The True Myth and Challenge of Belief

871832The Christian faith has a lot in common with other religions.  We find story after story of dying and rising gods in ancient literature.  Isn’t the story of Jesus just another mythical story?

Well, yes.  And no.

CS Lewis writes in his essay “Myth Became Fact” (found in the book God in the Dock):

Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth.  The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact.  The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical person crucified it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate.  I suspect that men have sometimes derived more spiritual sustenance from myths they did not believe than from religion they professed.  To be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace which we accord to all myths. The one is hardly more necessary then the other (God in the Dock, 58-59).

Of course Christian faith has much in common with other faiths, myths and stories.  Truth, wherever it is found, whether in religion or philosophy or a good novel, points to the ultimate truth.  The difference, Lewis argues, is that in the story of Jesus Christ the shadowy unhistorical myths become real and true history.  Jesus’ resurrection took place in a real time and place.

Believing that such a thing really happened is not easy.  It is difficult to believe in fantastic things, as I wrote about recently.  Yet “belief” itself needs some sort of definition.  For some Christians, including me at various points in my life, belief merely meant assent.  To believe then was to assent to a series of statements.

Did Jesus rise from the dead?  

Yes, I consider that to have happened.

Did Caesar cross the Rubicon?

Yes, I consider that to have happened.

The problem here is that merely assenting to things does not affect your life much.  I fear that often what goes by the name “Christian apologetics” has its goal to convince people to assent to the truth of Christian faith.  So we defend our view and offer arguments targeted at the rational mind.  Can we get them to flip their vote from “no, of course Jesus did not rise” to “yes, it makes sense to say he did”?

Lewis goes on to write, “A man who disbelieved the Christian story as fact but continually fed on it as myth would, perhaps, be more spiritually alive than one who assented and did not think much about it.”

Yes!  It is not that Lewis thinks believing it to be fact is unimportant (read the first quote up above again).  But he recognizes that simply believing does not count for much.  How does it change your life?  If Jesus is risen then everything is different.

Life has the last word, not death.

Hope has the last word, not despair.

Love has the last word, not hate.

 

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Where the Conflict Really Lies – Alvin Plantinga (Review)

You may have heard that there is a conflict between science and religion.  Promoting such a war has enabled many on both sides, fundamentalist creationists and fundamentalist atheists, to sell a lot of books.  Even for those not on the extreme, there is a feeling and a fear that somehow faith in God is at odds with belief in science.

Of course, there is no such conflict.  But philosopher Alvin Plantinga wants to go one step farther then saying there is no conflict between science and religion.  He argues that there truly is a conflict, but it is between science and naturalism.

Before he gets there, he tackles the alleged conflict between faith and science.  This takes two forms, the idea that Darwin’s theory of evolution somehow refutes Christian faith and the idea that it is impossible to believe in miracles in a world of science.  Such conflicts simply do not exist.  Not only do they not exist, but promoting such conflict actually hurts science:

As a result, declarations by Dawkins, Dennett, and others have at least two unhappy results. First, their (mistaken) claim that religion and evolution are incompatible damages religious belief, making it look less appealing to people who respect reason and science. But second, it also damages science. That is because it forces many to choose between science and belief in God. Most believers, given the depth and significance of their belief in God, are not going to opt for science; their attitude towards science is likely to be or become one of suspicion and mistrust. Hence these declarations of incompatibility have unhappy consequences for science itself. – Plantinga, Alvin (2011-11-11). Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (p. 54). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

In the second part of the book Plantinga looks at two areas where there appears to be a superficial conflict: evolutionary psychology and scriptural scholarship.  While there may be small conflict, the claims of those two disciplines do not provide a defeater for belief in God.

Speaking of “defeaters”, it is important to grasp the understanding of basic beliefs for Plantinga.  Over and over again he speaks of many beliefs we hold with no evidence, things like perception, memory, and that other people have minds.  When we see a sheep on a hill far ahead we do not form an argument that there is a sheep.  We simply see it and believe it is there.  This belief is justified.  In the same way, believing other people perceive the world how we do and remembering what we had for breakfast do not require arguments and evidence.  A defeater is something that would prove such beliefs wrong.  If someone says of our seeing the sheep, “that’s my dog Skip,” we now have our belief defeated.

