Not sure what to believe any more


#1

Similar to one of the topics here “Struggling to believe”, posted by Evan, I think I might be going through a similar crisis. I have read a few replies on that thread and have found that helpful, but felt the need to start my own thread too given that we seem to struggle with slightly different issues. So hopefully this thread doesn’t count as a double-up.

I didn’t grow up in the church, in fact I am an immigrant so I was born in a non-Christian country and moved to a “Western” country (I won’t reveal where, because it’s not all that relevant).

Started coming in contact with Christian ideas since about teenage-hood and I believe came to faith in my young adult-hood. And still am a young adult now (not that age really matters. I don’t see this problem going away with age). I was a YEC at the start and slowly moved away from it.

I feel like anyone coming to faith has to have a lot of trust for the Christians to essentially to get it right, and I saw integrity in the people who presented to me the Gospel, and trusted there must’ve been good evidence for believing. Some of my distress started when I saw one of the Christians who presented the Gospel to me, grossly misrepresent/understate the evidence for evolution… and just won’t listen to correction.

I am deeply troubled by how YEC Christians around me seem to be living in a constant state of cognitive dissonance and are ok with it. I believe most of them see at least some of the evidence for old earth but would kill their rationality by saying something like: the physical laws could’ve been different or that the flood would’ve changed the conditions so we can’t be sure of the original conditions. I don’t think they lack integrity, but perhaps it is quite hard to go against something that you’ve been taught since childhood. So much so that evidence that seem to contradict their worldview wouldn’t bother them. And I think that no amount of evidence would ever be able to make them give up the YEC view. To me, that is not a sign of a healthy belief.

When I raise what I see to be good evidence for old earth/ common descent, many would point out that human reasoning is flawed and we shouldn’t base our faith on evidence. This is disturbing, because rational thinking is what helped lead me to Christianity in the first place, or else I might just as well be believing some certain Eastern religion (I won’t bother to name it because it’s not all that important) from my country of origin. Do they expect me to follow evidence/use rationality up until it convinces me of Christianity, and then throw away my rational thinking altogether? It doesn’t make sense. If you don’t use rational thinking, how do you even decide which religion is the true one?

Those few Christians that seem to accept Genesis as something that can be interpreted non-literally do help resolve my conflict a little, but I don’t think they completely are off the hook in terms of believing in contradictory things either. I think it is somewhat of a cop-out to say that the apparent contradictions between how the natural world seem to have been created and the Genesis account, is because we shouldn’t be reading the text literally. How is this different from the YECs who are trying to explain away evidence against their belief as they see fit?

And also I fear what it means for Biblical inerrancy. Even if interpreting genesis non-literally doesn’t go against inerrancy. It seems like it would be quite easy to prove by counter-example that the Bible isn’t inerrant. And I’m not naive enough anymore to think there are no such examples. Some would say that inerrancy isn’t a critical issue - but I am reluctant to agree.

And most of all, I suffer from a general lack of trust for any Christian materials now. I know of and have been reading apologetics material, but a lot of them seem greatly exaggerated. I don’t doubt the sincerity or the integrity of Christians who present the materials, but the selection bias is so strong in the YEC community, and now that I have observed the possibility of intelligent people continually living in cognitive dissonance, how can I trust Christians on any other issue?

One thing I am quite sure of is the reliability of the new testament… the dating of the manuscripts, the eyewitness accounts, the resurrection, the historicity of the NT as a whole. And this all leads me to conclude that the most parsimonious explanation is that Jesus indeed did rise from the dead and that He is who He claimed to be.

However I am less sure of the historicity of the old testament. I am currently weary of the field of Biblical archaeology because it seems like it is a relatively new field and might suffer from the same “throw away evidence that doesn’t fit and only keep the ones that do” from the YEC community. I actually trust the scientific peer review system quite a lot. So more inclined to believe Biblical archaeology if the results are properly peer reviewed, and undergo critical examination by non-Christians. I have read on apologetics websites big claims like “Archeaology has never found anything against a Biblical account.” and I’m just not sure if that is true. I seem to recall a few instances that might indicate otherwise.

