December 18, 2017

A Letter from an Agnostic

Today, Chaplain Mike posts this note that was sent to iMonk. How would you try to help this inquirer?

Mr. Spencer,

In the past few months of my life something has driven me towards Christianity. I can’t exactly say what, I believe it to be a combination of things but it has lead me to hours of research, mostly in the field of apologetics. I’ve never been a Christian and was not raised in a Christian family. If anything I would say that I’ve always been agnostic. Throughout my years, I’ve been a student of philosophy and religion. I’ve studied most modern philosophy, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and various other world religions but have never followed one and have never been drawn towards Christianity. Like many my age, I grew up in a place where Christianity was considered “un-cool”. None of my friends were Christian and even today I have few who are. Yet, recently something has peaked my interest in God and Jesus Christ.

To get to the point, my problem is not that I don’t want to believe, it’s that I’m caught in the middle.

I’ve been studying all of the apologetic arguments that you and other resources offer. I find your personal approach to apologetics very approachable and easy to digest but essentially your answers are the same as all of the other apologetic resources I’ve studied (this is not a criticism, just a way to show that there are unified theories surrounding the answers that you provide). You have logical, reasonable answers for every aspect of Christianity. All of the theories on the existing of A God and of The God, The Bible, Jesus Christ, Creationism, etc. are there and make sense but there are rebuttals to these by atheists and skeptics that are just as logical and reasonable.

For example, the cosmological argument is sound, until you consider the other side. There are arguments against this theory suggesting that causality should only be applied to our world and experience, that the “first” creator does not need to be intelligent and that modern science has demonstrated that there are objects on a molecular level that can and do move without a “mover”. Regarding The Bible, should we approach it literally? There is a great debate over the accuracy of biblical translations and the translations of keywords, phrases and verses can easily change the interpretation. These are just a couple of (very brief) examples of counter-arguments to common theories I’ve seen. There are detailed arguments against the teleological argument, the axiological argument, the idea that Jesus Christ is the son of God and on and on.

My point is that regardless of how much research I do, regardless of what Christians or Atheists attempt to prove, there is no absolute way to prove or disprove the existence of any God. This being said, there is no absolute way to prove or disprove that Jesus Christ is the son of God, was resurrected, ascended to Heaven and is the only way to eternal salvation. At some point, it has to come down to what you believe. Eventually, you have to make a choice.

That is where I’ve always been stuck. I’ve never been able to make a choice, never been able to choose sides and this is arguably the worst place to be. My skepticism is so severe that I am skeptical of every view and nothing has ever convinced me or spoken to me in a way that made me see one view as truth. You may point out that my apparent random interest in Christianity may be evidence enough but to me, that’s explainable in a myriad of ways. The thing is, I want to believe. It just seems like I can’t.

I am hoping that you may be able to shed some light on my situation or at least give your opinion on my thoughts.

Thank you for your time,

[Name withheld]

Comments

  1. This is, in my humble opinion, as clear a letter as I have ever read on the state of not only myself, but many of the people I have heard talk about religion. There is just not enough evidence, in my observation, to decisively prove anything conclusively one way or the other. I was once a staunch Baptist evangelical, but after college because very much agnostic within my religion. I believe, by choice, there is a God, but remain skeptical about the gospel accounts because there are compelling arguments for and against their authenticity and right now those arguments against outweigh the empty pop-theology evangelicalism offers.

  2. MikeOfOhio says:

    I identify quite a bit with this post. I feel caught in the middle. I grew up in a Christian household and remain very close with my whole family, but aside from them and certain close friends, I find the majority of the people in my grew-up-in-it church to live a life foreign to my own experiences.

    They talk in Christianese and their answers are simplistic, or are simple cultural-americanisms, or they are patently impossible to prove.

    I, too, am not desiring to be an antagonist but rather sincerely (to the best of my knowledge) want to believe.

    Are there people who don’t struggle to believe that can explain it? That don’t resemble people who haven’t deeply thought through what they believe? Most of the time the “zero doubts” people seem to be like a whole different species — and look a lot like people who are unwilling to learn.

    Before I blather on too much, I’ll return to my original point. I want to believe (cue X-Files music) and I think sometimes I do. But I am filled with skepticism too.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The “zero doubts people” always struck me as very vocal Blind Faith types, utterly certain, utterly righteous, using their Zero Doubts as a one-upmanship game on all us great unwashed.

      They ARE a whole different species in their Utter Certainty. I always wonder how much of their Absolute Faith is conditioned reflex without engaging any higher brain functions, what George Orwell called “duckspeaking”.

