14 April 2013 Update: I have recently written a book about the passing of my wife, my subsequent grief, and my continuing love for her. The book is available at Amazon in Kindle format. Beginning in July 2013, it should also be available on the iTunes Store and at Google Play. Click the picture below to view at Amazon.

The book is entitled I Know You're Dead, But I Still Worry About You.


The Big Picture

This page records some of the key thoughts I've had about the "big picture" after my precious 53-year old wife, Vickie Keener, passed away unexpectedly in September 2001, leaving behind a husband, two children, and six grandchildren who adore her. Vickie's love of life, her untiring love of me and our family, her courage, the strength of her Christian faith and her strength of character, her quick wit and thoughtfulness and humbleness and compassion, her radiance, smile and sense of humor, her beauty, and her integrity, combined in ways that truly blessed and inspired all who knew her.

I hope my sharing of these thoughts can help you see how important it is for you to know why you have your worldview, instead of just taking one that was "handed down" to you or that your friends have. I was once secure in my worldview, but I had never taken a really critical look at it. But over the past two years I have questioned my beliefs very seriously and have researched several worldviews as I have tried to make sense of this world. (See What Is A Worldview.)

I am NOT trying to sell my beliefs to you, because your beliefs are your business -- I just think it's useful for you to know a bit about my search. Time management doesn't mean much unless you've given serious thought to what you're managing time for, to what your worldview is and how seriously you take it.

As you might suspect, I've spent a lot of time thinking about what might have been. For example, would Vickie still be here if I had quit smoking when she tried to, so she wouldn't have started back smoking? There's more, but you get the point: EVERYTHING we do matters. We all know this at some level, but it hits home with full force when you lose all that ever really mattered and wonder if you could have prevented it.

And I've thought a lot about my faith over the past two years. Over the years, whenever I had occasional doubts about God, my doubts vanished when I looked into Vickie's eyes, because I could always see God in her eyes, her smile, her love of life and creation, her character, and in her unconditional love for me and our family. But, after her passing, I have had a serious and prolonged crisis of faith.

I've gone through several periods of doubt about whether God exists, partly because I couldn't imagine why God would take Vickie without taking me. Vickie and I always knew that God brought us together. We knew it as well as we knew that 2+2 = 4. I still know it. Our marriage was truly made in Heaven. So, naturally, Vickie and I always believed we would leave this world together. When this deeply-held belief was shattered, I lost confidence in many of my beliefs.

I felt so let down by my Christian worldview that I began trying to figure out what worldview "makes sense." I read volumes of pro and con arguments on the existence of God. And I began reading book after book on the meaning of life and how our world operates: studies of near-death experiences, philosophy, cosmology, quantum mechanics, evolution, New Age beliefs, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and so on. Over the past two years, I've read thousands of dollars worth of books and hundreds of web pages on these topics. And, for everything I read, I would question whether I really believed it and why.

Although it's been close to 30 years since I obtained my MSEE degree, with minors in physics and math, I've never lost interest in science, and I began researching new scientific theories to see if I could find some beliefs that could not be taken away from me. I quickly took some comfort in the theory of parallel universes, because it suggests that there are universes in which Vickie and I are still together. The theory of parallel universes came about as scientists tried to interpret how quantum mechanics really works, and many scientists believe parallel universes are the best explanation of how things work at the quantum level in this universe, although many scientists think the theory is far-fetched.

Since there isn't a consensus on parallel universes, I decided to switch to reading about a other scientific fields. Microbiology and superstring theory were the most interesting to me. Advances in microbiology suggest that we humans are far too complicated to have evolved, so that bolstered my hope for an afterlife. And, superstring strongly suggests that there are far more dimensions in our world than the three that we see, which implied to me that there are places beyond "our world" where a soul can reside. But, I also found that science is besieged with disagreeing theories, making it clear to me that we really do not understand very much about our physical universe.

When I found that science couldn't give me unshakable beliefs, I began looking at the world's religions. I explored a lot of New Age material and went through quasi New Age phases, adopting bits and pieces of what I had read. At this point I was determined to look at everything except Christianity. I won't go into all of what I read, as there's little you can gain from it, and there's no way I can compress two years of misery and confusion and searching into one web page. I can't pretend to tell you all the different "phases" I went through, where one belief system appealed to me for a while, then another, then another. Somewhere in the middle of all this, I read Lee Stroebel's The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity, his The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, and Dr. Habermas' The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, which made a compelling case for the resurrection of Jesus. When I was raised as a Christian, I was told "The Bible says this and that and if you believe it, you go to heaven, and if not, you go to hell. Sorry." What surprised me from my reading (including a ton of books I haven't mentioned) is: there is a strong historical basis for a lot of Christianity and there are numerous philosophical arguments in support of it.

