Faith is about trust, but how can you trust something you’re not sure exists? When we put our trust in something that we have no evidence is real, or that we hope is real because it brings us comfort to believe it is real, we can cause real destruction to ourselves and to others. Often, the church says to take it that God exists “on faith,” but if we do, how do we know we aren’t trusting in a divine hallucination?
I’ve been going to coffee with a few atheists these last couple of months, and I love these guys. They don’t have an agenda, and they aren’t trying to “prove God doesn’t exist!” They are just normal guys with a bit of evidence, a bit of philosophy, a lot of questions, and a desire to find truth. I hope there are more people like them out there than I think there are, because God knows we need them. They help me think through things I believe. They help me see things from a fresh perspective and poke holes in the frail arguments and ideas I so often cling to. Help me separate facts from interpretations. I’ll give you an example:
Fact: I’ve seen miracles. I’ve seen limbs grow out before my very eyes in church services and on the street, through prayer and the declaration of the name of Jesus. And not just that smoke and lights televangelist crap. I’ve sometimes been the one praying. It’s real.
Interpretation: God did it. I don’t know this, and until recently I didn’t realize it wasn’t a fact. Not until I began studying the great figures in other religions (very lightly; I’m no expert by any means) did I realize that miracles happen through the name of Allah. Vishnu. Zeus. Even Josephus, a historian Christians love to quote because he helps back claims found in the Bible, has accounts of Greek men doing miracles who were NOT Christian. Prayer produces miracles, no doubt, but miracles happen apart from my Christian interpretation all the time. That’s a bit of a weird realization.
None of this invalidates my interpretation though. None of “disproves” the Christian God, or means my religion is a lie. However, it does mean that there are some real gaps between what I know, as fact, and what I believe. I’ve realized through our conversations that I actually don’t know God exists, in spite of what I’ve said in previous posts. I have evidence that He does; quite a bit actually, but I don’t know. When I let my “facts” stand up to scrutiny, I realize that I rely on faith so much more than I ever believed I did. The Atheists and myself are actually on a very similar page. We both have a theory that we believe based on the evidence we know to be true. I hold to the theory that God exists, and that He loves me very much.
Its sounds so cold when you say it like that, doesn’t it?
I have seen evidence that I’ve built a theory around called “Christianity.” It comes with its own great thinkers, a worldview that seems to touch every area of life, and a community that promises me that now that I’ve accepted this theory, I’m special and I belong. However, all my evidence could be interpreted differently. I don’t know for a fact that Christianity is true any more than an atheist knows for a fact that macro-evolution is true. It’s a theory, and theories can be wrong.
I’m afraid to even write all this, because I know that while some of you will take the time to hear me, and to grow from the conversation, others will assume I’ve denied the faith, been deceived, believed demons, or some other tomfoolery of the like. I haven’t by the way…I’m pretty sure…
I’m not afraid to ask questions, and I’m not satisfied by most of the bullsh-t that I hear at church or in those apologetics books. I’ve listened to those sermons, I’ve read those books…very carefully…and frankly most of what’s there just doesn’t hold up to solid logic or a mind that isn’t afraid to really break down the arguments. I have yet to hear a single argument for God that even begins to prove that he exists…and I’ve sat through classes that attempt to do just that. This puts me in a very lonely place. The Christian that all the other Christians don’t like. The Christian that all the atheists don’t get. The Christians asking the questions that no one seems to have answers to. Very lonely indeed.
Yet, after all this, there’s still something more.
Call it my spirit, my soul, my heart, but I know there’s something more. What I’ve experienced has created, shaped, transformed me–made me who I am today. These facts, and their Christian interpretation, have loved me when I felt ashamed, comforted me when I felt alone, brought healing and forgiveness to deep chasms of pain that were beyond my ability to repair. I’m more alive today than I ever have been, and its because of the truth I’ve discovered in Christianity. The Man I’ve found in the pages of a 2,000 year old collection of stories, songs, poems and letters has changed my life. Can an illusion do that? Is my college roommate really just a hallucination? If so, then how could he have changed my perspective on so many things? How could he have spoken into my brokenness and shown me redemption, or taught me how to love and see people for who they are and not just as “saved” or “unsaved?”
Maybe God’s like love. By all intellectual standards, love is just a collection of chemical reactions that manifest in a series of actions which continue the bonding of humans which promotes the continuation of the species. It has purpose, but no meaning. But I’ll tell ya, I’ve felt love, and I’ll swear til the day I die that I felt more meaning in those moments than the rest of human life combined. No one will convince me that love is just chemicals, because something beyond my brain knows that love is more real than that. Regardless of all the evidence that “proves” that the kind of love I’m talking about doesn’t exist, I know it does. I think that’s because there are other kinds of proof than empirical evidence. It’s called proof of the heart. Proof of the heart is blood, and its thicker than the water of intellectual arguments and purely rational evidence.
So what does all this mean for me, and more importantly for you? I’m not totally sure. Maybe it means freedom. 2 Corinthians says that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. This Spirit is called the “Spirit of Truth.” I think so often we are afraid to let ourselves get where I am, or we feel guilty or like we’re somehow sinning if we end up here. But maybe this is part of finding the Spirit of Truth. Maybe when we give ourselves the kind of freedom that only dwells in the Presence of the Spirit of Truth, we inevitably will find ourselves right where I am eventually. So often we stand on our sand foundations and defend them to the death out of our own insecurities. But God’s not insecure.