Finally, I have read some things about humans quite prone to find patterns where there is none. Also, it can be argued that people really WANT to believe in an afterlife, because it feels better to believe in that, that there would be enormous selective bias. I used to think that this need wouldn’t affect rational thinking too much. But I can see just how much this can affect someone’s thinking now in how YECs twist and turn the evidence to fit what they want to believe. Maybe not intentionally. But that’s the scary part… it seems you can easily live with contradictions in your head as long as they fit your spiritual need. It doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence.

In summary:

  1. What is the relationship between evidence and faith in Christianity?
  2. Is human reasoning really that unreliable? How else are we supposed to arrive at the conclusion that Christianity is true and other religions are not?
  3. Saying we can interpret Genesis non-literally, isn’t that a type of contradictory thinking?
  4. Is the Bible really inerrant? How important is it?
  5. Are some areas of apologetics as heavily tainted with selection bias as the selection bias that goes on in the YEC community?
  6. Can I trust the historicity of the OT? Is Biblical archaeology trustworthy as a field? Are there any books you can recommend?
  7. How do we know that we are not just cherry picking the evidence we want to see, given that we might have a spiritual need that incline us to want to believe in the afterlife.

I am really just on the hunt for truth. And finding it hard to relate to Christians around me that seem completely sure of their faith without needing evidence. Also, I hope I don’t come off as condescending to YECs - almost all of my Christian friends hold to that view and they are very lovely people. Finally, feel free to correct me on anything you think is incorrect thinking. I really welcome opinions/material from skeptics too. I am resolved to tackle doubt head-on.


(Matthew Pevarnik) #2

Thanks for your post. My wife questioned me the other day if everything I believe had to be peer reviewed as I questioned the sounds used for dinosaurs in pop-science movies like Jurassic Park! I at first shrugged my shoulders but then decided to retort back something along the lines of “I certainly respect the work done by people who have devoted their lives to investigating the sounds of dinosaurs!”

I think in general the Genesis text of ‘literal’ is really the wrong question. The question, in my opinion, is what did the original authors of the text mean to say? And even if there is ‘bad science’ in the Scriptures, the idea of divine accommodation ought to be explored (i.e. God speaking to us in a way that we can understand).–for example see: http://biologos.org/blogs/archive/from-the-mailbag-why-would-god-allow-scientific-errors-in-the-bible. Or here’s an interview between Peter Enns and N.T. Wright that you might enjoy: http://biologos.org/resources/audio-visual/nt-wright-and-pete-enns-what-do-you-mean-by-literal

Apologetics has been a strange thing for me as it seems the main goal (with science apologetics) is to cast doubt and aspersion on science, boldly declaring ‘scientists don’t know’ and ‘God just did it.’ Certainly there can be selection bias in the area of apologetics, as Dr. Venema points out critiquing Reasons to Believe seemingly ignoring new research publications (http://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/an-evangelical-geneticists-critique-of-reasons-to-believes-testable-creation-model-pt-1). I’ve come across multiple arguments from YEC camps that only bother citing the original paper while ignoring any corrections or more recent research (for example see this clip illustrating YEC Russ Humphreys ignoring new data on quantized redshifts). At the end of the day, I’ve found myself in a sort of anti-anti-evolutionist perspective thoroughly convinced of the beauty of evolution by the sheer overwhelming amount of data. A lot of excellent articles on the BioLogos site have been helpful in summarizing much of the research without this gut-wrenching anti-science bend that much of Christian apologetics tends to take.

Finally, I’d just like to recommend a few books that I’ve found interesting regarding the inerrancy of Scripture:
Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament and Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy.

There are many excellent other works out there and I wish you well on your journey.


(Christy Hemphill) #3

I second this recommendation.


(Jay Johnson) #4

This is not cognitive dissonance. Some Christians believe that accepting evolution would mean denying God and abandoning their faith. Their opinion is that the word of God, because it is the word of God, must be entirely truthful and accurate, and anything that goes against the word of God must therefore be wrong. You are right that no amount of evidence would ever be able to make them give up their YEC view, if they believe it is crucial to their faith. And honestly, if they are secure in their own faith, we should leave them comfortably alone. People who believe this and are not troubled by counter-evidence do not suffer from cognitive dissonance. People like you, who were taught this viewpoint but cannot avoid seeing the problems with it, are the ones suffering cognitive dissonance.