Plantinga argues that belief in God is just such a basic belief.  We do not need evidence to prove our belief in God, it is rational to believe in God in a basic way.  But can such a belief be defeated?  No such defeater has been found.  Plantinga argues that evolution is definitely nowhere close and the topics of part two, though there is superficial conflict, are not near being defeaters either.

Then in part three he discusses areas where there is concord between science and faith, making the claim that is extended in part four, that belief in science has much more justification for theism then naturalism.

Finally, part four is the height of the book.  Here Plantinga takes science, the belief in evolution, and naturalism, the belief that there is nothing outside of nature.  For Plantinga, you cannot sensibly believe in both evolution and naturalism.  For if all we are is nature, then our evolution is driven solely by survival.  We desire to feed, survive and reproduce.  Survival, not truth, is what is most important.

We assume that our cognitive faculties are reliable. But what I want to argue is that the naturalist has a powerful reason against this initial assumption, and should give it up. I don’t mean to argue that this natural assumption is false; like everyone else, I believe that our cognitive faculties are, in fact, mostly reliable. What I do mean to argue is that the naturalist—at any rate a naturalist who accepts evolution—is rationally obliged to give up this assumption. – Plantinga, Alvin (2011-11-11). Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (p. 326). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

One objection to Plantinga’s argument is that it seems obvious that true beliefs would ensure survival.  He admits this is true, but says it is irrelevant.  His argument is not about how things are but how we would expect things to be if naturalism and evolution were both true.  We cannot assume naturalism (materialism) is true from the outset.  If we imagine it being true we imagine a world where all that matters is survival and truth is irrelevant.  He says:

It is by virtue of its neurophysiological properties that B causes A; it is by virtue of those properties that B sends a signal along the relevant nerves to the relevant muscles, causing them to contract, and thus causing A. It isn’t by virtue of its having that particular content C that it causes what it does cause. So once again: suppose N&E were true. Then materialism would be true in either its reductive or its nonreductive form. In either case, the underlying neurology is adaptive, and determines belief content. But in either case it doesn’t matter to the adaptiveness of the behavior (or of the neurology that causes that behavior) whether the content determined by that neurology is true.29

Plantinga, Alvin (2011-11-11). Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (p. 340). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

In a natural world your desire to get a drink of water is driven by your biological need for water.  Any true beliefs you have about water, or false ones, are irrelevant.  Believing in naturalism and evolution thus provides a defeater for naturalism in that you have no good reason to hold it is true.

Plantinga’s argument is long and detailed, so I hope I did a halfway decent job of illustrating it here.  I first encountered some of these ideas of basic beliefs and defeaters in his book Warranted Christian Belief.  I found this book much better, more approachable for a non-specialist in philosophy.  That said, there were parts of it that were definitely a chore.  I am grateful for people like Plantinga who make such arguments, but I am more grateful for those who can distill them down to be made understandable for normal, average people.  I work my way through books like this because I think it truly helps me in ministry, but I can’t say I enjoy reading them as I do some other Christian thinkers like David Bentley Hart or James KA Smith.

Overall, a good and challenging read that has much that can be useful in helping those who have questions about faith and science.

 

Are You Mocked Because of Jesus or Because You’re a Jerk?

When I was in college I bought a shirt that said, “Jesus is Not For Everyone, He’s Just for Those who Want to Go to Heaven.”

Yes, I actually paid money for a shirt that said that.  I purchased it at Creation Festival, a weekend dedicated to getting thousands of youth fired up about God.  It worked on me, I was fired up and wanted to express my passion via shirt and this was the best one, I guess, that I could find.

I think I only wore it a couple of times because even as I bought it, I knew it was kind of an awful message to walk around with on my shirt.  The very day I got home I wore it to the movies where I was meeting some of my buddies and they rolled their eyes at me.  Another one of the few times I wore it I remember walking past a couple of people and hearing them snicker, no doubt finding humor or offense at the message.

If I wanted to, I could have taken such snickering as persecution of my faith and I could have cited a passage from the Bible such as Matthew 5:11-12 – Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  I could have taken solace that people mocking my shirt were persecuting my faith, the sort of persecution true Christians always face.