He’s not afraid of these questions, and He really does have answers to them. He’s not vindictive, ready to punish us if we ask them, or trying to hide the answers from us so we learn to “just trust.” Just look at what happened when Thomas said faith wasn’t enough for him…Jesus showed up in the flesh to answer his question! Our search for Truth can be funny sometimes, and it can lead us places we never expected to go. It can lead us through seasons that even the church will not understand. That doesn’t mean we’re not on the right path. It’s narrow, and few find it, remember? What, you thought finding the path meant saying a prayer one day and just floating along in the broad river of Christianity? No my friend, the path is harder to find than that. However, as we progress on this path, we find truth, and real freedom. We can trust the Truth, because we’ve touched Him. If we let our journey take us through a few valleys of shadow and darkness, we’ll come out the other side knowing that what we hold to is not simply the illusion of our Beautiful Minds, but the tangible substance of eternity. Then, we will know the Truth, and the Truth will set us free.
8 thoughts on “Funny Faith”
This is just gonna have to be long…
I’ve been thinking about some of the same things you’ve written about in this post lately. I’ve recently had a conversation with my, I guess you would say, agnostic, very scientifically minded, friend about some of the same topics. We weren’t debating God’s existence but just discussing how we both think about the world. Which made me think about a question I was asked in 12th grade by a guy who was searching and trying to figure out what he believed and knew I was a Christian: why do you believe what you believe? I really didn’t have a good answer and from time to time, I’m still trying to figure out a good answer to that question, if someone were to ask. It’s too intangible. I tend to think of why I believe like a lot of tiny bits of proof -not necessarily objective- that are too much for me to turn down. No one thing supports belief, although I’m still getting security from my body of evidence. But then I also feel like there can be a deeper knowing that goes beyond proof. I think that what God wants is for us to have our foundation built on Him, and not our evidence, which is why it gets knocked down when we think about these things.
You said in your fifth paragraph, “When I let my “facts” stand up to scrutiny, I realize that I rely on faith so much more than I ever believed I did.”
I’m curious: what kind of sentiment are you inferring by this statement? Is this an expression of dismay at how reliant you are on faith? Perhaps it’s merely an observation that your current lifestyle requires an abundance of faith? Something else?
You also said later in your post that you have yet to hear a single argument that even begins to prove that He exists. That is certainly a tall order. Do you think the writer of Hebrews was encountering the same type of questioning in his day when he wrote chapter 11 verse 6: “Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
I guess that statement is an observation more than anything else. I guess the inference would be not a universal “this is the way people should see things” sort of statement but a “this is where I’m at and maybe some of you can relate.” That inference statement is that faith isn’t enough for me. That’s not how I’m wired. Jesus said that “blessed are those that believe and have not seen,” but frankly, I’ll gladly lose the blessing to see. I can relate to the athiests that say they would believe but they need more proof, because I’m like that.There’s not exactly dismay. Just a recognition that I hope to soon have more knowledge than faith. I know that where I am in my journey is not the end, but I’m in that awkward tension, the limbo between faith and knowing, and I’m finally seeing the dots that make up the comic strip pictures of my theology. Now I’m just waiting for God to fill in the spaces between the dots with something solid.
I like that verse in Hebrews. it’s like he’s pointing out the obvious. The writer is saying that you can’t follow a God that you don’t believe exists, and you can’t come to him for stuff if you don’t believe he’s real. I think the part of the verse that says “without faith it is impossible to please God” is referring to “that he rewards those who seek him” if not exclusively, than primarily. Faith is about trust. I trust my friends, and if I refuse to trust them, it’s impossible to have a fulfilling relationship with them. In other words, just like without faith (trust) it’s impossible to please my friends, without faith it’s impossible to please God. Trust is the key to any relationship, and without it even our relationship with God is impossible. I need to “trust” that he exists in the same way that I need to trust that you exist, that you’re not a figment of my imagination, but that’s about where I’m comfortable trusting. I have trouble trusting with my intellect that He exists. Although, my heart and spirit seem to be pretty convinced. 🙂 Like I said, it’s an interesting, difficult, and exciting season. Lots of tension, but I have a feeling He’s up to something. 🙂
I feel like there’s something profound I should share as what you have written has struck me in a profound way. Your words have stayed with me the past couple of days and I have drawn on them often as I wrestle and question and converse with Him as well.
Your comparison and parallel to love was excellent…I think it’s so true. To explain love simply at a physical level is to leave so much out. It is to leave out the very essence of the experience of love (and maybe that is key in both love and our Lord…the experience and relationship, not just the explanation). Our words fall so short…science can’t explain it… but somewhere, deep in our being, we do know there is more.
Thanks for challenging and pushing.
Thanks Cassie. The things you have to say always encourage me. Although, the other side is the Thomas perspective. I can love Him and feel I know Him, and want to believe He’s alive, but unless I put my hands in the wounds and see him with my eyes, I can’t believe. Sometimes, I feel a lot like Thomas.
And Jesus loved Thomas…there’s no shame in questioning (at least from what I can tell). I don’t see Christ condemning him for asking…for needing proof. He didn’t look down at him in disappointment. I think he knew exactly what Thomas needed. To put his hands in the nail marks and on his side. Isn’t that beautiful? He didn’t offer that to any other disciple that we know of. So intimate and loving…compassionate and personalized. I assume he is doing the same for you as you journey…I’d keep an eye out for that. 🙂
Exactly. That’s why I love Thomas. I hold on to that story, it gives me a lot of hope. and I think a hands in the wounds kind of experience would be a pretty big thing. as far as keeping an eye out goes, hopefully it would be hard to miss. 🙂