We always must be careful to choose our counselors wisely, and that is what you are doing when you choose reading material. You have been exposed to only one “brand” of Christianity, as far as I can tell. Perhaps read some other viewpoints, in something other than apologetics. A healthy diet needs more than one food group. Feed your spirit, not just your brain.


(Jay Johnson) #5
  1. Faith does not violate reason, but exceeds it. Both Christ and his apostles appealed to evidence. Faith is not irrational, as some would have it.
  2. Two extremes: to exclude reason, to admit reason only.
  3. If you had never read the story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2-3, and your college instructor assigned it as a topic of a paper, would you read and interpret it as a literal story, or as something else?
  4. You, yourself, have already answered the question. Are you going to try to force yourself to believe that it is inerrant when you don’t believe that it is? Isn’t that self-defeating? There are many faithful Christians who hold to the authority and inspiration of the Bible without insisting on strict inerrancy. This is not an either-or proposition.
  5. Yes. There are far more bad books of apologetics than good ones. Choose carefully. Most of them probably do more harm than good.
  6. I’ll skip this for now. Too many complications to get into.
  7. “Taste, and see that the Lord is good.” This is the sort of evidence that comes from living a life in Christ, not from books. We often hear the Lord’s words quoted: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” What is forgotten is that Jesus said that in the context of following his teaching. In other words, the truth that sets us free is found in following Christ as his disciple in everyday life. If you want to know whether what Jesus said is true, test it for yourself. Do what he said and live as he advised, and you will find out whether he spoke the truth from God or not.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #6

So many good questions – thanks for sharing these. Taking a bit at a time, I would like to mull over your first two for a bit, hoping that you might find a clarifying insight.

Evidence of the empirical sort is something that we value to take us as far as it can reach. And when empirical evidence has reached the end of its leash, but important questions still remain we (some of us) consider a wider body of evidence that comes from collective and individual human experience (testimony). This is evidence of the “taste and see” sort. Just as with empirical evidence, it isn’t infallible – and with much harder questions. It isn’t blind to the empirical sorts of evidence, in fact including, even subsuming it for the thinking religious person. There are those Christians who do wish to dictate what the empirical evidence must find and how it must be interpreted. They are willing to dismiss it if it doesn’t meet their expectations. But there are a great many of us that find that to be an unsatisfactory and highly fallible addition to the gospel message. And every step of the way, whether trying to stay just within the stricter empirical evidence or evaluating all the evidence –faith is the backbone of it all. Nobody escapes this contra to what so many try to spin here. People can deny it, but that only cripples their self-reflection and leaves their faith dangerously un-examined. But we all have faith in something, and it is 100% unsupported (by definition) because those parts that we can see by opening our eyes is no longer faith but knowledge. God gave us good minds to use. We walk by the daylight for as far as that will take us. That is taken for granted – hence the needed reminder in Hebrews [corrective edit: this is from 2 Corinthians (not Hebrews)] that “we walk by faith, not by sight”. I take this to mean that where the questions of life and love really start getting interesting and important, then it is where (in whom rather) our faith is placed that becomes really, really important and our sight cannot take us all the way. It doesn’t mean we should gouge out our eyes and then beg for direction. We use our eyes for all they’re worth and then realize that they are not everything and nor can they be. Faith was always there too, and for some things it is faith alone.

So think of evidence as your “starter kit” toward helping you incubate a relationship of trust with your creator. The bible doesn’t shy away from inviting us to “taste and see”. Some even get inspired by the stricter empirical kind, but problems arise when they want to live there and want that evidence alone to deliver them all the way to the promise land. They want to go the whole way laboring under the idea that faith and trust need not ever be involved. But when that fails, their faith [in God] flounders and their real faith commitments are revealed. Be careful what you have set your spiritual sights on. Is your faith in Christianity? or Christ? The first may simply be the trappings of a religion, or set of doctrinal propositions, a certain way that Scripture must be read, a whole body of things --some useful toward turning your view to Christ and maybe a whole lot to distract away from Christ. The latter --faith in Christ is a relationship with a person, involving trust, love, devotion, study, … lots of things that Christ produces in us when we are found in him. He precedes them all – they don’t [of themselves] lead us to him.

