What You Believe

Of course, I don’t know what you believe.  I suppose people with all different types of beliefs might stumble upon this blog.  I would like to welcome each and every one of you.  In the paragraphs below I’d like to make a few general comments about the blog that might resonate if you identify yourself with one of the groups mentioned.

If you are a Christian and are losing your faith …. this blog was built primarily with you in mind.  Maybe you were raised in a Christian home, went to church from time to time, were taught what to believe but not why to believe it.  Maybe you have an atheist friend (or found an atheist website) and have encountered an articulate argument against Christianity. Maybe you had a bad experience in church, or suffered a terrible tragedy, or just finished a book on medieval history or brain science, and you are questioning the whole thing on your own. Maybe you’ve heard people in the media claiming to speak for Christianity and have thought “that’s not me”.  I would like to you encourage you and let you know that good answers to your questions exist.  As Jesus said, “seek and you will find“.  My own attempts to answer these questions might not be the best ones, but I’ve tried to fill in the gaps in terms of resources I could find online.  I welcome you to poke around my blog, or contact me directly.  I hope I can be helpful.

If you are a liberal or postmodern sort of Christian …. you might find this blog refreshing in some places, but frustrating in others.  I am willing to challenge traditional views on issues such as the inerrancy of the Bible, evolution, sexuality, and eternal damnation.  Nevertheless, the faith I proclaim here is something I consider to be extremely serious, and radically at odds with the ways of the world.  I believe in the infinite value of human life, and in the reality of the supernatural, including, quite literally, things such as the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a real historical event.  When these ideas sunk in for me (not until my late twenties, even though I was raised a Catholic), they changed me deeply from the inside.  As C.S. Lewis put it, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

If you are a conservative or fundamentalist sort of Christian … you might object strenuously to some of my points of view, especially on the aforementioned controversial topics where I find agreement with many liberal Christians and non-believers.  My tone and style of writing may strike you as falling short of our call to boldly proclaim the Gospel.  You may worry that I am watering down the Gospel in order to make it easier for people to accept, but from my perspective I am trying to remove nonessential intellectual stumbling blocks that stand in the way of any of God’s children coming into a relationship with Him.  If someone turns away from Christianity because it is difficult, or offensive to the ego, then perhaps there is nothing I can do about that.  But if people of good will turn away from Christianity because they think it is incoherent, or mean-spirited, then I am inclined to carefully examine where the misunderstanding lies, and try to resolve it, even if it results in changing my mind.  It is not my goal to provoke doubt or criticize anyone whose understanding of Christianity is stricter or more traditional or perhaps even more mature than my own.  Rather, I wish to examine some of the questions, both age-old and contemporary, that Jesus (for His own reasons) chose not to answer clearly, and not insist that our traditional answers are binding on potential believers (in the same spirit described in Acts 15).

If you are just curious about Christianity …. then many of the claims and concepts you encounter will seem outlandish at first.  For the first 300 years or so of Christianity, a big part of spreading the good news was providing solid reasons for people to believe (as described in Acts and 1 Peter).  However, for about 1600 years or so after Emperor Constantine’s conversion, Christianity had a kind of monopoly on the religious life of many nations.  Along the way it created magnificent buildings and robust programs to take care of its own, but most of its mainstream institutions forgot how to engage with a surrounding culture that wasn’t convinced of its claims, and some of these institutions have decayed in other ways as well.  As a result, much of what passes for Christian apologetics, especially on the Internet, is not very well-reasoned or convincing.  With this blog I am trying to do my small part to fill in some of the gaps.  I’d welcome any feedback about how I am doing.

If you are a religious Jew or Muslim … then I honor and respect your faith in God, and recognize the common spiritual heritage that my faith shares with yours.  I recognize that your understanding of who Jesus was differs from mine, and that this difference is important. I do welcome dialogue with you and appreciate any opportunity to share the reasons behind my beliefs, but I will not attempt to convert you by attacking the faith that you already have.  I am uncertain as to how God relates to you and exactly what the consequences of our differences are in the next life, but personally I am inclined to believe that He hears your prayers just as He hears mine.  Jesus once said something mysterious about having other sheep who hear his voice.

