He doesn’t believe in any god and is a convinced Atheist.
Christians don’t have all the answers. Our minds are as limited as everyone else’s. Most knowledge in this universe is hidden from us and what we do know is under constant revision.
From what we do know and from what our mind tells us, I believe answering existential questions like the existence of God is tainted by preconceived convictions.
A design must need a designer. The perfect alignment of the stars to make life possible. The beauty of a sunrise. All of that points to a creator for me but begs a response from science. And here, we are again limited. Our “proofs” might mean nothing in 50 years because we discovered things we have no clue about today.
So for both, the atheist and the believer, it comes down to faith. But the atheist might as well be right if the God turns out to be indifferent, cruel or any other way not who he claims to be.
Heaven, hell and his promises for this life and beyond are all meaningless if God is not exactly who he claims to be in the Bible.
So here’s the real question: Is God good?
For a direct answer, we probably shouldn’t start at Genesis. You know the stories. God killed tens of thousands of Israelites, had people stoned for working on the Sabbath and He commanded to rot out whole tribes, specifically telling His people to kill babies, women, and children.
Now, we do have our theological answers for this.
God wanted to have holy people fully devoted to him. Sin could not be allowed to spread through the tribe. Since there was no atonement for their sin yet, there had to be a penalty.
Jesus came to fulfill that demand for God’s justice. Before that, that had to sacrifice bulls and rams. They had to die instead of them. Foreign tribes had to be extinguished because intermarriage would lure the Israelites to other gods.
So they had to be destroyed.
This kind of makes sense in my mind but my heart might never grasp that. Killing children? Killing a guy because the touched the arch? It’s quite radical. Theological explanations seem like crutches to explain the past. We talk about people long gone who lived in tents and counted their wealth in sheep and oxen.
Their understanding of the world around them was determined only by what they saw with their own eyes. Their explanations for the world were grounded in nothing more then what their eyes could see.
It was a world where any hypothesis becomes truth because there is no way to determine otherwise. It seems logical so we’ll go with it. The world seems flat so it must be.
In our modern world, it seems whacky to base ourselves on concepts developed in this culture. As Christians, it seems we’re fighting this battle not only with our surroundings but with ourselves.
We have to know what we believe and why we believe. We have to win the fights in our own hearts first before we claim the hearts of others. Especially if everything depends on God’s goodness.
Facing our limitations
Our heart is wired differently than our brains. We apply the compassion from the New Testament to the stories of old. We do because we are human. The paradoxes in our minds, where our capacity only extends to the limits of our understanding, creates enormous struggles to comprehend God. We know we can’t but we have to work with what we have.
Let’s look down the latter instead of up. Let’s imagine the incomprehensible by looking at what we do understand. Let’s look at Patches, Fido, and Spot.
Our pets are not as smart as we are. They will never be able to help us with our taxes or go shopping for us. They will not plan our lives or help us with our struggles.
But in some ways, they do.
We are not interested in their intellectual capabilities. When we have pets, we care about them. We love them and they sometimes even become our family. We form bonds with our German shepherds and post pictures of our cats on the internet.
We don’t do that because they are smart. We do that because we care about them.
In my struggles, I believe God is the same. I can’t understand Him and neither do I understand His plans for my life. But I understand that I can only grasp his character from trying to know him as much as I can.
I don’t know the outcome. All I know is that my situation looks bad. And I also know I’m in this situation because I pursued Him with everything I have. I gave up a life I fought for. We put it all on the line and he didn’t come through when we thought he would.
Do I have peace in my struggles? Sometimes. Do I manage? Not really. But I don’t regret my decisions. I want to know what happens. I would do it and again because I’m a seeker of truth.
Our understanding of the world is defined by our experiences. It’s what our brain uses to make sense of reality. That’s why knowledge itself doesn’t have any power. It’s why the Pharisees couldn’t stand up to Jesus and it’s why businesses don’t consult with pastors. Knowledge is empty if it’s not founded in experience.
I hear so many flapping their lips about concepts. We talk about the right answers, fully knowing we don’t understand anything. We live in fear and regret, scratching at the door for all of our lives without ever walking through it.
I’m tired of that.
My life as a believer has to run on experience. Today more than ever. Everyone has their opinions but what’s that worth if you can’t tell me a story? What difference do you make if all you have is knowledge?
I refuse to die with regret. Things might go bad in the next few months. Really bad. But I know that I did the best could with what I had.
Let’s see how it all plays out.