The notion of “Christianity being true” is already a strange one as you might have gathered from what I said above. As a religion “Christianity” includes an impressive array of extra-biblical writings, creeds, prophecies, convictions, and every manner of notion. Given that many Christian denominations may have put forward exclusive claims about this or that, I guess we would have to say there must be falsehoods there, right? At this point the agenda-driven anti-theist is satisfied that his biases are confirmed, and he walks away. This would be about like us approaching science with the question: was France right? or Germany? And even when we find faulty scientific conjectures in the history of both nations, we don’t then dismiss all science as bunk. The question itself is absurd because these are nations with histories involving a myriad of minds. Even narrowing down to just one French or German person still requires us that we focus in on one proposition authored by that person before we can begin to address truth or falsehood. So there will not be any major world religion with all the complexity entailed within that can manage to get everything wrong. Nor will any of them get everything right. And in any case, this is pretending that the word truth (when we speak of it religiously) refers merely to a set of propositions.

So to be fair to your question then, you probably are really asking is Christ our one True lord (where Truth is something more than a mere proposition, though it certainly includes that at its core). Here is one short answer I propose as a Christian: Christ is True. Religions just are. Is this my unreliable human reason talking? It sure is. I want to use it for all it’s worth, but I have to learn to trust Christ in the midst of my fallible reasoning and also for the rest where my reasoning can’t reach. Whatever denomination or even religion then follows (or preceded that according to your birth circumstances) is neither here nor there, but is destined to be considered part of Paul’s proverbial “rubble” given over that we may know Christ. Some or much of it may even be redeemed as Christ comes to reign. Other parts changed or driven away. And that will apply to the religion that now goes by the name “Christianity” along with everything else.

May Christ make himself real to you and strengthen and encourage you, and all of us to heed his call together.


(Jennifer Thomas) #7

Hello, SamuraiChamploo. I enjoyed reading your post and your questions. I hope you won’t mind if I offer some thoughts. For context’s sake, I should mention that I’m Canadian and that I work in a part of the Greater Toronto Area where a lot of families come from non-Christian countries. I don’t have much personal experience with evangelical or fundamental Christianity. My Christian background is quite liberal, inclusive, and formed by exposure to social justice issues (very Canadian!), the hard sciences (especially chemistry), and current research in neurophysiology and mental health.

With regard to the questions you’ve asked (and being willing to ask is really the hardest part of the journey of faith, in my experience), I can share a few observations that may (or may not!) be of help to you.

1) What is the relationship between evidence and faith in Christianity?
For this question, I head straight recent research on a theory about the brain’s functioning called “Dual Process Theory.” This theory suggests that the brain has not one but two main “operating systems,” if you will, that run in parallel to each other and each have different strengths, goals, and ways of understanding the self, God, and the universe. We need both System 1 and System 2 in order to function in balanced, emotionally mature, consistent, logical, and empathetic ways. System 1 (which appears to be the older processing system in evolutionary terms) is hardwired for non-linear “messy” emotions and responses such as empathy, creativity, non-Materialist intuition, and the impulse towards faith (which may or may not include organized religion). System 2, meanwhile, provides us with our human abilities to reason, organize, and figure out how to turn the “crazy impulses” of our System 1 circuits into useful, practical, technological advances that benefit our communities. So the human brain needs both evidence and faith. And Christianity at its best (though admittedly Christianity has often strayed from its best self) provides “brain food” for both System 1 and System 2 processing systems. In other words, when Christianity is done right, it can be a strong stabilizing factor in achieving and preserving our mental health – which is pretty awesome, when you think about it.

2) Is human reasoning really that unreliable? How else are we supposed to arrive at the conclusion that Christianity is true and other religions are not?
There’s really no way to arrive at faith in the teachings of Jesus through reason alone. If you try, then you’re using only the System 2 systems of your brain, and that kind of defeats of the whole purpose of becoming a “whole brain thinker” who can relate to God through both reason (the mind) and through empathy and intuition (the heart). Jesus’ teachings on the equal importance of both mind and heart are, in fact, the teachings that set him apart from all his peers. At some point, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not you think Jesus was right about how we can be in full relationship with God. This is a messy relationship decision, not a purely logical decision. If you make the decision to go with relationship (with its messy complications), you’ll probably find, as many people do, that you won’t care as much about who’s right and who’s wrong.

