|Posted by thethousandmarch on September 22, 2013 at 1:35 PM|
There are two things that cause me doubt in regards to my faith. The first is the exclusive nature of my faith’s story. I must admit that when I hear people criticizing the belief that faith in Jesus is the only way to be saved from hell, I must admit it gets me thinking. It does seem a bit arrogant, narrow minded and foolish to believe such a thing. Yet this is the Christian story. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In 1 Timothy 2:5 Paul says “there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus . . . .” This is orthodox Christianity: God created the universe and it was good; humans rebelled against God and fell into sin; because of sin our relationship with God is broken; Jesus came to save humans from their sin and make it possible for them to enter into a right relationship with God; trust in Jesus and your sin will be forgiven and you will be redeemed and live forever.
Now I doubt there is a single traditional religion that does not believe that human beings are in some way at odds with God/reality and that they have to do something in order to appease God/attain enlightenment and in so doing receive eternal blessings. However in our western culture today it is becoming increasingly unpopular to believe that one’s religion is the exclusive way of being made right with God. This is understandable. The more we encounter people of other traditions, the more we learn that there are wonderful, moral, good people who ascribe to a myriad different faiths. Quite often the people we meet who are of other religions, or non-religions, are nicer than the people we know in our own religion. So for me it is very difficult to believe that all these other people are at odds with God. I would like to believe, as many people in America seem to, that all good people (an ambiguous label) get to go to heaven. The story that God is lenient and doesn’t care if you actually worship him in any prescribed way, he only requires that you be a relatively nice person who is sincere in their beliefs, is a nice one.
The first problem with this story is that there are very few world religions that agree upon such things as: 1. Who/what is God? 2. What is reality? 3. What happens to us after we die? 4. What eternal state of being are we trying to attain? So we can’t all be right. What we do all generally agree upon is moral behavior. So an inclusive pluralistic view basically says, each religions particular doctrine is inconsequential (and therefore for the most part wrong); all that matters is our moral behavior. This is just modern liberal moralism. It’s actually saying everyone else is wrong, all these traditional religions are just myths, but it’s okay if you want to practice a particular religion if it makes you happy, just act in a manner we consider moral and we’ll think you’re okay and accept you. So it may be inclusive, but it is rather patronizing. But still it’s appealing (a good example of this view can be seen in Ricky Gervais’ show Derek, which I really loved – it’s a beautiful and poignant story). I’d like to think we are all good enough and even the worst ones of us are just victims of our circumstances. I’d like to think we are all seeking to love God and each other; we are all honest and will all acknowledge the truth when we see it. I’d like to think we all want to serve and obey God and will worship God when we come before God, so it doesn’t really matter if we are all wrong right now once we see God clearly we will throw away all our false notions of reality and accept the truth. Then we can all enter into the eternal state of being whatever it is in peace and harmony (and if the atheists are right it won’t matter because we won’t know most of us were wrong, because we’ll just be dead).
But for me what it comes down to is that I know that I’m not a very good person and I need God’s mercy. If it were up to me to earn God’s approval based upon my moral behavior I don’t think I could do it, unless God’s standard is pretty low. So for me belief in Christianity is not about just being right and insisting others are wrong; it’s certainly not about being superior to other people. I’m a Christian because I’m a loser. I need a savior, I need a redeemer. I believe I was in rebellion against God and needed someone to make peace with him for me – to fix the relationship. So though I’d like to believe the liberal moralist story because it feels appealing, it would actually leave me hopeless. Instead I believe the Christian story in part because it means God loves me so much that even though I was in rebellion against him he came to earth to seek me out and save me from my rebellion. He loves me so much he took my sin upon himself and made it possible for me to be redeemed. I must depend on his grace, not my merit. So, if you think my religion is for pathetic sad people I can live with that, I just ask that you tolerate me. As a follower of God I will attempt to love you no matter what you believe, even if we never agree.
I believe that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and humans; no one can be redeemed from the corruption of sin apart from his work of atonement; no one can enter into the presence of the Holy Father except through the being of the Son. Yet, I do not believe that all who profess to believe in Jesus, even (perhaps especially) many “devout”, “religious”, or “fundamentalists” Christians are actually followers of Jesus. Nor, do I believe that all those who are unaware of Jesus are damned – even those who have rejected a particular brand of Jesus (those I would say are not the true Jesus) may still be responsive to the Spirit of God in a faithful manner that God would count as righteous. We are not saved by knowledge; we are not saved by professing correct doctrine. We are saved by the mercy and grace of God and I believe God will have mercy on many people that many would not expect. I do not claim to have the wisdom or authority to judge anyone. I am merely a person who is trusting in the grace of God given through Jesus.
The second thing which makes me doubt my faith is the truly inconceivable nature of eternal life. When I think about what may be: life forever in a state of perfection – which I believe will be human life as it was meant to be in a new creation – it is impossible to fathom. Living with God, seeing passed loved ones again; living in harmony with nature and all other humans; having intimate loving relationships without dysfunction; being what we were created to be allowing God’s glory to flow through us in all that we do; it is hard to believe such a wonderful thing could be true. It seems like a fantasy.
So the two things which cause me to doubt the Christian story are both feelings. The first is the desire to fit into a modern relativistic society. I would like to believe that we are all okay and don’t really have to worry about the corruption which has infected us. The second is the feeling that heaven is too good to be true, and therefore must be a fairytale. And in this modern society it is not easy to believe in miracles – it often feels childish. But despite my feelings I trust in Jesus because I believe he was raised from the dead, because I believe it is the most probable rational explanation of the evidence. And being raised from the dead validates his message about who he is and what he claimed to do.