The thing is, Jesus is speaking of persecution “because of me.”  And I was not being mocked because of Jesus, I was laughed at because I wore such an idiotic shirt.  No one looked at the shirt and asked about Jesus.  Really, the shirt was not about Jesus, it was about me sticking it to other people, callously reminding them they were destined for eternal torment while I smugly looked on from eternal bliss.

Anyway, I bring up that embarrassing story because I was reminded of it after reading this article.  Specifically, this section:

Have you ever heard someone say, “I like Christ. I just don’t like Christians.” Jesus says that if you don’t like his disciples—if you reject them—you are rejecting Him. There is no version of Christianity that allows you to follow Christ while mistreating His body. And it won’t matter how much you profess your love for Christ if you reject andmistreat his body. What you do with Christ’s people will tell everything that needs to be told about you at the judgment.

This text is not about poor people generally. It’s about Christians getting the door slammed in their face while sharing the gospel with a neighbor. It’s about the baker/florist/photographer who is being mistreated for bearing faithful witness to Christ. It’s about disciples of Jesus having their heads cut off by Islamic radicals. In other words, it’s about any disciple of Jesus who was ever mistreated in the name of Jesus. This text shows us that Jesus will judge those who show contempt for the gospel by mistreating gospel-bearers.

This seemed a bit too self-aggrandizing to me.  It seemed to encourage the kind of mindset I had while wearing my shirt – I can do what I want as a Christian and if anyone gets offended its their problem and if they say anything then they are persecuting me!

But the reality is that if someone slams the door on your face when you are trying to share the gospel with them it is not because they hate Jesus. It could be for any variety of reasons – maybe you’ve been a bad neighbor in the past and never asked forgiveness and they don’t want to hear from you, maybe the kids are crazy and this is not a good time to discuss the depths of spiritual truth.  Simply assuming that any opposition = persecution feeds our American evangelical persecution complex.  And implying that getting the door slammed in your face or facing opposition for not taking part in a gay wedding is anything close to getting your head cut off by ISIS is wrong.

The issues seems to be whether we are being persecuted/harrassed/mocked on account of Jesus or on account of our own jerkiness.

*For the record, I engaged with the author of this piece on Twitter and it seems clear he’d agree that the key is why people are mocking us.

*A good book that relates is Candida Moss’ The Myth of Persecution which studies the martyrdom narratives in the early church.  This book made me realize that when Christians living in comfort in America claim to be persecuted this actually does damage to our brothers and sisters who truly are facing persecution.  Our claims basically tire people out to any claims of Christian persecution.

Another Day, Another Study Shows Shrinking Affiliation to Christianity

I’ve seen a bunch of news stories on a new Pew Research Center study that shows a decline in the percentage of Americans who identify as Christians as well as growth, especially among those born since 1980, of those who identify as non-religious.  This group includes atheists, agnostics and those who may believe in God but do not identify with any institution.

I want to comment, share a witty story from campus or something, but I am coming up blank.  So I’ll just share some links and you can read for yourself:

The Rise of Young Americans Who Don’t Believe in God

A remarkable 25 percent of Americans born after 1980, the group often known as Millennials, are not religious…It’s not clear that Millennials will become more religious as they age, either.

America’s Changing Religions Landscape

But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those large religious traditions has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.

Self-Defeating Religion

The number who self-identify with historic denominations and movements has declined, and the number of “unaffiliated” has gone up. That category is not primarily agnostics and atheists, but people who say they are “nothing in particular.”

Question and Answer Night (Weekly Word)

Last night we had a question and answer night at our CSF meeting.  Full disclosure – I am writing this at 5 PM, two hours prior to the event beginning, though this post will not go up till Friday.  So I do not know for sure what questions will be discussed.  But I do know that this is always a fun night filled with lots of ideas and dialogue and debate.

It is one of the nights that reminds me why I love campus ministry so much.

On Fridays on this blog I tend to write what I call “Weekly Words”.  These posts are intended for the college students in CSF, thus for Christian students on a secular campus.  Often I basically summarize what we discussed the night before, in case anyone was absent and wants to catch up.  I am thinking that, with summer break quickly approaching, that it would be fun to dedicate each Friday to answering some of the questions from our Q and A nights.  Or even answering new questions that come in via Facebook or email.