3) Saying we can interpret Genesis non-literally, isn’t that a type of contradictory thinking?
It’s not a contradiction if you’re willing to read everything in the Bible for both its System 2 content (i.e. its linear logic) and its System 1 content (i.e. the non-linear logic that sort of pops out at you like one of those 2D pictures that suddenly builds a 3D image when you stare it just the right way). I personally see some interesting early insights into the brain’s neuroscience when I read Genesis 2-3. In particular, I think a case can be made for reading the Tree of Life as our faith-based System 1 networks and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as our reason-based System 2 networks. When we eat only of the Hellenistic Tree of Knowledge, we set ourselves up for a whole lot of problems in our relationship with God.

4) Is the Bible really inerrant? How important is it?
I personally don’t see the Bible as inerrant. How could it be when Mother Father God are continually communicating with us on so many different levels? No relationship worth keeping can ever be fully expressed – let alone maintained – through the words in a single book. A lot of Christians (at least among the liberal Christian communities I know) have let go of the idea the Bible’s inerrancy without in any way losing their faith. Hint: it’s the obsessive-compulsive tendency of the brain’s System 2 circuits that clings to the idea of inerrancy.

5) Are some areas of apologetics as heavily tainted with selection bias as the selection bias that goes on in the YEC community?
Any field of apologetics, whether it’s YEC, scientism, atheism, or today’s new religion of “identity politics” is tainted with selection bias. It’s hard work to push the brain to be open-minded about anything, especially when the brain is being asked to be open-minded about relationship with God. You have to learn to train your own brain to listen to both reason and faith at the same time. You also need to learn to forgive others in the way Jesus taught forgiveness. In my experience, this is the only way to let go of the frustration of dealing with set-in-their-way apologists of any stripe.

6) Can I trust the historicity of the OT? Is Biblical archaeology trustworthy as a field? Are there any books you can recommend?
You can’t trust all of it (which is true of any field) but you can trust some of it. I highly recommend the magazine Biblical Archeology Review, which is the only magazine I currently subscribe to. (Sorry, Scientific American, but you didn’t make the cut.) You can easily find BAR by googling it. BAR also provides links to multiple reputable articles by biblical archeologists and biblical studies scholars.

7) How do we know that we are not just cherry picking the evidence we want to see, given that we might have a spiritual need that incline us to want to believe in the afterlife.
Well, we don’t. All any of us can do is make a commitment to be as honest with ourselves as we can as human beings. To be honest with ourselves is another of the great challenges posed to us by God and by Jesus’ teachings. You really can’t do it unless you (a) set some time aside each day to reflect on the day’s “lessons” and decide whether you made any big mistakes or not; (b) set some time aside each day to forgive both your own mistakes and the mistakes made by others; © ask God to help you figure out what’s worth keeping and what’s worth tossing (see (a) and (b)) and be prepared to go through some experiences of confusion and struggle as God helps you sort the wheat from the chaff; and (d) let yourself off the hook for not being perfect, not knowing all the answers, and not always getting the balance between heart and mind right. You’re only human, after all, and God always bears this in mind, even when we sometimes forget.

I wish you well on your journey of faith. Keep asking questions and keep listening for the answers from God!

God bless,
Jen


#8

Thanks for the replies. I would have to take some time to think through all of them/check out the resources so will not be able to give sufficient responses at this point. It might help to clarify on some things, so you might understand a bit more of what “kind” of Christianity I’ve been taught, that might help you all understand why I find the inerrancy of the Bible so hard to let go of.

As Jay313 has guessed, I have been taught mostly one “brand”, a highly conservative kind that holds very dearly to inerrancy of scripture and YEC. So when scripture contradicts what we observe in the world, it is immediately our thinking or our interpretation of science (or science altogether) that is flawed. This is a big hint as to why I’m asking this question anonymously online rather than very openly in my church.

To any others who might reply to this thread (and I am very grateful to your replies, I might add!), it might be useful to know why I am so concerned with the question “Why Christianity is true, rather than another religion”. Being an immigrant, almost my entire family are non-Christians, and grew up in an entirely different culture/thinking system and some of them adhere very strongly to an Eastern religion popular in my home country. As I am thinking through these issues, many well-meaning Christians would point out to me that Christianity “makes the most sense”. I am very weary of this argument, because it doesn’t seem like sound logic. To my relatives, they might argue that the particular Eastern religion makes most sense to them. And indeed, I can see that the teachings in that religion makes very good sense of some parts of reality/ the human experience. This is why I am weary of appealing to “common sense” as an explanation of why Christianity is true - because even though it is common sense to those who grew up in a Christian home or indeed a country with a Christian foundation - would it be common sense to someone from another cultural background?