      In a way, they resemble Extreme Islam since al-Ghazali set Islam on the path of Faith = Total Blind Faith; God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It. Which is a recipe for becoming an automaton, puppet of the Party Line your Faith Faith Faith has become.

    • Hi MikeOfOhio

      You ask “Are there people who don’t struggle to believe that can explain it?” I’ll let you decide whether I fit the bill or not but I’ll at least give a shot at answering you. I’ve done a lot of research. I’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of thinking and a lot of talking to people of other views. Why? Cause I felt it was just a matter of intellectual honesty to have heard all the various sides. I’ve read into and dug into the things that were really big questions to me. I absolutely do not advocate blind faith or “choosing” to believe something. Like has already been said in the replies here, you believe something because you think it’s true.

      So the bottom line of all the reading I did is this: Nevermind all the usual arguments about the Bible, but focusing on just this: Do I think that the apostles thought Jesus rose from the dead? Yes. Do I think they were in a position to know? Yes. Do I think they were basically honest and basically sane? Yes. If they were basically honest and basically sane, could they have been wrong on that level for that long about something that important? Well, that would be the definition of insane or dishonest, y’know; I don’t think they were wrong. Ultimately, I believe them. And if the apostles were basically honest and basically sane, then Jesus rose from the dead. And if Jesus rose from the dead, not only is there a God but he has in fact waved a big flag over which “great teacher” is the one to follow. I mean, the others are pushing daisies so it’s not rocket science. (And then I did a lot more kicking the tires on different theologies but that’s another story.)

      It took a lot of reading and checking out alternative explanations before I got to the point where I am. And I’m not saying that you should take my word for it. I’m saying I did a lot of looking and that’s where I ended up, and why I don’t struggle to believe it, and how I’m trying to explain it.

      And I’m also glad that Jesus let people follow him for a long time before he pushed the issue, “Who do you say that I am?” Because that one was a long quest for me.

      Take care & God bless
      Anne / WF

  3. Kelby Carlson says:

    COming from a young CHristian’s point of view … I don’t know that there is one pat answer. i understand the objections to the Gospel accounts, and i certainly have many doubts myself. (For a long time, reconciling my Christianity with evolution was a major faith crisis.) I look at CHristianity as a whole, adding up the individual arguments and while yes, there are a ton of counter-arguments Christianity’s cumulative case seems logically, historically and philosophically sound to me. But ultimately it is a choice. Faith is not “belief in the absence of proof”; faith is “trust based on incomplete evidence”. That’s what a humble CHristian should have; and eventually, if one believes, one will make that choice. Sorry I haven’t been able to be of much help here.

  4. Dear letter writer,

    You are looking for a level of certainty on questions which can be debated endlessly because they cannot be finally, objectively proven. This is a perennial issue. There is no final purely rational solution. I suggest, as an alternative, a personal empirical approach. Be a Christian for a year–commit yourself to your best understanding of this faith, and try to live it and struggle with it. Then, if you are unhappy, if you feel it hasn’t done for you what it has done for others, try Buddhism for a year, and Islam, and Atheism, and Militant Apathy, and whatever else seems to make sense. But pure thinking will not get you (with your particular challenges) out of the conundrum. (Note: this is not a standard Christian solution, so some people will tell you your soul is in peril if you try it. Try not to be scared off by those for whom the word ‘experience’ is a terror and a blight on humanity.)

    • I think this is very sensible and makes sense to think about the possibility if Christ is who he said he was, how would you respond and what are the implications etc. I would like to think all Christians would be kind to those with doubts and most that I know can identify with the phrase “I believe, help my unbelief”. This reminds me of the Lewis description of the hallway leading to many rooms…it is good to be led to the hallway, but the rooms are where the fires and the tables and the chairs are…the hallway is a place to wait in, to try various doors…but not the best place to live.

    • Weslie O. says:

      This is terrible advice, particularly this part: “…if you feel it hasn’t done for you what it has done for others…” Where is the starting point? Does this guy look at a Christian friend or family member whom he thinks “has it all together” and say, “Well, this must be the result of Christianity.” Is success or even how we feel about ourselves the point of Christianity? If so, don’t look to the Apostles, don’t look at Peter crucified, don’t look at Paul’s miserable life on earth.

      Christianity starts and ends with Jesus Christ rectifying the relationship between the Father and his children through His life on earth, suffering, and dying on behalf of poor, miserable sinners.

      • The whole point about the letter’s writer’s concern is that she doesn’t understand/accept/grasp statements like ‘Christianity starts and ends with Jesus Christ rectifying the relationship between the Father and his children through His life on earth, suffering, and dying on behalf of poor, miserable sinners.’ –no matter how sincerely you and I happen to believe it. Just repeating these ideas (for us, truths) may not work: you have to enter into the faith to grasp it with your whole being. Hence the need to take the chance and commit oneself.