I have always hesitated at the title “question and answer” night though, because it seems presumptuous of me to imply I can offer a quick and easy answer to questions that have stumped people and caused debate for centuries.  We have moved to calling the night a “Spirituality and Religion Discussion” though that is vague enough that people ask what it means and the response is: “ask questions and pastor Dave will answer them.”  That said, I am always very clear that I am offering my opinion.  For some questions I offer what I believe is a straight up and certain answer.  Other questions I offer a variety of possible answers and encourage the students to pick one.  It depends on the question.

All that to say, if you have a question about God, religion or whatever, I’d love for you to send it in to me.  You can reach me via email (campusminister_dave@yahoo.com) or on Twitter (dmlhershey).  Starting in a few weeks, I’ll throw out some answers.

It should be fun!

A Parable On Serving and Loving Those We Disagree With

As Jesus went on from there, the crowds pressed in against him. He stepped into a boat and crossed the lake, but the crowds followed him. When he got out of the boat a woman approached him.

“Lord, can you please heal my son?”

Upon hearing her Jesus looked up to heaven. Then he looked back at her and said, “I prayed to God and he revealed to me the sins in your life. I am sorry, but I cannot heal your son.”

The Pharisees and teachers of the Law looked on. They nodded in approval. Here was one truly who cared about the purity of the chosen people.

Going on from there, Jesus entered the synagogue. A man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking to test his holiness and commitment to the tradition, the teachers of the Law asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?”

He said to them, “If any of you has an animal that falls in a hole, will you not lift it out on the Sabbath? It is lawful to do good on the sabbath, to those who meet with God’s approval. This man lives a life contrary to the traditions of Moses.” Jesus then spoke to the man, “Therefore, go elsewhere to find healing, you will find no hope here among God’s people.”

The teachers of the Law nodded in approval at his answer. And the man, like the woman with her son, went away in search of hope and love.

The above story was inspired by this story, of a pediatrician who refused to take a child as a patient because the child’s parents are lesbians.  

When Christians refuse to help, treat or serve others because we disagree with their life choices…is this what  Jesus would have us do?

Overcoming Stereotypes by Listening to People

When I was in college one of the campus ministry groups sponsored an event that was advertised as a discussion between a Christian and a Muslim.  They were clear it was not a debate, instead it was a time for each person to share what their religion believes about a variety of things.  I attended, excited to see what would be said.  I left thinking that it was a good thing it was not a debate, for the Muslim would have won.

Just on appearance, the Muslim student had a leg up.  He wore a casual sweater and jeans, dressing and talking like a typical, though above average intelligent, college student.  The Christian student wore a tie and clearly did not fit in at the college setting.

I had a few classes with the Muslim student.  We had spoken a few times and he was very friendly.  If I recall, he was going into medicine.  The class we had together was Intro to Islam, so being a Muslim he had quite an advantage going in, but I guess I had an advantage in Bible classes!  Talking with him and a few others was eye-opening simply because I had never known any Muslims before.  It is one thing to read about a group of people in a book, another to become friends with them.

I think of that today at times, especially when I see posts on social media about how all Muslims are terrorists or all ______ (insert group here) are ________.  It is disheartening to me to see such simplistic generalities, because I know when you meet actual people they do not all fit in.

You do not just need to meet them.  There was a liberal Bible scholar I heard a lot about while in seminary.  He was often mentioned as someone who does not trust the Bible, who takes apart the faith and who is all wrong.  I am sure I regurgitated some statements later on when his name came up.  Then, years later, I read a few books by him.  And while I disagreed (I disagreed on a lot!) I also saw that the stereotype was wrong.  He was not the faith-destroying monster I had been taught.

I am surprised that Christians are often so quick to engage in stereotyping, since Christians are often on the other end of stereotyping.  A few years back a study came out that found the majority of 16-29 year olds said Christians are hypocritical, judgmental and other such negative things.  I discussed this with the Christian students I work with on campus and other students over the following months.  What was interesting was that many students would admit that their Christian friends were not like this, but most Christians were.  I wanted to ask how many times a stereotype has to be contradicted before you give up on it?

There is a human tendency to surround ourselves with voices that affirm what we already believe.  I try to be aware of this and to read diverse opinions on things.  I hope I have friends on different sides of issues to keep me honest if I slip into stereotyping one group.

In the end, we need to talk to actual people and listen to them rather then generalizing about what we do not know.  As we do that, I think we’ll find that most people we meet do not fit into the stereotypes we’ve inherited.