I don’t think the common sense argument is good even in a Christian country, because people start taking it to the extreme… like how people in the West tend to think that God has to be loving… and if certain passages of scripture doesn’t conform to their expectations of how a loving God should behave, then they reject it altogether. Meanwhile, people in other cultures have huge trouble accepting the concept of a loving deity.

Many will point to Romans 1:20 as evidence that people are aware of God so we don’t necessarily need to present any evidence. The passage seems to say that creation is sufficient evidence to point to a Creator. I don’t know if the passage takes us all the way to the Christian God though. So maybe it isn’t all that unreasonable for people to ask for evidence that show that the Christian God better accounts for reality compared to some other religion?

Also, not sure how much we can rely on personal experience, simply because other religions also appeal to personal experience as evidence. Then it becomes very tricky.

I will admit that I find inerrancy of scripture very appealing because I thought it could help to show my relatives that the Bible is more trustworthy than their scriptures (for those that believe in some other scripture). Their scriptures seem to contain numerous errors that doesn’t fit with the reality we know. So if the Bible is indeed inerrant, one could point out that there is a very good reason to switch beliefs - from scriptures that contain errors, to the Bible - that supposedly don’t contain any errors.

I guess I am trying to say I don’t know how to approach people of other religions, to show them why the Bible is true even though it seems to contain errors that contradict the reality around us, just as other religious texts do. To me, rational thinking is the best way we have as humans to impartially assess whether something is reasonable (I know we can never be completely impartial or have perfect reasoning, but it is the best we have, I think). And I thought the best way to approach sharing the gospel with non-Christians, especially those of other religions who might have a strong emotional attachment and cultural attachment to their original religion: is to show that Christianity is the most reasonable through some sort of logical deduction. Of course logic can’t get us all the way, but I do believe it is pretty important that our beliefs are not logically contradictory or completely irrational.

Also, it is very important to me that we don’t put culture or our opinions above the word of God… as in, we shouldn’t ever interpret scriptures the way we want to interpret it, but conform ourselves to what it says. But as soon as you take away the inerrancy of scripture, it seems to me there is a larger space for human emotion/culture/opinions to “read into” scripture and justify not following certain parts of scripture. What I have been taught in the conservative Christian circle is that those who accept evolution are compromisers, and it is first step in a slippery slope, etc. These ideas had a huge impact on me and is most of the reason I lived in cognitive dissonance for so long.

Perhaps I just need to re-evaluate how I view the relationship between logical reasoning, evidence and Christianity. And what part personal experience plays into it all. I hope you get more of a sense of my dilemma right now. And thank you for responding, to those who have, it is helpful. I do want to talk to other Christians about my struggles, but haven’t been able to really find anyone I can be completely honest with.


(Christy Hemphill) #9

A professor I met at a BioLogos conference teaches apologetics and philosophy at the University of Hong Kong. His name is Andrew Loke and he has focused on presenting apologetic arguments for Christianity to an Eastern audience (primarily Chinese and Singapore, I think). Here is a link to some videos posted by the Hong Kong Centre for Christian Apologetics, in case they are helpful.


The doctrine of the Trinity? Why?
(Jay Johnson) #10

How long have you been a Christian? Are you really settled enough in your own faith and beliefs to worry about how to share the gospel with non-Christians? I understand your desire to be a witness for Christ, and to see your own family come to faith in the Lord, but I doubt that you are ready for the things you have been told you should do. I would suggest that you wait until you mature in your own faith and convictions before you even start worrying about how to convince your family and others about the truth of Christianity.

I had many apologetics arguments and discussions with non-believers when I was a young man, and I am certain that I did more harm than good. Looking back on it, I spoke in ignorance and immaturity, all the while thinking that I was sharing the good news. My advice, then, is to change your approach to your family and friends. For now, do not try to convince them with words, but show them by your good and loving conduct that Christ has made a difference in your life. Pray for them. Let them observe this change in you over the course of many years, and you eventually will have the opportunity to share the gospel in a meaningful way.

God bless you. Hang in there!


