Monday, November 30, 2009

An Unreasonable Faith

Some folks think the notion of a superintelligent, Creator God is essentially and irredeemably irrational.

Because they see no proof for God’s existence, this group believes that science has consistently proven there is no God. They contend that people who believe in God are superstitious, obscurantist, na├»ve, and in denial about the advances of science. At the very least, atheists see faith in God as infantile – a childish notion that should have disappeared as soon as a person was capable of evidence-based thinking.

Just because something is shrouded in mystery doesn’t mean it’s stupid to believe it. In fact, it’s natural and rational to believe something based on a preponderance of evidence. This natural faith is the result of a simple curiosity that examines the evidence and makes hypotheses about possibilities. This is the same sort of faith that makes a scientist explore the mysteries found in the world of nature.

The order and complexity of the universe reasonably points to a creator or a transcendent being. But since no one caught the Creator in the act of creating, the skeptic can propose the notion that the whole concept of God is a hoax, and that would be fair as far as the rules of skepticism are concerned. Even though some people claim they know God, such claims don’t prove he exists. However, to suggest (as writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens do) that openness to the reality of God is evidence that one is deranged, deluded, and deceived is unfair by anyone’s rules. Belief in God’s existence is not irrational.

Let me point out that simple belief in God does not constitute a faith that has strong conviction. It isn’t settled. Such belief is restless and longs for more information and validation. This general belief isn’t the deep faith that Scripture identifies as being “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Belief in the notion of God is only the first step down the trail to having a transformational, personal encounter with God. This type of faith is perfectly reasonable.

However, when it comes to the deeper faith described in Scripture, the critics are right. It isn’t rational at all. At some point, faith calls for a leap past logic and reasoning. Many things have been proven through the scientific method, which rigorously studies the evidence and refuses to allow hypotheses to become beliefs until something is unquestionably demonstrated. In contrast, even though there are clues that point to the existence of God, those God clues will never prove God’s existence.

As we suggested in Chapter 1, a person investigating a belief in God will bump into one clue after another, until somewhere along the way a choice emerges. This is faith of another ilk. This kind radically leaps over the lack of empirical proof and believes what one cannot possibly prove. This is unreasonable faith, and we should call it that because it violates the rules of reason. Its roots are metaphysical; it is the stuff of the supernatural. Unreasonable faith isn’t just the result of human effort; it is the coworking of an open heart and a sprinkling of divine grace.

- Ed Gungor, What Bothers Me Most about Christianity: Honest Reflections from an Open-Minded Christ Follower, pp. 23-27.

Live free! Live in Daddy's affectionate love!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

What Bothers Me Most about Christianity

I came across an intriguing book on Amazon.com this morning, What Bothers Me Most about Christianity: Honest Reflections from an Open-Minded Christ Follower by Ed Gungor. Here's a particularly thought-provoking excerpt:

We may not like it, but the nature of faith makes it an untidy enterprise. It demands persistence in the face of uncertainty. Real faith has doubt in the mix, as the coin has two sides.

This makes many Christ followers nervous. They view qualms and questions as evidence of a lack of faith and insist, “Jesus is the answer!” But what if Jesus isn't the answer? What if he is the question? What if we aren't supposed to have all the answers? Could it be that in the discomfort of unanswered questions we are forced to face our own pride and admit we only “know in part”? Is it possible that questions cause us to face the choice to believe or not to believe?

There is a great story in the life of Jesus where he asked a man if he had faith. The man responded, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Notice that it is possible to believe and still be wrestling with “unbelief.” Just because you have misgivings does not mean you do not have faith. The guy in the Jesus story asked that his doubt be “overcome” so that it would not be the prevailing force in his life.

I believe God wants people of faith to question, to be bothered, to seek for tenable answers, to consider the “What if it's true?” juxtaposed against the “What if it's not true?” Faith is not the result of quelling doubt but the result of a choice after one has earnestly sought to understand. It is a venture of human consideration and divine illumination. It's hard, sometimes painful, often disorienting, and always messy - certainly not a cheery, no-conflict, refreshingly bubbly, perpetually happy place. Only in a world where faith is difficult can faith exist.

If this is a true description of faith, then faith is more like an intense mud-wrestling contest than anything else. Our role is to stay in the ring, even though we don't see God all that clearly and even though it would be easier to quit than to stay in the fray. When we hang in there, fighting through uncertainty and doubt, we are living by faith.

When I look at the Bible and Christian faith, I am left with some formidable, disturbing questions. And I don't have the answers. I may never have them this side of eternity. I hate that, but it is what it is. In spite of what bothers me about faith, I choose to be a God follower, and because I am, he meets me where I am, despite my questions. And that is worth it all!

I read a quote from notable scholar and author Dallas Willard that captures the why behind my decision to forever follow Jesus: “The issue is, what do we want? The Bible says that if you seek God with all your heart, then you will surely find him. Surely find him. It's the person who wants to know God that God reveals himself to. And if a person doesn't want to know God - well, God has created the world and the human mind in such a way that he doesn't have to.”

I have found him. And I don't want out.

- Ed Gungor, What Bothers Me Most about Christianity: Honest Reflections from an Open-Minded Christ Follower, pp. 217-219.

Live free! Live in Daddy's affectionate love!