A reasonable faith is the title of a book someone wrote and I have plagiarized the title as I am not trying to be very original. I know there are some who may not take this very seriously because I am not referencing my sources. I am not attempting to be an academic here. Its a blog for crying out loud and this is my blog I make the rules……. so sue me!
Besides the title stating a reasonable faith one might ask what a reasonable faith is. Well since its me writing this you are getting my take on the subject.
Over my 34 years as a Christian I have been both encouraged and discouraged to actually engage my brain and understand what I believe and why I believe it. Those who have discouraged me essentially told me that I should just accept the bible as true and believe it without question because if I did I would be showing a lack of faith. They told me that getting too intellectual about faith could lead me into liberalism. I was told that the bible was to be taken literally that it doesn’t contain allegory and symbolism.
Those who hold this position generally scoff at textual criticism and most higher learning such as learning Greek or Hebrew or studying theology as suspect. You can’t trust those scholars they have all been infected by liberalism; stick to simple interpretation of the bible and trust the Holy Spirit to guide you.
In this camp parishioners tend to rely heavily on the Pastor or teaching elders to guide their understanding of the bible. I noted in my previous blog that very often parishioners have a tendency to parrot their leaders and simply crumble or revert to circular reasoning when asked why they believe what they do. The response is often “Pastor Smith says………:’ or Rev Jones told me……. So when asked but what does it mean to you? They invariably give very similar answers to those they are taught by their authority. If you think I am just aiming this at the fundamentalists you would be wrong! Group thinking or herd mentality is as common in the more critical thinking circles as it is in in those that are less inclined to think so deeply on matters of faith and belief. To be honest we all have a our chosen guru’s that we like to quote. If you have a tendency towards debate ad being an apologist like me you might be be drawn to people such as William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharius James White or Paul Washer to name a few. I don’t dwell in fundamentalists circles so I don’t have much interest in Chuck Mislier or Charles Swindol and those goes but you can easily recognize which camp are in by the people they quote.
That is all well and fine but the tendency is to put the above mentioned on pedestals as though they are speaking infallibly. A well formed sentence within what appears to be a well formed argument or defense can be very appealing. Also a well stated devotion can sound very spiritual and inspire some one to take their faith more seriously but that doesn’t necessarily make them right or what they have said true. Some classic examples from current affairs in the church is the downfall of Mr Bill Gothard.
Bill has been leading seminars since the 1960’s on how to live the Christian life. Recently Bill was dethroned because of his ungodly behavior. Ironically Bill had been teaching heresy for nearly five decades which influenced hundreds of thousands and no one noticed the red flags waving! Those who did raise the alarm were largely ignored. I told you so! in retrospect is a redundant statement. Now there is a group that expose Bill and act as a refuge to those effected by his teachings and behavior. Not to sound overly insensitive but closing the gate after the horse has bolted just leaves the rescuers to salvage the victims.
One more example that may highlight my point is the current popularity of the left behind series by Tim Lahaye. Most of us would recognize that the Left Behind series is a fictionalization of one perspective regarding the end times, mostly a dispensationalist premillennial view. Not only is it bad to base your beliefs on something that is so speculative, it can be down right disastrous. If you watch any TV, there has been a series about those preparing for the end times or a post apocalyptic world. Peoples spending their life savings and their lives obsessing about what could happen is not a healthy way to live. Watch ten year old children practicing with autonomic fire arms for Armageddon is more than a little disturbing.
My point here is not that all these examples are necessarily bad, its the amount of faith we put in these men to guide us while we state “Amen Brother! Very often we give our leaders the status of a Prophet sprooking some unfathomable wisdom.
During my days on the mission field it wasn’t uncommon for my comrades to quote the director and other leaders of our organization, or other speakers/writers who thought in a similar vein. I saw the red flags during my internship and should have left right then but its never that easy when your on the inside. One little statement by our then director should have been the point for a mass exodus away from that para church organization. “God forbid that you should go back to where you came from! Not meaning God forbid you should go back to the sin you once lived in; God forbid you should settle back into your home churches after having served with us, this is where you should stay!
The Pressure to conform within any social group is enormous! Within a religious setting it is no different, it should be but its not. In fact the pressure within many Christian groups to conform to the ideology and theology of that group is probably stronger than secular groups. I have recently distanced myself from a fellowship where the Pastor would say the Church didn’t force its beliefs on the group members to conform to its standards or impose its ideology on others. However from the pulpit it was clear that there was an expectation that certain norms were preferable while others weren’t an issue. Over a long period of time in private communication with one of its leaders over a number of issues it became clear that trying to reason with them was as useful as butting my head on a wall!
The issues raised in that long dialogue (if one could call it dialogue) came down to what I can only call faith in tradition that lacked reason on the absence of evidence.
That all being said you can intimate that I never took the road more traveled and just followed the crowd. Faith in God can be reasonable and it can be articulated intelligently so that nonbelievers can see you have actually thought about what you believe and you can defend it vigorously. What you believe and why you believe it doesn’t have to be because I believe in it and that’s why. Faith doesn’t need to be circular. Faith doesn’t need to be based on faulty information. Faith is not a personality contest where we follow one man or another because they have the latest argument that annihilates our opposition. Faith doesn’t need to be based on the greatest thinkers.
What faith needs to be based on is the truth of the Gospel about Jesus Christ. Christ can be defended from both the bible and from History. The Bible can be defended from History and archaeology. The manuscript evidence for the reliability of the bible narrative is overwhelming. Faith in Christ can be defended against atheism, it can be defended against all other religions.
The big question at the end of all this is have you convinced yourself of the truthfulness of your faith? Is it your faith or is it second hand?