So, around February 2003 I came back to Christianity for a while, and wrote an article on the Evidence for God from Science site describing some of the obvious philosophical and scientific problems I saw in the New Age philosophies. Then, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and I once again had to confront the question of why there is so much suffering and evil in the world. I read what the best philosophers had to say on the subject, and I strayed from Christianity again for a long while. Then I recently realized that philosophers can make a variety of deep analytical arguments, on both sides of the coin, regarding all the suffering in the world, but no amount of analysis can explain why someone will lay down their life for another or why many of us feel convicted to help those who are in need and why we have such a sense of warmth when we do help someone in need.

I thought about this and the fact that scientists can't make up their minds whether quantum behavior is due to parallel universes, the "creative influence" of our minds, or whether the universe is just a hologram (these are all real, mainstream theories). Some scientists are so bold as to claim that we can someday understand the "mind of God." We can't even understand the mind of a cat. I finally clearly understood the Biblical passage of 1 Corinthians 1:20: "Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the laws? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"

Two years ago today we laid my wife's precious body to rest. Yesterday we laid my dad's body to rest. Despite these profound losses, I have finally come back to the Christian worldview. I have not come back to it just because I hope it is true, although all beliefs require a certain amount of faith. I have found a lot of reasons to put my trust in the Christian worldview and to base my actions on it. But, that is not the point I hope you take away from this page, for I am not qualified to be an evangelist. There are many fine ones you can find if you choose.

So, what is my point? I have a few that are worth sharing:

  • If my faith had been stronger before Vickie's passing, holding onto my faith might have been easier. As it is, the emotions have made it difficult for me to fully reacquire the faith I had. I hope this helps you understand how important it can be to really believe in your worldview, instead of just giving a mental ascent to it.
     
  • There are many fine authors who can present reasonable arguments for just about any belief that you want to have, and human nature is such that we have a remarkable ability to find evidence to support our beliefs, while discrediting contradictory evidence. It is not always easy to discern the real truths.
     
  • This century's scientific progress has given us a false sense of security that we can eventually know everything, when in fact there is so very much that we do not know about our universe, and the more we find out, the more mysteries we discover. You are not going to be able to KNOW some things you would like to, and faith has to enter into your beliefs at some point. Even atheists base their beliefs on faith.
     
  • It can be worthwhile for you to ask yourself whether your actions, whether how you manage your time, are consistent with what you believe. In the end, no one remembers you for what you believed, only for what you did. But, the actions you take should be consistent with what you believe.

In closing: If you are a widow or widower, I offer to send to you, at no cost, the short-but-insightful book A Grief Observed which one of the greatest authors of all time, C.S. Lewis, wrote after the passing of his wife. It helps me a bit to read it from time to time. I expect, and I want, absolutely nothing in return for the book. You can use the e-mail link provided below to let me know if you are interested.

God bless you and thank you for listening to me,

Bruce Keener

September 9, 2003

 

November 11, 2006 update:
If you believe in prayer for the departed, I would appreciate your prayers for Vickie. A simple prayer that I have used is:

Dear God, lovingly care for, bless, and protect Vickie Lynn Keener throughout eternity.

Thank you.

 

February 27, 2007 update:
I thought I should qualify that my citing of the site Evidence for God from Science does not constitute my endorsement of its entire contents: I agree with some of its content and disagree with some of it. That's probably not surprising, as few of us fully endorse everything we read, but I didn't want anyone to have a wrong impression. As for books that harmonize science and religion, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith does an excellent job of describing, in a very accessible way, the symmetries that are built into the fabric of our universe. It also does a good job of explaining why the metaphor of "mind as computing meat" has its flaws. I doubt that anyone would find any single book to strike a perfect chord in harmonizing science and religion, but this is a good one if you are looking for a starting point.

 

For my subsequent related web page with some thoughts on why bad things happen to good people, click here. I don't pretend to have all the answers, and this topic is one that continues to baffle and frustrate me. But, perhaps some of my "thinking out loud" will lead you to some insights of your own.

 

Help me continue to improve this site by giving me your feedback. My email is brucekeener at gmail.com.

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