It has been some time since I last blogged. I’m not sure why. Just haven’t felt like it. I’ve been reading other blogs and commenting on many and have found quite a few new ones that are very interesting, but my soul has been quiet on anything that I felt I might post here. Maybe some inner calmness. And you know what calmness is said to proceed…
So I find myself in that strange same old place again. That place I have found myself now for about the 4th time I think in the last 20 years or so. It almost seems to be a cycle for me. And as I leave this place of which I speak I seem to have a great deal of growth, spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally. But that growth then seems to level off, and then after a time I find myself back here. I’m not sure if I lose ground or not because it seems like the cycle keeps advancing me along. And every time I stand here I seem to do so more boldly and yet with more grace and more patience with myself. It feels familiar now. But I don’t quite know why or how I get myself back here.
The place of which I speak is that place where I am challenged, whether by myself or by someone else (but mostly probably by myself), to examine if God is really true. Does he really exist? Or is it just all psychological gaming? It seems that I grow and then I cruise along for a bit and then life experiences of my own and the rest of the world get me thinking and being skeptical and doubting and so I find myself back here again searching to put my feet back on something that is solid. I think I am a child of the post-modern age and thought for sure, but I’ve never intended to be that. It just is that.
The last 2 of these cycles have involved me in some way investigating a bit of atheism. In fact, I think that is where it started both times. The last time I was here back in 2006 I began reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, a well known atheist and evolutionary biologist. I was not in such a solid place with my faith, really doubting, really cynical, fed up with church, fed up with a vindictive portrait of God, fed up with trying to be holy and always failing. Not wanting to abandon my faith, about half way through I also started reading Mere Christianity again (it had been since college), and it saved me. It restored my belief in God and the two books together lit a spark in me of trying to rediscover who God really is. That led me to more CS Lewis and then to Breakthrough and then to Brian McLaren and Jim Palmer and Rob Bell and NT Wright and Paul Fitzgerald and Paul Hill and Wheatland. And then I felt almost burned out. Weary. A bit tired of people telling me I may be wrong in the direction my faith was going. I quit blogging and just rested and tried not to stir up any trouble. I really just wanted some solitude I think.
And then again it started up recently. I got into a discussion with some atheists online. And you know, those guys are smart. Really smart. I know there are some lacking smartness just like there are Christians and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists who tend to be more fanatical than smart. But for the most part, atheists are very well thought out on why they believe or don’t believe. I respect that. I want to understand my beliefs in that way. I don’t want what I believe to be something that I just carried with me from those who influenced me as a child. If I can, I want to own it and have evidence for it and think rightly about it. So I guess I am not doubting my belief so much as I am wanting to find solid footing for it. For me, it has to be based on more than just a statement of personal anecdotal experience. That seems to me like the default position when no other arguments hold up. It’s like saying, “God told me to do it.” That’s using God as a trump card. Who can say anything against that? It slams the discussion shut. And to me it feels weak.
In my review of atheism, it is clear to me that they do have faith. Most of them claim to believe only in that for which there is scientifically generated evidence. But that is a form of faith in and of itself. They must have faith that nothing exists beyond the empiric. And if there is something beyond the empiric, they will miss it because they are not even open to it. If God does exist, he is certainly beyond provability with scientific experimentation. But that doesn’t mean that there may not exist evidence for God. It is that solid evidence that I desire on which to find solid footing. But that evidence I think is for another post.
I came across an interesting blog called de-conversion. It is specifically for Christians who are deconverting from Christianity to atheism, and it is fascinating to read their stories. There seems to be a lot of anger and disillusionment there which has to indicate something. I’m not sure what. Most of that disillusionment is about coming to a place where Christianity was not working for them. They were getting what I like to call “religious speak” that sounds nice but is really full of nothing. It’s hollow. It’s stuff like, “You just need to have more faith.” Empty. How do you even do that? Have more faith. Do you just will more faith for yourself? Or the standard stuff like, “You need to pray more or read your Bible more or have more God time or spend more time at church.” That is all so weak. It does nothing. Absolutely nothing to help someone who is skeptical about their beliefs and feels lost. I agree wholeheartedly with those “de-cons” (their word for themselves off their website) that these kinds of anwers are crap.
Many of them also came to a point where they felt like the Bible was just a bunch of contradictory narratives about a vindictive, brutal God. They had questions about how a supposedly loving God could send people to an eternal hell for eternal torment just because they didn’t ever have a chance to know him. They had questions about how a supposedly loving God of mercy and grace could support genocide and infanticide and murder. They had questions about how good, rigorous science could uncover things like evolution and a really old earth and relativity and quantum mechanics which all have very good evidence for being active in our world and then being told by their Christian mentors that this does not fit with Genesis so they better just stuff their intellect and live on a faith that then seemed almost ridiculous. So they abandoned what didn’t fit together and what nobody helped them fit together because they got the crap answers I already listed in the previous paragraph and went with what did make sense, the empiric. And they embraced atheism. And I understand absolutely how they got there because I have been in their shoes on that same path multiple times now. And now I am standing here again.
All this makes me wonder if the Christianity that has been handed down through the generations is all that correct. If it does as much to turn people away from God as it does to turn them toward him, maybe there is something that we screwed up. Maybe we worship our Christianity and idolize it more than we worship God. Maybe we have boxed God into a neat little package with our various theologies and we actually worship the package instead of God. It is tragic to me that the people on “de-conversion” were not offered a big enough picture of God to allow for their doubts, to allow for their questions. I believe that God is bigger than our traditional Christianity has made him out to be, and I am determined to know that God.
So I have pieces that I am trying to put together. And I have pieces that I don’t know where they fit. And the answer is bigger than “just having more faith.” And I will keep studying and searching and talking with an awful big God about how he wants my faith to look.
Things I am currently considering on this journey:
- God is not threatened by my doubts and questions.
- God is not threatened by good science. I plan to read Alister McGrath’s new book, The Open Secret, about his ideas on Natural Theology to explore this more.
- How does a reading of Genesis and evidence for evolution and a multi-billion year old earth fit together? Good science and the Bible ought to fit together, not work against each other.
- The Old Testament was not written for me. I am not Jewish. I am reading How To Read The Bible For All It’s Worth to help me understand the Bible better. How is the Old Testament supposed to relate to me?
- What does the New Testament really say about hell? Real Live Preacher on his blog is discussing this.
- What does the New Testament really say about salvation?
- How can I help people who have doubts like me when I have so many big gaping holes myself?
- How can I help my boys understand God when I have so many big gaping holes myself?
- Why do I have so many questions and doubts in the first place?
- Why is it so important for me to own so personally what I believe on a solid footing?
- How do I repeatedly end up in this spot?
- And ……………..
Enough for now. My brain is hurting.