        • I agree. The bible even speaks to the issue of unbeleif and does not sugarcoat the doubts that creep up even years after making the decision to follow Christ. . I went through a couple of years wanting to believe (in my mid-30’s -never was a church kid) but the arguments ageinst , PRIDE (that I would take a stand on something I could not difinitivly prove) and some chrisians themselves , kept me from making the final step of faith.It was after a wise man told me to relax, just read the bible and pray daily (and honestly (about where I struggled in accepting Him), that I opened myself to the spirit of God . It was reading in Matthew Where Jesus speaks about having the faith of a little child that it clicked. I had a little boy of 4 at the time And he became my role model. He recognised love, desired to learn about new things without being polluted by doubt, But “name withheld”, He is a big God who can take your doubts, even understands them. Taste and see that the Lord id good. (seems I read that somewhere)

        • The catechumenate – if the writer knows people who are Christians, or there is one person he/she trusts, or one church (don’t care about the denomination) that he/she feels drawn to – go there and ask about help living the Christian life.

          Like the catechumens, who underwent the period of instruction in the Faith before receiving baptism or being permitted to witness, much less receive, the Eucharist.

          A period of instruction and practice before committment.

          Don’t worry about which denomination or any of the eccleisology we indulge in here – get your foot in the door first, take small steps, then see where you go.

    • Donalbain says:

      What does it mean to “be a Christian” without having the faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God?

  5. I was in this person’s shoes for quite a while myself. I studied everything and got nowhere. Well, I shouldn’t say that. I got to the point where Christianity was reasonable, and in fact probably right. This was a far cry from my atheist days, so that is something.

    I am a Christian now and have been for quite a few years. At this point, I can honestly say I can’t imagine there is not a God. This is due to my own personal experiences though, so it won’t help this person out.

    My first bit of advice would be to just keep going and learning. Read John, Acts and Romans. Study them as in depth as you want because they will blow your mind.

    My second bit of advice is don’t put it off too long. You might die, and this is some serious business if it’s true.

  6. I don’t believe I have the answer for which you are looking. Although I identify with Christianity, you articulate many of my feelings and thoughts. I have come to realize that arguments and apologetics ulitmately are convincing only to the extent to which one wishes to be convinced and is willing to block out conflicting opinions/arguments.

    Apologetics appease the intellect of individuals who have already chosen with their hearts. But what about individuals whose hearts are inclined toward Christianity, yet cannot satisfy their intellects with supporting arguments? I am one of those individuals. I will probably always remain intellectually a skeptic; however, my heart will likely continue to embrace the way of Christ.

  7. Very well said, I would question any person who says that have not had the same thoughts. I can’t call them doubts, though others may. There was one disciple who was the same way, after spending intimate time with the Christ, was unable to believe that He had actually risen.

    We have been taught from an early age to prove all things. We have often taken that to mean if you can’t reproduce the results in a double blind study, it simply is not factual. The Christ tells us to taste, to test and see if He is sure. Not create the correct formula, or chain of events.

    Having grown up in a fundamental christian home, my father a preacher, my mother His secretary, and being 4th or 5th generation of that faith I could not prove it. I knew the texts, but they made no coherent sense to me, there was always the other side. I left Christianity and became a Buddhist. Looked inward, developed my own sense, but still couldn’t prove it. It was through a friend of mine, a non practicing Jew that we both were able to prove that God was real. When my business partner came from Shamanism, and transcendentalism, and found that God was real. I hoped that now we could prove God. We couldn’t and still can’t. It is only by experience that we can prove to our selves alone that God is real. When we experience this, we can only share what we experience. I have lived similar to you, but I have never lived you. I can only tell what I see, but never what you see. I can only introduce you to God, I can never show you God. I can show you what I believe is truth, you have to experience truth. Let go of the arguments, the knowledge, it is useful but no matter how much you know if you do not experience it you will never really know.

    You can read all you want about a Porsche, know it’s ratio’s, tolerances, horsepower, turbo lag, skid numbers, how the leather on the seats was made, the procedures for assembly, all of it, but you will never know a Porsche until you drive it. God is much the same, you can know all about Him, until you experience Him you will never know Him.

  8. Christiane says:

    “The thing is, I want to believe. It just seems like I can’t. ”

    The desire to ‘seek God’ is acknowledged.
    The desire to maintain a kind of integrity is recognizable.

