Part I. SOME PROBLEMS FAITH FACES
You must believe in Jesus. That means no one doubts that Jesus existed. The problems, however, arise in what we believe about Jesus now.
For example, Jesus is not still alive. Anymore than Albert Einstein is still alive. Jesus may have come back from the dead, and he may have transferred into some other plane, but he is not still breathing air. Perhaps he can claim to have “conquered death” and that he never ultimately died, but he does not still walk the earth as one of us. The best he can claim is that his spirit is still alive, which is no more than the Bible claims is true for anyone: all spirits are eternal.
Furthermore, believing in Jesus does nothing for a person. Believing in Jesus does not make your life magically better, nor does it make you a better person. Believers have the same problems they had before “conversion”, and they have the same problems non-believers have. Believers also do not suddenly become good. Non-believers do as much good as believers. Many people who are not “Christians” are saving the diseased, the starving, the wounded, and the dying. Indeed, one could easily argue that few Christians care for others. Any “goodness” that a believer attains is the result of their own efforts toward maturity.
The only effect of believing in Jesus is that we potentially, usually change our thinking. But we are the cause of the change. Any change is the result of our own will, albeit blindly–changing our perspective, responses, and attitude.
Our beliefs govern our thinking, so changing a belief will change our thinking, but certainly not magically or outside of our control.
This does, however, match the message of the Bible, which is that we have free-will. According to the Bible, this free-will is the basis of our nature and our defining characteristic. The way we are “in God’s image” is this: we have an individual will and can assert our will over the whole of ourselves (mind and body) and over the whole of our environment (other people and nature). Truly god-like. So much so it is a scary. And easy to overlook.
The pervading reality of our will may explain the problem with supernatural miracles: namely that there aren’t any. Because our will completely controls all our reality, perhaps God cannot over-ride that. Perhaps God can only cause supernatural miracles for people with very little understanding and very little will. Perhaps that is what is meant in Mark 6: 5-6: “And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief.”
Which brings me to the most difficult belief: hell and heaven.
First, there is no way God will send people to be burned forever simply because they didn’t believe. That’s not a god at all; that’s something worse than Tse-Tung, Stalin, or Hitler. (Here are their respective genocide numbers: 40-80 million, 23 million, 12 million.) If God sent all unbelievers to hell, he would have a higher victim count than the worst dictators in history… combined. He also would have to be recognized as the cruelest because the suffering he exacts lasts forever. The suffering caused by anyone else always ends–either by death, escape, rescue, or by the tormentor deciding to stop.
Second, there are no mansions in heaven. The “reward” of believing will not be a big house. Or walking on gold. Or gates carved from a single pearl. Or all the free time I always wanted. In other words, heaven is not Las Vegas. In fact, if heaven exists, it is not a physical place. Likening it to a physical place is an understandable metaphor, as we humans have no reference for the spiritual world; sadly, we have never experienced it. The best we have experienced is an emotional response to music, speaking, group behavior, or environment. But note, this is a response. It is something we chose (though often blindly).
The over-riding fact of existence is choice. We choose all of our responses. Whether we realize it or not. We choose our own responses to all stimuli, situations, and impulse. We always choose all our responses. This is the foundational principle of existence, so it must be accepted and understood. Because it is the truest truth, it is quite simple to test or prove, so we needn’t take much time with that.
Part II. FAITH
When Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, returned from his space flight in 1961, he made the remarkable announcement that he had not seen God in the heavens. A Russian orthodox priest in Moscow responded to him by saying, “If you have not seen God on earth, you will never see Him in heaven.”
1.0: religion forced upon me
2.0: accepting the religion that was forced upon me; studying it (getting a BA degree in it); enjoying the study
3.0: (armed with an extensive knowledge of “my religion”,) asking hard questions about it
4.0: having a crisis of faith and finding holes with most of the tenets of my faith. My faith has become individual and no longer fits neatly inside any one religion. This experience has been personal and difficult; the questions have been mine and the conflict has been personal. But I imagine that every thinker arrives at this point at some time. I remember reading about Anne Lamont’s experience with her faith. And the Founding Fathers.
GOD AS A THINKER
The God of the Bible would have to be a thinker. He/she/it would have to be the ultimate thinker. He could not have created the universe by luck: “I don’t know how all these things happened or how they work together, but it sure worked out!” All the facts of life: gravity, centrifugal force, inertia, photosynthesis, dark energy (http://www.askmen.com/top_10/entertainment/top-10-weirdest-things-in-the-universe_7.html), and the interconnectedness of all things…
He must be able to see, and move, in all 10 dimensions. He must understand things, not by luck or because he was just born with that ability, but from an ability to think. In other words, he is the ultimate thinker, able to reason anything and everything through to the end.
Our problem is often that we do not value that which is too familiar. We are quite ready to believe a Messiah who comes from some other location, but not one who comes from next door.
During the Second World War, Winston Churchill was trying to get General Montgomery to take a course on logistics. Montgomery admitted that he was unfamiliar with the subject, but he quipped, “Familiarity would breed contempt.” Churchill replied, “Yes, but without some familiarity, we wouldn’t breed anything.”
You are breeding something in your life today. You are either breeding contempt, or else you are breeding love.