Tuesday, January 09, 2007


We all have doubts. Well, ok, I met one person who said that she never had doubts. For the other 99.99%, it is hard to express them out loud. Here is a note from a friend who has the courage to say them out loud and is struggling to find his way.

Just to make it clear, the following comments are not my own, and I take no responsibility for quotes, references, or his interpretation of what people are saying or thinking. What I do commend is honestly asking questions and searching for answers. I received his permission to publish this in my blog, and I hope that he sincerely finds his way back to Christ as the Answer.

What would you say to him?

"I am responding to a few questions. Do I think that Jesus claimed to be God? No. Of course I can't prove that he did not. The closest we can get to Jesus is the Gospels. I do not believe the miracles. I doubt most of the sayings as well. I embrace the moral teaching, and I would even if it did not belong to Jesus. Where it comes from is not really the issue for me. Concerning Lewis' apologetics, this particular argument of his is disappointing. He's a better thinker than this. Jesus could have been mistaken. Or since we don't have an autobiography, he may never have claimed anything so grand as what is often attributed to him. The argument that there are only three possibilities is intellectually dishonest [Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or legit]. Anyway, even if Jesus were a liar, that would not mean that everything attributed to him were false. Joseph Smith was almost certainly a liar, but he said many good things. Buddha was not Lord, although some of his followers claimed it for him almost immediately, yet many of his moral teachings are very similar to those of Jesus.

"Concerning Paul's theology: Paul's theology cannot be incorrect from the Christian perspective. His writings were canonized by Christians. Did the Ebionites (an early Jewish sect) canonize Paul? I don't know. I think that the Evangelical read of Paul is poor, but it has been a common read since Luther. I accept the New Perspective on Paul, which you can read about on wikipedia. Furthermore, I imagine that Paul, like many other first century Christians were more concerned with one becoming like Christ--that is the salvation, not simply some place in distant time. Actually, C.S. Lewis picks up on this a little in his writings--a good literary critic would. I do believe that Paul was wrong. I do not see that Christians are morally empowered compared to, say, Buddhist, or any other group that takes morality seriously. I wish it were otherwise. There should be a light in this world.

"Why would I want to be shaped by Christian writers, Hebrew prophets? I think we all chose to be shaped by people, ideas, institutions that we do not completely agree with. Why does religion have to be different? Even Christians will admit to taking certain passages in scripture more seriously than others, while dismissing some outright. We like one preacher, but disagree with him on some issues, still he shapes us. We like a philosopher, writer, artist despite her differing religious beliefs, and she influences us, perhaps quite a bit. Augustine was influenced by Plato, Paul by the Stoics, Aquinas by Aristotle. I guess my question is, if I see something valuable here, why should I not want to be influenced by it?

"I appreciate your questions. It helps me think through this, and I hope, keeps me honest. Whatever you think, know that this period of my life has been very difficult for me. Like you said Luke, I never imagined I would be where I am today. More than most, I think, I had dedicated my life to faith in Christ. As you know, I have always had a deep desire for truth regardless of consequence, and little loyalty to any group/ideology above that. There has always been a tension between my quest for truth and my devotion to Christianity. Right now, the tension between them is greater than ever.

"I think that's the thing that's the most difficult for most people to understand, and the most difficult thing for me. I spend a lot of time talking with my profs and fellow students. They all think my questions are good. They don't have anything that even looks like an answer; they believe because they are loyal. That's their admission. If they had grown up believing anything else, they would probably be loyal to that too. I don't understand it. I do not think it is a character flaw, its normal.

"I still think that Christianity could be a good thing for the world. Whatever I think, it is natural for humans to be religious. We want there to be a meaning to life, and we interpret cause and affect in some pretty strange ways. The Christian story suggests that their is value to being human, and that all humans share that value. I wonder if you can believe that without believing in the God who grants it. Many Christians believe in the God, but not really in the value, whatever they say. Many non-Christians do place value in humanity, so I suppose that it can happen. Does the religion help? I think it does. Some of the most amazing people in the world were inspired by Christianity, although some of them were not Christian. We think of Mother Teresa, of course, and St. Francis. Bono comes to mind. So does Albert Sweitzer, and Mohandas Ghandi, neither would be called Christian by our standards. If Sweitzer can be called Christian, I guess I can too. Somehow, I think that's a disservice to Christianity. If one doesn't believe in the Resurrection, they are something else."

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Jeff said...

There's a book by Norman Geisler called I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. I'm currently in the middle of it, but it does a good job of bring facts together, starting at the basic and continuing into scientific reasoning and then faith issues, both religious faith AND atheistic faith.

The first 4 chapters or so are focused on scientific discoveries that point toward a God. It's been a good book so far and I would suggest checking it out. However, while their conclusion will obviously be a Christian God, I haven't read the second half of the book, so the rationales may slow down. But given my first impression, I don't think so.

Geisler and Turek were both atheists before researching themselves into Christians.

Shayna Willis said...

I think I would tell him that it doesn't have to make sense to be true. Humans spend so much time trying to make what God does jive with the wisdom of the world. But it's almost the opposite of that.

Last night, we were discussing John 21 when Jesus basically tells Peter he will be crucified for his faith. Is that fair to Peter? No, but if Peter's death glorifies God, then so be it. Of course, I hope that my life glorifies God so that it doesn't have to be my death that does, but I will always submit to God's will.

I also know this answer is not satisfactory to non-Christians because I didn't get it until after I became a Christian.