    One of the poignant verses in Scripture is from St. Mark’s Gospel 9:24
    “Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief’
    It has been said that ‘where there is no doubt, there is no faith.’ The desire to believe is a gift and perhaps an ‘agnostic’s prayer’ might help. Or simply this: ‘Help Thou my unbelief.’
    Even in faith, we are told that we see as ‘through a glass darkly’, so faith is a reaching out for what our souls and spirits desire. St. Augustine wrote ‘our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee’.
    And so we who believe, still long for God, and still pray to Him: ‘help Thou my unbelief’, in humility.
    Someone here on this blog once wrote this: that the waters of life will engulf all those who seek them. Some have been brought into faith by reading the Fourth Gospel: the Gospel of St. John, which has a powerful effect on all who seek God. And reading the Psalms also may help. There is something about the Psalms, which when you read them, it is like a human being is reading them for the first time, all new and fresh. Like the words of Psalms become your own words. It is mysterious: this reaction people have when reading the Psalms.

    When you have done what you can, and yes ‘in good faith, with integrity’, be peaceful.
    And find a place where you can go to be silent and still and to wait for the response.
    You will not be disapointed.

  9. Trying to come to Christian faith to me is somewhat like trying to see the image in one of those weird, 3-D pictures sold in malls. One can listen to descriptions of how there’s a tail of a dog in the image here or a duck’s head there or read a mathematical description of how all the lines in the image are oriented. But in the end, one simply has to be able to “see” it and it’s an experience which changes you in some sense because you’re no longer able Not to see it. All the rational arguments about Christianity in the world to me won’t ever allow one to “see”. It doesn’t mean those arguments aren’t true or useful or can’t strengthen the faith and deepen the understanding of those who are already Christians. But the initial ability to see has to (in my opinion) be a divine act. A similar situation actually appears in the Bible in which a prophet’s servant’s eyes are suddenly opened in a mysterious way and he can see hosts of angels around him ready to fight—angels which an instant earlier were invisible to him. Perhaps a simple prayer (a leap of faith in itself, of course, for an atheist) for one’s eyes to be opened is the simplest, most direct approach; a genuine prayer of this sort will involve one’s will yielding to the faith that will be revealed. As others have said, coming to Christian faith is more an act of the will than the mind.

    These are just stream of consciousness ideas and not meant to impugn anyone’s will or make any deep commentary about apologetics.

    • “All the rational arguments about Christianity in the world to me won’t ever allow one to “see”.”

      I think this is very true. A fundamental aspect of Christianity is the operation of a kind of sight, a type of perception, a way to pay attention – that as opposed to a kind of rhetoric or a sheave of dogmatics. It’s not something you rationally ‘accept’, so much as something delicate and pervasive that you recognize about the world around you.

      Jesus was all about this, and the event of ‘seeing’ God is all over the Bible – you might say it IS the Bible, and everybody’s interpretation of the Bible that isn’t fundamentally about seeing God is just empty moralism. Jesus restored sight to blind folks, the prophets promised us that this was God’s nature: “I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them And rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone.” (Isaiah 42:16).

      “Blessed are those who believe without seeing”, Jesus said.

      Our proofs, our understandings and our ability to commit ourselves to them, pass in a phase, like fevers in succession, leaving us intellectually fallow and spiritually exhausted. Atheism is a phase for some as much as Christianity is a phase for some – just another part of a lifelong sickness of life that persevering Christians believe Jesus is the ultimate cure to.

      If you don’t ‘get’ it, don’t ‘give it up’ like a hobby or a fad. Don’t try to study your way though it or spiritually exercise your way to God, because on bad advice you’re likely to strain yourself over a great deal of nonsense that never helped ANYBODY see. Just always check your premises, read your Bible, and watch the world around you.

  10. First, a little background on myself. I was raised in a Christian home, but over a period of several years I began to have more and more doubts about Christianity, until finally, about two years ago, I left Christianity because I simply could not believe it anymore.

    Not that I wanted to disbelieve. Not that I wanted to alienate my friends and family, virtually all of whom are Christians. Not that I wanted to walk away from that. Not that I wanted to cause my parents to worry about me and pray for my salvation daily, as I’m sure they do. I didn’t want or ask for any of that.

    I just couldn’t do otherwise. And why couldn’t I?

    You say then eventually you have to make a choice. I don’t think this is necessarily the case. My view is that you cannot choose your beliefs. We all believe as we do because all of us have experiences and evidence that seem compelling to us. At no point can you sit down and make a conscious choice to believe or not believe something.

    Any committed Christian reading this, could not, in this second, chose not to believe in Christianity. They could not chose to disbelieve things that they honest think are true.

    Any non-Christian person reading this, could not, in this second, choose to accept Christianity. They could not choose to believe things that they honestly think are not true.