Thoughts on How We Talk About Religion, Specifically Christianity and Islam

I’ve been continuing to see stories about, and to have discussions about, President Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.  It certainly hit a nerve with a lot of people.  I shared a few thoughts last week.  A good friend helped me see why more people were offended, something I missed before.  Plus, even as discussion on Obama’s remarks fades, ISIS continues to be in the news with their continual violence towards Christians, and others.

My friend argued that one reason many were so upset with Obama’s speech is that they felt it reflected a double standard in the media and public discourse.  When speaking of Islamic terror, we are always clear and quick to say these people are radicals and do not represent Islam.  Yet we make no such caveat when speaking of Christian evils, we simply say Christians committed evils.

I can see how some people do talk like this, though I am not in a place to say how most people talk in our culture.  Almost no matter what you think or feel, you can probably find confirmation of it somewhere in the cacaphony of voices out there.  In response to my friend, I think of Chris Rock’s tweet last week saying that we refer to ISIS as “radical Islam” but do not refer to the KKK as “radical Christians.”

Anyway, it has made me think – how do we determine when someone is representing the essence of their religion?  I hesitate to write on this because I cannot claim to know much about the essence of other religions.  I think Christians are too quick to read an isolated verse or two from the Quran and claim to get Islam.  We need to be careful about claiming to know the essence of Islam and which Muslims are truer to its teachings.  As outsiders, that can sound arrogant.  Would we want outsiders to the Christian faith to start telling us which Christians are actually following the Bible?

At the same time, we can look at history.  It is a historical fact that Jesus died on a cross and it is a historical fact that Muhammad led armies into battle.  Many Christians argue in light of Jesus’ example that we ought to be nonviolent, never using violence against others.  Christians who go to battle can claim King David or Abraham or other Bible figures as their example, but not Jesus.  Muslims at war can see themselves doing what Muhammad did.

Does this mean Islam is inherently violent?  I don’t think so.  Most Muslims see the work of groups like ISIS as outside mainstream Islam.  And again, I am hesitant to say anything about Islam is “inherent” since I am nowhere near an expert.

Really, my point is twofold:

1. Let’s try to be consistent in our language – If we are careful to say that terrorists do not represent true Islam then we ought to be as careful to say that medieval crusaders of American southern lynchers do not represent true Christianity.  Perhaps if Obama had been clearer here some of the backlash would have been lessened?  (I doubt it).

2. As Christians, let’s emphasize the uniqueness of Jesus – It is not a knock at Muslims or Muhammad to say that Jesus is totally different in his person and teachings.  Muhammad led armies into battle, eventually defeating his enemies who had driven him from Mecca.  Jesus taught love of enemies and turning the cheek to those who strike you, then he lived this out by dying on a cross.  He could have called down legions of armies to fight for him, but he chose to die.  This is one reason I am a Christian – Jesus is totally unique and incredibly compelling.

This is where some of those people who want to get rid of religion and just have Jesus are going.  Religion, whether Christianity or Islam, is not the answer.  Only Jesus is.  Of course, once communities of people form around Jesus you end up with a religion, it is unavoidable (apologies to those who seem to want to just have Jesus).  But if we focus more on Jesus and his teachings, seeking to shape ourselves to him, we’ll be on a better path.

Postscript: I wrote this post at the end of last week and since then more news of ISIS beheadings have come out.  It is truly horrible.  As we try to grasp what ISIS is and how they relate to Islam as a whole, this article is helpful.   I also came across this article which, I think, illustrates a truly Christian response to people of other religions in the face of a world that wants us to hate.

Five Thoughts on Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Speech

Last week at the National Prayer Breakfast President Obama condemned  ISIS, Obama and went on to say: “Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

It is this part of the speech that went viral and caused controversy.  Most people probably did not listen to or read the entire speech to get context (you can do so here).  This is indicated by the fact that most of the people offended refer to his words on the Crusades, events from centuries ago, and not the more recent events in our own country he went on to speak of.

