I used to be certain about most of the aspects of my faith. But, over time, some questions arose and I started to examine my faith that is rooted mostly in Western Evangelicalism. Today, some of the things I encounter in that brand of spirituality don’t make any sense to me any more. It’s not like I’ve lost my faith – it just doesn’t make sense. I still believe in God–I am still compelled by the way of Jesus–but I can’t reconcile some of the basic things I used to take for granted.
For example, let’s begin with prayer. Most people of all brands of Western Spirituality believe to some degree that God is all-powerful. Most also believe that “He” is all-knowing and therefore should know what we need and be able to do something about it. And, when people of faith get together to express their prayer requests, they generally believe that they are talking to God just like they would talk to another friend.
So, why is it that they also seem to believe that the more people that express this concern, the better the chance of God responding favorably. Is God sitting somewhere sadistically holding out until enough people bother him and cause him to act? Is He just too busy or too unaware? Wait, I thought He was all-knowing. Shouldn’t He know how much this matters if normal, ordinary people do? Do we need to cry more or have more faith? That doesn’t sound like a good mother or father to me!
And, then what about beliefs? Every church I have been associated with has asked me to recite a creed or sign a doctrinal statement. Even though unstated, it is insinuated that the way to find approval from God is to believe the right things. Again, it’s almost like our picture of God is a God that wants to love us, but can’t quite bring himself to it without us believing exactly the right things. But exactly who is right? By some estimates there are over 200 major protestant denominations. I used to laugh when I saw First Baptist, Second Baptist, then Missionary Baptist, etc. But, I don’t laugh anymore because I realize each of those churches are in love with a God that is exactly like who they think he is. And, most, if not all of them, is partially wrong!
It goes beyond just differences of opinion. Each of these factions believe they are more right than the rest of the world. They believe God accepts them when they believe, and more specifically, when they believe the right things. It paints a picture of God that loves you for what you know – provided you know the right things. This creates more problems than solutions for me.
Since this post is probably provocative, we might as well talk about Hell. Why would God set up a system that is destined to fail? Why would He set for us an unreachable standard–a standard He knows we can’t keep–then, be out-of-his mind angry that we cannot keep it. It gets worse! He not only gets angry, but He is so hard to appease that he dreams of torturing us forever, unless of course we believe the right things, do the right things and express them in just the right way! Again, if He is all-knowing, He should know how bad we are at all these things!
Many people talk of God’s justice when they talk about hell. But, justice means “setting the world right.” And, torturing someone forever is much like locking someone in a penitentiary they are never going to get out of. It doesn’t reform anyone–it doesn’t set the world right–it only scares people into buying whatever we are selling.
Many of my old friends are worried about me. They are afraid I’m on some kind of slippery slope. But, what I feel is more like peace even though I am uncertain about many things. I feel like I’m thinking more clearly than I ever have. Perhaps clarity and uncertainty are not mutually exclusive.
In my book, Apparent Faith, I wrestled with these questions as well as others. I can’t say that I have many, if any, of the answers. But I am asking better questions.
Be at peace and stay on the journey,
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