    Yes, you can and should read the arguments from all sides and try to determine what you think the truth is. But if you are unconvinced either way, it’s okay! It really is okay. It really is fine to suspend judgment. You don’t have to bend your mind in knots trying to accept something that you honestly don’t see a good reason to accept.

    Maybe eventually you’ll become a Christian. Maybe eventually you’ll decide that religion is sufficiently improbable to justify identifying yourself as an atheist. Maybe you’ll continue to see yourself as agnostic. Whatever position you find yourself in, it’s okay.

    Of course, there is an obvious counter-argument to my position. To put it bluntly, it’s that if you don’t believe, you’ll go to hell, which would mean that it’s *not* okay to doubt. (I know that many Christians do not have this view, but many do.)

    I doubt this. I think that if there is some sort of all-knowing benevolent god out there, then he/she/it cannot help but notice that doubting and wondering is the human condition. Have a little (dare I say it?) faith that a good God would not punish someone for honestly seeking the truth.

    We all have to make our way through this world. My advice is, don’t worry about whether you can ever discover the exact metaphysics behind the universe.

    I know my advice to “not worry” is trite, and I apologize. If I could give you more, I would.

    We will probably never know the answers to all the deep “why” questions. We will probably never know why anything exists, or why we’re here.

    But I think we already know enough to know how to live our lives: Try to learn what you can and be kind to those around you.

    May you find peace.

    • I’m a 19 year old at a science/technology university and the son of missionary parents.
      This is a similar story to the one I seem to be living.
      The trouble for me was that I felt guilty evangelising people when I genuinely don’t have a clue. I had Christian convictions, but atheist thinking. I started to think that the Heavens didn’t speak about the glory of God, but of our minuscule position in an ultimately unpredictable universe. I looked at the stars and felt alienation rather than wonder, so I really couldn’t see why people would be without excuse for not seeing the testimony of nature.
      I tried praying for salvation so many times, but rather than being strengthened by that, I just felt guilty for not being honest with the weight of my doubts. On the other hand, I didn’t really feel my doubts could be resolved. There’s the promise that if you trusted God more, your doubts would disappear, or at least seem less significant; but I just felt I was giving all control of my life to a God that probably wasn’t there and I’d be at the mercy of quirks of my psychology that might explode into some illusory certainty I thought was God speaking to me.
      There’s a lot that needs to be said about the fear of brainwashing yourself in the search for truth. The agnostic’s prayer often just degenerates into these sorts of fears.
      I don’t actually trust myself to say the final word in my life on whether God exists or not. Great minds have thought about it for centuries not come up with a definitive answer and rebelling against them seems reckless but ultimately necessary.
      In the meantime, this has absolutely nothing to do with my course and work isn’t going to hand itself in…
      Some small amount of the time, I’m happy to live my daily life and not worry about what happens after death, but the rest of the time I just think Satan is laughing at me, or that this is some way of getting me to realise how stupid atheism is and make me an especially well qualified missionary.
      The fact I’m on this website at all should say a lot about how unconvinced I am of the rightness of walking the broad way.

  11. I suppose there are people who are brought to Christianity by logic and apologetics. I certainly wasn’t, and I consider myself a logical person in many ways.
    I was brought up in the faith, but made a conscious decision to stay because for me, the world has this built-in ultrasonic frequency… it resonates. And I resonate with it: examples of beauty, and love, and sacrifice. Seeing the divine and value in humanity, yet recognizing its weakness. The value of acting to put others before myself. Mourning with those who mourn. The utter mystery of the Word made flesh. The eternal tension of salvation as a free gift, that I am now commanded to live out.

    So, after the apologetics have been read….do you find Jesus’ words to stab you in the heart, or not? If not, all the logic in the world will stay in the realm of logic, and not life. If they do, then take a step into life as if it were indeed built with that ultrasonic frequency.

    The presence of doubts has very little to do with faith, I think. From my favorite agnostic-turned Christian author, Madeleine L’Engle:
    “Una, a brilliant fifteen-year old, a born writer who came to Harlem from Panama five years ago, and only then discovered the conflict of the races, asked me out of the blue: “Mrs. Franklin, do you really and truly believe in God with no doubts at all?”
    ”Oh, Una, I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts.””

  12. Having spent a little bit of time in the academic study of religion, I have to smile in agreement. The writer is spot-on, I think, in his (I’ll say “his” even though I don’t think sex was specified) point that God can be neither proven nor disproved, and whatever Pascal may say, the matter certainly is not as simple as wagering that there is a God and his son is Jesus. I’m not at all unfamiliar with the condition of wanting to believe, and I think that is takes a good measure of self-delusion to claim that you can know God with the same certainty that you can know that one and one is two or that iron and oxygen will give you rust. I suspect that wanting to believe is really the more important movement to faith than belief itself. But I may be overstepping my knowledge and authority in saying so, and that may not be a very satisfying answer, anyway.

