Don’t depend on the church to give you all the answers
Christianity is sometimes described as a metaphorical lens.
C S Lewis wrote: “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”
Granted, there are “shadowlands” where we don’t see quite clearly, but Lewis suggests the clarity with which we see most things – the physical world, human experience, culture, ethics – should give us confidence about what is unseen; it should be a carefully weighed decision.
Lewis here is teaching us to disciple the mind of every believer. The ramifications are huge.
Discipleship implies that intellectual wrestling is not just for evangelism, but is the sacred duty of every Christian – thinkers, scientists, artists steeped in the human condition.
In other words, it’s the duty of every mind to think. So, how exactly do we love God with our minds?
Here, many believers fall short of their responsibility: Open, inquisitive thought is seen as dangerous, and most of us rather depend on an elite bunch of theologians/pastors to join the dots and craft a legalistic creed to which we unquestionably refer.
But in our age of scepticism I cannot overemphasise how important it is to think for yourself, question and form personal faith convictions.
For Christians, this is the working out of your salvation with fear and trembling. For any earnest truth-seeker, this is the necessary path.
Jesus preached a gospel of repentance – the root word of which, metanio, suggests a mental “flip” is intentionally required. Paul was an advocate of proto-scientific methodology too (Romans 12): Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God.
Obedience to truth is not simply loyal resistance to obvious lies. Where philosophical certitude is impossible, the challenge is to consider Christianity inductively, and discern worldviews abductively.
He effectively declared: Don’t just obediently think about the right things. Change the way you think. Test everything. Challenge yourselves to see things in a whole new light. There will be gaps, but your lens should grant you vision to take things in all their vastness, beauty and complexity – a whole new big picture of reality that, to him, revealed God’s fingerprints.
So question all you need. Search till you really see. And don’t depend on the church to give you answers for everything. Seek them yourself.
Outspoken New Atheist Richard Dawkins describes the universe having “precisely the properties we would expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference”.
Dawkins simply begs the question and appeals to his own (misplaced) authority as a biologist. He fails to consider the lens over his eyes, that which leads him to see God in nothing, where a Christian might try to see God in everything.
Religious leaders often fall into the same trap. We build houses of cards and spend vast measures of energy defending them.
The duty of every thinker is to acknowledge their own predisposed lenses, wilfully perceive the world through other lenses and commit to that which offers the most clarity. The honest theist/atheist/agnostic must submit to this.
But while the obedience to truth should be the goal of every mind (1 Peter 1:22), that can only start with the humility to recognise ultimate truth as an ocean of infinite mystery, often beyond empiricism and logic.
This means that while I wouldn’t jump to Dawkins’ hasty conclusions, the frantic search often lands me a despair not far from his. I’m increasingly convinced the absolutely provable truths are existentially shallow. Through them we understand cause and effect, but they’re unable to compel most of us to existentially fulfilling decisions. They won’t fill the void in our souls.
The fundamental truths we look for – which guide and motivate us – are frustratingly beyond proof.
In our postmodern age, obedience to truth is not simply loyal resistance to obvious lies.
Refuse to settle for blind faith. Dare to question, wonder or wander.
Such an approach to faith is perfectly logical and scientifically legitimate. Unfortunately with religious faith, most unrealistically demand plain, deductive proof. Such thinkers trudge through life disappointed; meaning evades them.
It doesn’t help that masses of believers live out a “God of the gaps” faith. Because God, they declare over everything they don’t understand. The problem here is that for God to remain big, one must preserve the gaps through apathy or wilful ignorance. As any intellectual adventurer would discover, the gaps become smaller. God gets “squeezed” out.
But it’s a false dichotomy, and biggest reason why the Creationism vs Evolution or religion/cosmology debates are fundamentally futile with regard to religious faith.
If our minds didn’t invest in building or endorsing houses of cards, unbelievers wouldn’t have so much fun blowing them down. If we desire to be strong testimonies and honour the minds given to us, we need to diligently and humbly build on truth.
Fellow sceptic, we have the painful but rewarding privilege of walking the well-worn path of great men and women before us. Don’t be afraid to walk in old footprints, but keep your eyes open and test everything.
Early in the journey, the vision may blur, like that of the myopic man on his way to pick a pair of spectacles at an optics shop. But refuse to settle for blind faith. Dare to question, wonder or wander.
Returning to faith after a season of doubt, G K Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy that the he believed for the same reasons – historical, scientific, philosophical, experiential and cultural – that an earnest atheist or agnostic arrives at their conclusions.
After digging much deeper, he concluded: “I can only say my evidences of Christianity are of the same vivid but varied kind as (the average non-Christian’s) evidences against it. For when I look at these various anti-Christian truths, I simply discover that none of them are true. I discover that the true tide and force of all the facts flow the other way.”
This is why it makes sense to love the Lord our God with all our mind: He stands up to that test, too. The only way to find out is to go there.