#11

I’ve read that the bulk of apologetics isn’t for people that don’t already believe. I think that work tends to lack either the necessary rigor or objective basis to appeal universally, compared to philosophy. The Necessary God of philosophy is far removed from the God envisioned in apologetics.

Or put another way, as you have seen: “Talk is cheap. Best to demonstrate by example.” Deng Ming-Dao, a Taoist artist and philosopher writes: “Though others have faults, concentrate on your own.”


(Christy Hemphill) #12

4 posts were split to a new topic: The doctrine of the Trinity? Why?


The doctrine of the Trinity? Why?
(sy_garte) #13

@SamuraiChamploo,

You raise an important question, how can we be sure that Christianity is the “true” or “correct” religion, or as you put it, that Christianity makes more sense than say, Shinto or Zen, or Islam. I believe that that question has no answer, and is not worth asking. I am a Christian, but not because I did a careful logical analysis of several religions, and also not because I was raised as a Christian. When I began to think that there might be a God (that took a long time), I explored a number of religions or ways of interacting with that God. Some I found to be too difficult to adapt to, some involve too much cognitive dissonance with my scientific worldview. I tried a couple, and found them spiritually fulfilling, but lacking somehow.

I was resistant to Christianity based on my upbringing, but after a number of personal experiences, it dawned on me that the idea that God became human, walked and taught among people, and left a message of love and peace, was something new. I explored more, and found it very compelling.

I never thought to worry about the Old Testament, it is after all a series of books written for and read by a specific tribal religion (one of the others I investigated) the adherents of which do not come close to taking it literally. I know this goes against what you have learned (and what most Christians believe) but I devoted myself to understanding the Gospels and the NT. That is where I found the inspiration, the “sense” and the ultimate meaning of Christianity.

So, dont worry about the OT too much. Read John Walton and others to decide how to interpret the OT, and find a denomination that does not insist on Biblical inerrancy. You will still be a Christian, and you will still be walking with Christ, in my very non expert opinion.

None of this means that Christianity is the “Right” religion, only that it was right for me, I do believe that Christ came to us to tell us the good news, and that He was God incarnate, but I cant prove that, and I dont argue on it. If you believe that also, live as a Christ follower, do mercy, worship God, and dont worry about convincing anyone else (or yourself) that you are correct. You are. Full stop.


(Richard Wright) #14

Hi Sy,

I vibed with most of what you wrote, we seem to have come from similar religious pasts, and think that it could prove helpful to SumaraiChamploo. However, there is a need to be able to talk about the Christian faith relative to others, since we are commanded by Jesus to make disciples of peoples of all nations and backgrounds. Many of them will have questions, and one of those will certainly be, “Why do I need to choose Jesus over the religion that I was born into?”.

Also, it’n not about being the, “correct” religion. It’s the fact that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6):

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

We’re therefore compelled, as Jesus’ followers, to persuade others, our being an example part of it, to become Christians. So SumaraiChamploo asks some legitimate questions.


The doctrine of the Trinity? Why?
(Jay Johnson) #15

Making disciples may be different than preaching the gospel, which may be different from “being ready to give a defense of the hope that is within you.” All I’m saying is that not everyone has the same gifts. Not everyone is called to be an evangelist. And, in my humble opinion, even those who are gifted in that area should wait until they are mature in their faith before attempting to instruct others. (Speaking in general, not to the OP.)

Your mileage may vary.


(sy_garte) #16

Thanks for the comment, @Richard_Wright1 , and I dare say you are right. I do consider myself an evangelist for the truth of Christ, but I tend to take a less direct approach. While I fully agree that Jesus is the only way to God, I have found that simply telling people that fact is not always convincing. I know I tended to tune out when confronted directly with that simple truth, and needed to find it at least partially on my own, through my own personal experience. I think the most important thing in prosyletizing (speaking as a rank amateur, however) is to steer people in the right direction, and let them be in a position to hear the ever present voice and call of the Holy Spirit.


(Richard Wright) #17

Hi Jay,

Though we’re not all called to be evangelists, we are all called to make disciples AND to be prepared to answer.

  1. Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus told the 11 disciples in the Great Commission to make disciples, then to teach them (the disciples) to, “obey everything I have commanded you”. That to me is a direct command from Jesus himself that we are to make disciples. What is expected from us will vary according to our talent level, but we’re all commanded to do it, not just the minister or a few church leaders. Evangelists have a special role to do public teaching.