    Having spent quite a bit of time as a practitioner of Christianity, however, I think that there is all the difference in the world between studying the church and going to church. Not that I think the letter writer should stop reading and stop asking questions–those are good things, essential things–but I think it is very difficult to understand the church if you try to understand it as a philosopher or as a sociologist. You go to church not to analyze the word of God, but to receive it. You worship God not because he needs or because you know, empirically, that he hears it, but because the soul (which you may or may not believe in) longs to make offering. These are not things that can be learned academically, but they’re at least as important as the academics to understanding Jesus Christ and, through him, God.

    Of course, going to church will bring about a host of new misgivings for the writer: the people who want to evangelize him, the pastor/priest who fumbles around during the sermon, the music that may or may not be to his taste, the absurdity of so many traditions. I won’t say that one denomination is better than another is this; there are absurdities everywhere, and they won’t cease to be present, even if they can be embraced. I sympathize with the writer, and admire him, because I’ve encountered these problems even growing up in the church and can only imagine the strangeness of it coming from the outside, but it sounds to me like he may have come as far as reason will carry him–the only thing to do, now, is to partake in the Christianity that apologetics go through such pains to defend, and see whether it is good.

    • “Of course, going to church will bring about a host of new misgivings for the writer: the people who want to evangelize him, the pastor/priest who fumbles around during the sermon, the music that may or may not be to his taste, the absurdity of so many traditions.”

      Lame.

      At some point, believing Christians have to stop being ashamed of how we seem to others and just BE GOOD.

      What’s with all the angst and superficiality? Ashamed of our ‘absurd’ music, our fumbling pastor, our audacious cohorts, our awkward message – the self-hating Christian trope needs to die already. I’m pretty sure dying of embarrassment in front of our atheistic friends doesn’t count as a martyrdom, dude.

      Not trying to take shots at you, but I really don’t get what you’re going on about. If I’m reading you wrong, my apologies.

      • Yikes. All in all, it looks like I did a very poor job of explaining what I meant.

        I was probably too quick in talking about the difficulties people have when they start coming to church. In wanting to defend church practices before they were attacked, I think it looked as though I attacked them, which I did not intend. The church beautiful; I love its music and scripture and people and traditions. But I think people should attended even when those things don’t seem so beautiful; I don’t think that the beauty of it necessarily strikes a person on their first time in the service. Things that are actually very deep may seem shallow at first. I’m reminded of a Catholic girl in a class of mine, though, who said, “If you saw what we did in church, you’d probably think we’re all brainwashed.” I guess I just tried to foresee first impressions.

        Furthermore, I think that someone who has only an academic understanding of the church could be just a little unsettled by all the other people in church–I was thinking about passage in “The Screwtape Letters,” where Screwtape advises Wormwood to distract his patient with the others in his church: “When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided.”

        Finally, some of that last paragraph, especially, is just really bad writing because I’m using words that have private meanings. I won’t try to justify that; I wrote poorly. “Strangeness” and “absurdity” are not pejorative terms in my mind. Church is strange because it’s a different culture. The church is absurd because we act before we understand, we go through the motions before we know what they all mean, and there is good in that, even if you never fully understand why you’re crossing yourself (for instance).

        I hope that elucidate a little. I’ll work on saying what I mean the first time.

  13. Sherman the Tank says:

    There’s always Unitarian Universalism.

  14. I would tell the person to try it and see what happens.

    Jump in with both feet for 6 months, or a year, or whatever time frame, and then evaluate your believes. No one w ho calls herself a Christian is without doubts, they just act on faith. So, act on faith fora while and see. Kinda like going on a date to see if you want to be a bride.

  15. Mairnéalach says:

    If assuming his children’s suffering is a reasonable thing for a father to do, then being a Christian makes more sense than any other path.

    If that action doesn’t make any sense then I would say Christianity doesn’t really hold any unique attraction. The other religions do quite well at offering systems of ethics for a person to admire and follow.

  16. Don’t try to discover what you want to believe, but be honest and try to discover what you really believe.

  17. If there is God, He/She has created a world for us in which it is very possible for us to doubt his existence. This reality must be admitted by all believers lest we ignore the essence of what faith is, and that it must be important to God – doubt is part of this creation. For those who haven’t been privy to a mystical experience, faith is a leap.