I was surprised at the hubbub.  I’ve interacted with some friends on Facebook in recent days over it and as I’ve thought about it, I’ve had some scattered thoughts.  Here are some:

 

1. Christians Have a Dark Past – It is no secret that people have done awful things in the past in the name of Christ.  I’ve heard and read these events referred to countless times.  Philip Jenkins has a fantastic, must-read book on this subject that shows, historically speaking, Christians may have more blood on their hands then Muslims.  If that sounds controversial to you, he even argues that the Bible is a bloodier and more violent book then the Quran.  This dark past is not only centuries ago.  Obama mentioned more recent history also, which most who were offended have ignored, but it was not long ago that Bible believing Christians in America were lynching black people.  For a chilling example of this, read here.  Compared to the teaching and example of Jesus himself, these events are to be unquestionably condemned.

2. People Who Know Little About History Speak Too Confidently About It – There is a lot of misinformation about such events.  The Crusades are often spoken of and not often understood, but you can find both well-written books and articles to put them in historical context.  If your thought of the crusades is wicked Christian soldiers attacking weak and outnumbered Muslims, your thought is wrong.  If you have been told that Islamic terrorism today is rooted in memories of the Crusades, you are mistaken.  This is not to say the Crusades were justified, in my opinion.  Such violence is far from the way of Jesus.  But if we are going to talk about history, we ought to be accurate.

3. Christians Make Contradictory Arguments  I have noticed a interesting set of arguments Christians have given when responding to the sorts of things Obama said.  Two statements seem to be made:

A. The Crusades were the responses by Christians to Muslim aggression.  The lands the Muslims held were once Christian lands that were taken by Muslims.  So the Crusades were merely the Christians fighting back.

B. Jesus never committed violent acts but Muhammad did.  So when Christians do violence, they are going against their leader while Muslims are acting in line with theirs.

The first statement sounds, to me, like a wordy way of saying, “but they started it!”  Any parent is familiar with this – one child is caught hitting the other and upon being reprimanded, the child says, “but he started it!”  That aside, the two statements seem contradictory.  How can you say Christians being violent are acting out of line with Jesus (argument two) and then justify violence (argument 1).  It sounds like an argument that says, in essence, the way of Jesus is great but sometimes we need to employ the way of Muhammad.

4. Let’s Stop Stereotyping “All Muslims” – I often see people post things on social media, confidently stating what Muslims believe and what the religion is all about.  I suspect most of these people have not read the Quran, let alone the Hadith.  Zach Hunt has a great article about this.

5. Remember What it is to be a Christian – Maybe we need to shed some of our patriotism and remember what we learned in Sunday school – we are all sinful, we all have darkness inside of us, so we all need Jesus.  We are not better then anyone else, we are sinners saved by grace.  We strive to be like Jesus and we do so in humility recognizing we fail every day.

 

A Poor Reason for Not Believing in God, IMO

At the end of last week I noticed an article that stated actress Julianne Moore no longer believes in God.  Here’s the story:

But Moore said that while she’s experienced success in her career, including four previous Academy Award nominations, she has at times felt adrift. Her mother’s unexpected passing from septic shock in 2009 devastated her so deeply that she no longer believes in God, she admitted in a profile in The Hollywood Reporter.

“I learned when my mother died five years ago that there is no ‘there’ there,” she said. “Structure, it’s all imposed. We impose order and narrative on everything in order to understand it. Otherwise, there’s nothing but chaos.”

I can understand how someone can come to the place where they reject God.  I have struggled with doubts and I think the great suffering in the world is a tremendous problem for those who express belief in God.  If someone says they can no longer believe, I am sympathetic.  But this reason for rejecting belief in God seems weak and somewhat selfish to me.

The reason I see Moore’s story as selfish is that she apparently believed in God prior to her mom dying.  That is, she believed in God in the face of millions dying of diseases and genocides and all the other horrific instances of suffering throughout history.  She managed to believe in God despite knowing that many children suffer and die.  But when this suffering came into her life, and her mom died (after a life that not as long as one might hope, was quite long) she rejects God.  Maybe she was just naive, maybe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  We do not know.  Yet I have heard people say the same thing many times and it has always struck me as a bit selfish – others suffer and I am okay with that, but I suffer and no longer believe?

I imagine if tragedy were to strike close to me I would go through a time of deep doubt.  I admit I would find it hard to believe in a good deity if my wife or kids died.  But if I can believe in that God when other people’s spouses and kids are dying every day, what does it say about me to only reject when suffering strikes home?

What do you think?  Am I just being too harsh?