On this last Saturday, thirty years ago, I believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. For decades I gingerly poked and prodded my new faith, examining it from multiple directions. It was like the forty days when the resurrected Jesus presented Himself alive to the disciples “by many proofs” (Acts 1:3). Doubt wasn’t the most serious issue with me. I was mainly curious about how the Bible would stand up when it was challenged. So I brought a lot of questions to the table—philosophical, psychological, scientific, and historical. I’ve wondered about the phenomenon of being born again and have tracked it from emotional and sociological perspectives. I’ve read nasty, vitriolic works from non-theists that occasionally scored points I had to ponder. I’ve also read piles (literally) of Christian responses that in some cases would satisfy the burden of proof in any court.
I’m not sure what has given the impression that Christians are naïve, plodding, simpletons. I’m certain there must be somebody out there supplying the ammunition for that stereotype. As for me, I can’t think of anything worse than subscribing to and obeying a worldview that is basically delusional. Maybe that’s okay for people who don’t take it seriously to begin with, who see faith as a harmless placebo that helps them get through things. But the faith of real believers is often painful and inconvenient, calling for repentance and sacrifice, self-denial, and radical trust. All of that means the object of our faith—Jesus Christ and His Word—had better be real.
I think it is. But never, ever, assume I got there by being gullible. That’s me, a fifty-something with a conservative Jesus-friendly background (On electoral maps, Louisiana is probably the reddest state in the union). I could pontificate about faith issues all day long—which is why I have this blog—but for the next couple (?) of posts, I won’t be doing all the talking. I’ll be interviewing a couple of guys who are under thirty, educated, and who have started a discussion group for people with questions about the faith. Thad Townsend is an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Clark County, Ohio. Greg Wyatt is a software developer with a Master’s Degree in computer science.
John: It seems we’ve entered a cultural phase where non-faith is considered stylish. What are your thoughts about this?
Thad: The anti-faith marketing machine has been quite effective. Many of the people I grew up with abandoned Christianity during or after college. Even in a room full of churchgoers, discussing faith in a serious way (outside of a church service) will draw funny looks, as if you’ve admitted to believing in the tooth fairy. And it’s not that the arguments against faith are strong. Faith is simply taboo, especially in public. I was stunned to see such hostility toward Christianity as a college student at a public university. I expected more objectivity. Instead, I discovered non-Christians who were as eager to spread unbelief as the Christians were to spread belief.
John: Like how? Could you toss us a couple of anecdotes?
Thad: Sure. I found a campus club called “Students for Free Thought.” Sounded interesting, so I attended, only to find that being a free thinker just meant you weren’t a Christian. I remember browsing through the “religious studies” section of the school library and finding that most of the books I came across simply promoted irreligion. And on day one of my Philosophy of Religion class, my professor admitted that the main focus of the course was to demonstrate the “flaws” of Christianity. I was concerned. I hadn’t realized that these people existed, but apparently they did and had thought more about my faith than I had. It made me realize I had to go deeper.
Greg: Honestly, I don’t feel that anyone is a “non-faith” person. Everybody has faith in something, even if it’s just faith in self, skepticism, atheism, or whatever worldview you happen to have.
John: Maybe I should have been more specific to say that deliberate non-faith in the Christian message has become stylish.
Greg: Yes. I think the generally negative view of Christianity comes from a misunderstanding of what the faith actually is. Some have interpreted it to mean that one doesn’t think for one’s self or has no rational basis for belief. That view is actually counter to what Christianity teaches. Peter, one of the chief apostles of Jesus, wrote that Christians should be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).
–To Be Continued–