    Having spent many years after college as an agnostic, I wholeheartedly empathize with this post. There is no convincing argument to prove the existence of God, the reason for suffering and evil, or the truth of the Gospels. There are only reasons for belief that work at a personal level. Threats of damnation only alienate nonbelievers and portray God in a simplistic, un-biblical, illogical way.

    But as one who returned to belief I can only advise to be open to the grace of God, that is, the working of God in your life. This may take years. As for all the Christians who come to the door to hammer faith into the head of a nonbeliever, I advise leave a little room for God’s grace.

  18. That “something driving” you is God, and resistance is futile 🙂 I don’t say that in a mean way, but logic and rationality are irrelevant when it comes to the divine. Stop thinking so much, perhaps start attending church as many have recommended, or simply meditate and open yourself to God. The Master will come to you. I had that “something driving” me feeling too, and it’s not going to go away.

  19. I will keep it short. The Lord says in His Word that if you seek God (in truth) you will find Him. So keep on seeking the truth, and He will set you free. Do not look at religion, look in His Word, (His love letter of grace-unmerrited favor– to you) for it is the power until salvation and a relationship with your Creator. He loves you unconditionally.

  20. My thoughts are:

    If you’re looking for an argument that will be airtight, you won’t find it in Christianity. As you seem to have discovered. But the force of apologetics is not, in my experience, why people are Christians. And the lack of a fail proof argument with no worthy alternatives doesn’t’ seem to drive people away either. If we don’t really see that happening, I think it’s because human nature is not to be satisfied with simply an explanation. That’s like lecturing a hungry person on the molecular makeup of food.

    in the end for me, I chose Jesus because the reality of sin is overwhelming in my eyes. And the Gospel is the most compelling answer to sin that I have found. Everything else seems like variations on “be good, you idiot.” Jesus is the food. My deepest longing is not an explanation, it is to be loved perfectly.

    This might explain the tension, then, between not seeing a hugely compelling logical argument, and yet still being driven towards it.

  21. Think of it like playing piano, or dance, or something similarly expressive. You can read, study, think, and meditate on it all you want but at some time you just gotta’ do it. And if you really have the knack for piano, dance, etc, you’ll soon find you’re not really thinking at all about how it’s done but finding much deeper meaning in it than that. So, like others, I encourage you to start “doing” Christianity. Start listening to sermons, start singing hymns, start confessing the Creeds. You’ve been thinking about it long enough.

    • Donalbain says:

      Wouldn’t confessing the creeds count as bearing false witness if he did not really believe?

  22. I would say to him look to the sky at night and to ask Him who created the heavens to reveal Himself and begin engaging God in his quest to understand. We can let our minds cloud our souls in its yearning for the truth. …..” anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”.
    If we don’t expect to understand someone we meet for the first time, why do we hope to understand God?

  23. 1. This is why I am a Calvinist and hold to presuppositionalist apologetics.

    2. No matter how much apologetics you give to an unbeliever, he or she will never truly embrace the Christian faith unless God by his grace and the operations of the Holy Spirit work a miracle in the person’s heart.

    • I presuppose Calvinism is completely ridiculous – what do I win?

      Kidding! But yeah, I do disagree that it takes a ‘miracle’ to believe in God.

    • Christiane says:

      God ‘helps’ or enables EVERYONE towards faith.
      But He allows choice.
      In that we, we are made in the image of God, with the dignity of truly being ‘persons’ instead of robots.

      What the extreme Calvinist gets wrong is this: that God is not able to give any of His creatures choice, so He chooses for them, therefore the term ‘the elect’: some sort of super-creation predetermined for success; where He also ‘chooses’ for some of His creatures to sin and go to Hell. Quite frankly, that makes Him a monster. AND as for the people who believe in this extreme form of Calvinism and believe (of course) that they are among the ‘chosen’,: we see examples of some of the most smug, self-righteous, unpleasant, and un-Christian examples of humanity on the planet. (As befits the children made in the image of a lesser ‘monstrous’ god.)

      • I think you’re expressing a misunderstanding of what Calvinism or just the concept of election or predestination actually means. It has nothing to do with being smug about being chosen or about lack of human choice. I’d just recommend reading more from good authors on the subject—as with any subject, one can get the wrong idea about something from poor words/actions by those who claim to profess the idea in question. I don’t think someone is not a believer because they don’t believe in election. But I find it to be a beautiful and uplifting idea when properly understood (nothing like what you described).

