Time for some reader questions! Many of you have been asking me questions, some of you a whole bunch of them. One of my friends, an active missionary, send me this list. Perhaps some of his questions were also on your mind…
I think many people are concerned for you, and some most likely are afraid of delving into what you experience has been, will make them ask too many questions of their own faith. I guess I am an optimist/idealist and believe that your journey will bring you to Christ and yet there is no guarantee.
Thank you for that honesty. I keep saying to people: if Christ is real and alive, I am very willing to listen to Him. There are a million ways He can reach me. Thunder voice would do. Angels will do the trick. A daytime vision will convince me. Writing in the sky at night will be impressive. Even a normal human being that clearly knows things about my life that they should not know would convince me as well.
The only ways I refuse to accept as revelation are those that can also be explained by purely natural processes.
Why do you need supernatural revelation to believe?
That is the key question indeed. Simply put: if we don’t have supernatural revelation than all we have is talk by human beings about a realm they can’t see, hear, feel, taste or smell. It is like cavemen discussing quantum physics.
Christian faith confirms this need for a supernatural revelation as well: it would be nothing without the Bible or the incarnation of Jesus.
But in order to know the validity of this ‘Word of God’, we will need yet another revelation. If you take a step back, the Bible in and of itself is just words, much like the Koran or the writings of Joseph Smith. This is one reason why the Church supposedly got to perform all these miracles (‘signs’) so people could see that Jesus was the Truth. The New Testament is filled to the brink with these miracles, yet ironically Jesus simultaneously mocks the people who require a miracle to believe.
However, I firmly believe it makes sense to require a miracle. The Bible was written at least 1900 years ago, in a vastly different culture, with almost no way for us nowadays to truly verify the validity of these anecdotal stories written by the followers of that religion. We need to see the power of God at work today, to verify events of 2000 years ago and to test the claims that the Bible makes.
I used to think I saw the evidence of Jesus’ power all around me. But the more I noticed that my faith (and that of others) could be explained by psychology, and the more I saw the contradictions between the claims of the Bible and the actual world, the more I needed a supernatural revelation. It was a slow but increasing scream for a ‘touch of providence’. And at some point, there was that last straw that broke the camel’s back, which ultimately led me into non-theism. (but I’ll save that for another time).
Is it cultural baggage you are dropping?
I wasn’t surrounded by non-Christians who had a vastly different culture, in which it would have been easier to drop my Christian cultural baggage. Quite the contrary: I had mostly missionaries around me. It provided me with very little, if any, benefits to drop Christianity.
Is there truth out there? Why should there be?
I like to define truth as ‘a statement that is in accordance with reality’. So truth is merely a label, but there is certainly a reality. Through reason and evidence we can get closer to that reality, and thereby increase ‘truth’. Also, by definition almost, human beings can never fully know reality, and thereby never have the full truth.
Have you read authors who have had similar experiences? Peter Rollins, John D Caputo, Peter Enns, et al
No, not those. How are their experiences similar? These authors all seem to be ‘progressive’ Christians now.
I have not encountered many authors who were once deeply committed Christians, then completely left the faith and branded themselves agnostic/atheist, and then returned to faith after a substantial amount of time. On the other hand, there are thousands who were once born-again, committed Christians like me, and have now completely left the faith. Out of convenience I used to regard them as either non-sincere in their faith, or heavily deluded. Now I see that they were often just as sincere as I was, and had a huge struggle to leave their faith behind because they didn’t want to let go.
Are you trying to build a brand? This may sound silly, but there are people who do this!
I expect this site to grow to counter the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster! 😉
Nah, I just try to explain my situation right now. Maybe later on it I will add more things to help those that are going through a similar experience.
How free is a free thinker?
Anyone is bound by their biochemical brains, and more importantly, their biases. For me, freethinking has to do with actively minimizing your biases; realizing that we are all full of nonsense that is hindering us from seeing the truth. Nobody is therefore truly free, but recognizing where we have blind faith or blind assumptions is key to freethinking.
In a way, the Christian faith encourages a lot of freethinking, because the Bible needs a lot of interpretation and we are encouraged to seek Gods ways. Yet the Word of God is considered ‘inerrant’ to some degree by most Christians, and Jesus should always be the Truth, which severely hinders the process of freethinking. I know as a Christian it feels like the truth and therefore freedom; but if it is truth anyway, then it would also be truth without the Bible saying so. Having a book full of statements that you have to regard as ‘true’ (literal or metaphorical) without separate proof for every individual statement is simply not freethinking, by definition.
So is faith a crutch?
Faith offers answers to deep questions we have as human beings. We all need some form of a crutch to go through life.
Has postmodern criticisms of faith been a contributor?
Yes, although mostly at a subconscious level. The idea that we cannot fully know the truth stuck with me at some point. It made me question my epistemology (how do I know what I know?) and how much my own beliefs were in accordance with reality. In a way I transitioned from a Christian modernism (we know the Truth) to a secular postmodernism (we can never fully know the Truth), although I still don’t agree with the completely relative nature of postmodern truth (everyone has their own truth).