If you are a Roman Catholic, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, or a Mormon … then you might gather from my writing that I look at most (but not all) topics from a Protestant perspective.  On some topics where my understanding differs from the official positions of your churches, I have highlighted the difference.  I choose to do this only where these issues involved have the potential to turn people away from Jesus entirely.  I have no ill will towards any of your churches, and it saddens me whenever I hear a Protestant commentator suggest that they are somehow not Christian.  I pray that someday there will be more unity among the various communities in Christ’s Kingdom.

If you believe in God, but not in Christianity or any specific religion … then I would encourage you to take a closer look and hope that this blog could be helpful in some way. You might be aware that Thomas Jefferson, a deist like yourself, held Jesus and the Gospels in very high regard (as do modern-day Christian Deists), even though he did not believe in miracles or in Jesus’s divine nature. Jefferson’s own edited version of the scriptures separated out the moral teaching from the miracles, but it is worth comparing to the originals, and reflecting on some of the reasons I give for holding Christianity to be true and unique among religions (see also my comments below directed at the spiritual but not religious).  Also, please note that the warm sentiments that I directed at Muslim and Jewish readers (see above) apply to your faith as well.  Except perhaps that in sharing my faith with you, there is nothing I need worry about tearing down. You already have belief in a Creator, and probably recognize similar ethical demands as I do. So what Christianity has to offer you is hopefully good news, fellowship, and a more personal relationship.  I expect you have good reasons for not having reached the same conclusion, but I hope I’ve been able to challenge them somewhere in these pages.

If you consider yourself spiritual but not religious … it might surprise you to find that Jesus is often not on the side of organized religion.  The powerful religious leaders of 1st century Judea, the most outwardly pious and proper men of that time and place, were targets of criticism from Jesus for their self-righteousness, for burdening people with religious demands, and for using religion as a money-making scheme, and for passing death sentences in God’s name.  If you see some of these same behaviors in today’s world from people claiming to represent Jesus, take note that He warned us about such folks, and that the way to distinguish true followers of Jesus is by the love they have for one another.

If you consider yourself an agnostic … I understand where you are coming from.  In many areas of life, skepticism is a healthy instinct.  For example, those who are too certain in their minds about who’s going to win the 6th race at Churchill Downs, or whom they can trust, often find themselves with empty wallets or broken hearts.  On the other hand, unwillingness to take a risk or make a stand on anything without absolute certainty can lead to a lack of close relationships, a dull job, and a few low-yielding savings bonds.  On the biggest questions of all, the meaning of life, the existence of God, the identity of Jesus, and so on, sitting on the sidelines means missing out on a major part of what it has meant to be human for centuries.  In a technical sense of the word, perhaps everyone (except for those who had an absolutely unmistakable direct encounter with God) is an agnostic.  But in the common usage of the word, agnostic has come to mean sitting out of the discussion (or making fun of it).  I realize that some Christian groups seem to require a level of certainty from their members, but just as many would welcome you as you are, with your doubts and imperfections and everything else.  The essence of being a Christian is making a choice of the whole heart to follow Jesus, and to believe something is not the same thing as having certainty about it.  You can read more about this problem here.  I’d encourage you to start with small steps, perhaps by engaging with some of the questions and answers here relating to the existence of God.

If you are an atheist … there is admittedly a large gulf that separates our thinking.  I respect that many atheists are sincere seekers of truth, and that many hold to ethical codes not too different from my own.  It saddens me that so much of the dialogue between Christians and atheists (especially online) is characterized by a lack of courtesy, either outright or subtle.  I have strenuously tried to avoid this here in these pages, but please let me know if I fail to do this at any point.  As for the content of the blog, I expect you will have trouble relating to most of the specifically Christian ideas.  I would encourage you to engage with some of the questions and answers relating to the existence of God.  If I manage to nudge your thinking in the direction of agnosticism or deism, I would be pleased with that.

So, just curious, what do you believe?

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4 thoughts on “What You Believe”

  1. I just started reading your blog. I was drawn to your friendly manner and, although we differ philosophically (I am a happy, happy atheist) I like your style of Christianity, and the way in which you express it.

    1. PS…If you manage to nudge my thinking in the direction of agnosticism…?…you know, I could say the same…( I can tease you, right?)

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