1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

We should all be prepared, no matter at what point we are in our faith, to tell people why have the hope that we have. Of course the wording will be different according to the faith, length of time as a Christian, talent level, etc. of the professing believer. But if the other person is genuinely seeking God, it doesn’t matter who reaches out to them, they just want to know if God can help them in their lives or answer their questions. If someone is new to the faith, and finds someone who is open, then they can always bring them to someone who knows more - that’s the way it’s done in my church anyway.

In other words, Christianity is a proactive faith, at least that is how it was designed to be by its founder.


(Richard Wright) #18

Hi Sy,

I believe you’re right that most people don’t want to be preached to directly, and that’s not a very effective way to evangelize. Being an example is a huge part of evangelism as well, people want and demand to see if you walk the walk as well as talk the talk. But, as far as I see true, biblical Christianity, there should be more than letting our lights shine. Noone is going to get saved merely from that. (Not to start a war with anyone, but I don’t believe in, “praying Jesus into our hearts”, it’s not biblical IMO) I like to take people to a service in our church to hear the word, or to a church activity where they can be around believers and experience the difference between the world and the fellowship. After a couple of times I then have no problem asking someone if they want to study the bible. If they do, we have a series where we go over the basics of the faith. I almost always have at least one other person from the church with me, usually someone that they know. The person is called to make decisions along the way and if they make it to the end, we go to see one of the ministers (or if they have an issue along the way, I’m doing that now with a friend of mine) they’re called to decision to become a Christian. I’m not saying that’s the only way to do it but is our practice and I’ve seen that it’s a pretty effective way.


(Jay Johnson) #19

Agree wholeheartedly. And there are many ways to do it, but I think an approach that involves the church as a body, as you do, is a wise practice.


(Wayne Dawson) #20

@SamuraiChamploo
Well, anyway, I don’t recommend that you try to persuade your relatives with YEC literature, but I gather that you already understand that … or learned by the school of hard-knocks (the hard way) if not. I have a few dents of my own making along the way, even without those mistakes. :grin:

I am Christian and have lived in Japan for about 20 plus years. Japan is largely a so-called “unreached” people, and many missionaries leave Japan frustrated and feeling that it is unreachable. I work as a scientist.

There is far stronger sense honor and shame that permeates Asian culture, and individualism that we have emphasized in the West doesn’t go over so well here. Of course, you yourself, having grown up in the US are probably heavily conflicted between these two perspectives. The troubled young people from Muslim cultures often find themselves a cultural milieu; completely belonging neither to culture of their host country nor to their family’s culture. I don’t know where you are in your journey, but I gradually begin to gasp just how lost some people can really feel at certain points, and how unhelpful we who have never felt this confusion can be.

I think what @Jay313 wrote “How long have you been a Christian? Are you really settled enough in your own faith and beliefs to worry about how to share the gospel with non-Christians?” is rather important to keep in mind.

I wanted to go out into the fields of Japan for a long time, but in church, I became mostly involved in the worship music. Finally, after all these years, I felt the urge to really become part of genuine outreach. It takes a long time to build deep friendships and to understand and appreciate people who are very different. There is a lot to overcome. We are told somewhere that “people are people” and “you have to look at the individual”, yet it takes a very long time to really understand those words.

It is the same with scripture. Yeah, the bible will never be that thing where every item fits neatly in a precisely prepared slot, like YEC would have you believe. There is more uncertainty, but this will be true of all ancient writings. They reflect a wisdom that is handed many generations. They are preserved because they were worth preserving. By analogy, it is a bit like the scene in the Matrix, you have the choice between the red pill or the blue pill. The red pill means many troubles understanding the world and a hard walk of faith, but it is possible to learn to trust God through it all. The blue pill lets you live in a bubble, protected from all these issues.

Consider that your homeland culture gives you some unique perspectives that those of us who only grew up in Western culture cannot appreciate. There is a great richness and its own wisdom that your insights can add. However, this will take time and learning to appreciate both your perspectives and learning to understand God within the milieu of your own lens. I would say just be patient. Our journey with God goes through ebbs and flows. That is why it is called faith.

by Grace we proceed,