Pastor Mike Clawson responds to your questions. This is the last of the series, so thanks to Pastor Mike for offering to answer so many of the questions (and thank you for asking them)! I wonder what else we can do like this…
You can also read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
Okay, this is my last post. These have turned out to be a lot tiring and time consuming than I expected, but I appreciate all of you who have contributed to the conversation.
You don’t demonize atheists. You don’t believe in biblical inerrancy, nor in passing laws just because “the Bible says so.” You really seem to want to make the world a better place, instead of, as many Christians do, simply “save as many souls as possible”, because the world is the devil’s, it doesn’t matter, and Jesus is coming to end this “experiment” in a decade or so anyway.
My question, then — and please treat it not as criticism of any kind, but simply as honest curiosity –, is this: why still believe? What reasons do you have to believe, when neither most Christians nor the Bible itself seem to agree with you, and you end up having to reject a lot from both? And have you never wondered if, somehow, the world doesn’t make more sense from a naturalistic point of view?
Excellent question! I wonder myself sometime. 😉 But when it comes right down to it there is still something about God that I can’t let go of (or maybe it’s that he won’t let go of me 🙂 ). There are so many reasons – both philosophical and experiential – for why I still believe and I really can’t go into all of them in detail here (Hemant asked me to keep these replies to just a few paragraphs!) Let me see if instead I can just paint with a broad brush some of the big reasons that keep me coming back to God.
On a philosophical level when I look at the world around me, with it’s beauty and complexity and appearance of having been designed, it still just makes sense to me to think that it was in fact designed by someone. Naturalism (i.e. the belief that there was no designer, no creative force behind existence) is indeed a possibility, but it seems less likely to me than belief in a Creator. On another level I look at life and human history and it seems as if things do work together for some kind of larger purpose – that there is some bigger story at work, a story about love and justice and ultimate joy. Again, this could all be illusion or wishful thinking, but it seems to me that another possible explanation is that there really is a larger purpose to existence.
On a more personal level, there are just too many “spiritual” experiences that I’ve had throughout my entire life to just suddenly explain them away by some other means – whether answers to prayer, experiences of transcendence in response to nature or relationships or times of worship, or just those times when I’ve sensed the immediate presence of God and been overwhelmed by his reality. As I said in a comment on another of my replies – theism provides me a bigger tent that allows me to affirm the authenticity of spiritual experiences like these while also appreciating things like science as well. In atheism by contrast I’m forced to reject the one in order to embrace the other. Just speaking personally, I prefer a philosophy that allows me to keep my options open and doesn’t require me to reinterpret all my former experiences to mean something other than what they appeared to mean at the time.
Ultimately I’d echo the words of C.S. Lewis, “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.” Christianity is the lens through which I make sense of the world – and it does make sense to me. Things about life, my daily experienes and big events, as well as the experiences of people around me start to make sense in a new way when viewed through this lens. I’m not saying that I couldn’t trade in this set of lenses for a different one, but so far I haven’t found another set that works as well for me.
As for why Christianity specifically – there is just something about the person of Jesus Christ and his way of justice, mercy and self-sacrificial love that appeals to me. The more I study his message and way of life, the more I’m challenged by it, and the more I become convinced that it is not only the best possible way to live personally but is also ultimately the only hope for our self-destructive race.
BTW, I know all this is very vague. Again, these aren’t intended as throroughgoing arguments for why any of you should believe in God. I’m mainly just explaining my personal, “existential” reasons for continuing in my beliefs.
I do want to explain however that I don’t feel as if I have to “reject” a lot from the Bible or Christianity to maintain my faith. My journey has not really been about throwing out the parts of either that I don’t like. Rather, it has been a re-discovery of what I think was there all along and just got buried by our theological systems. For instance, I resist the suggestion that fundamentalists are the ones who really get the Bible right and the rest of us have to reinterpret everything to make it fit our own preferences. What if this other approach has been the right one all along and it is the fundamentalists who have been misunderstanding and re-interpreting what the Bible is really about? The truth is that the more I study historic Christian theology, the more I find that my views are really not that uncommon among Christians throughout the centuries (only somewhat uncommon among one particular conservative wing of the church in the past century or two). My experience has been similar to that of G.K. Chesterton, who said:
“I did try to found a heresy of my own, and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered it was orthodoxy…”
Anyhow, thanks again for the great questions!
[tags]atheist, atheism, Pastor, Mike Clawson, Christian, God, Naturalism, C.S. Lewis, Bible, G.K. Chesterton[/tags]