        • Christopher Lake says:

          One thing that I find both amusing and tragic is the fact that, when Calvinists and Catholics discuss God’s sovereignty in our salvation, all too often, neither camp seems to know that St. Thomas Aquinas held a view on the subject that is very, very similar to that of the Protestant Reformers…. (from a current Reformed Protestant who is re-investigating the claims and theology of the Catholic Church)

      • What you have described is not what orthodox Calvinists truly embrace – in fact, it is a caricature. God ordains all but doesn’t directly cause the sin of the sinner: he or she who sins is doing it out of their own desire and will. The fact that God elects some people reveals that salvation is purely of sovereign grace. Would you prefer that salvation is ultimately due to a person’s better circumstances, brain condition, personality type, socio-economic status, etc.? When you opt for the non-Calvinist view that is what you are saying: though God is drawing all people to salvation, people are saved ultimately due to something inherent IN THEMSELVES. Biblically speaking, you are saying that God is less powerful than our circumstances. Therefore, let me ask you this: what kind of God is a monster? The God who saves some to the uttermost OR a God who offers salvation to all but ultimately leaves the rest to corrupt sinner? Think about it.

        • Christiane says:

          Do you really believe that five-point Calvinists accept that God is truly sovereign, but still permits choice ?

          That is not what I have been told, so perhaps I was mis-led.

          Or maybe it is that the ‘classic Calvinists’ are not the same as the ‘five-point’ Calvinists?

          BTW, my original statement was to do with ‘extreme’ forms of ‘hyper-Calvinism’. Most of my Calvinist friends are not ‘that way’ at all, and are fine Christian people.

          • “Do you really believe that five-point Calvinists accept that God is truly sovereign, but still permits choice ?”

            Absolutely, yes. And I know you explicity stated that your concern was with hyper-Calvinism. If such hyper-Calvinists actually exist, I would argue against them as strongly as you do. My impression, however, is that hyper-Calvinism is more an invention of non-Calvinists, attempting to explain what they think Calvinism is all about. I’m sure someone can produce an example from their life experience of such people; but I’ve been in Reformed circles for many years and all those I’ve dealt with believe passionately both in God’s sovereignty and in the importance of evangelism—-I’ve never encountered anyone who thought election meant we were all robots and that evangelism was pointless.

            I also think this is a subject which can be (and should be) discussed with grace. Too often, reformed theology (Calvinism) seems to be linked with harsh severity, and I think we’d do better just presenting our view in such a way as to emphasize all that is good and powerful and beautiful about it.

            Peace.

        • Mark – what kind of God is a monster? Your first kind – the one who says “You, Mr. X, will be saved. You, Mr. Y – sorry, you’re on your own.”

          God respects our free will; I think we should do likewise.

          Though I have seen the emphasis changed by Calvinists from “Reprobate eternal damnation!” to “the mystery of election – if we preach it, you believe it, you may be saved and we can’t say otherwise”.

          That is, they’re much softer on the question of “Am I elect or reprobate? How can I know?”, which approaches nearer to common practice than the cold logic of “It doesn’t matter if you *want* to believe, or if you *think* you believe, or if you live a godly life – if you are not pre-ordained, you are damned and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

          • Christopher Lake says:

            As I wrote above:

            One thing that I find both amusing and tragic is the fact that, when Calvinists and Catholics discuss God’s sovereignty in our salvation, all too often, neither camp seems to know that St. Thomas Aquinas held a view on the subject that is very, very similar to that of the Protestant Reformers…. (from a current Reformed Protestant who is re-investigating the claims and theology of the Catholic Church)

  24. I can recall feeling very much like the letter-writer a few years back. I felt the pull, but I also had questions and to be honest the whole thing didn’t seem very logical.

    C. S. Lewis said something like You don’t get to Christ through reason, but only by experience. I think this is the truth.

  25. I’m a little surprised at the “agnosticism” that permeates even the comments from believers in response to this post.

    Is there no one who thinks it is more reasonable to believe in the existence of God than to hold otherwise?

    Is there no one who has become convinced that the Christian faith gives a story about the nature of the world and the human dilemma that makes more sense than other options out there?

    Is there no one who holds that it is reasonable to accept the testimony of the Gospels, as historically reliable documents?

    Is there no one who can set forth a good case for the person of Jesus and the reasonableness of believing that the New Testament gives us a reliable testimony about his words and works?

    I understand wanting to be modest and humble and not overly dependent upon the apologetic approach. But, to read the comments so far, one might surmise that Christianity has no intellectual credibility at all!

    Though we know we cannot argue anyone into the Kingdom, is there not a place for humble discussion with those struggling to believe about the reasonableness of the faith?

    • Perhaps the letter writer has gone as far as he or she can go on the basis of purely rational argument. In my case, I can’t imagine there not being a God because I’m convinced that the opposite of such faith is nihilism. I don’t see how we has humans can justify being good without God (http://www.dubuc.org/Paul/writing/CanWeBeGoodWithoutGod.html). Agnosticism isn’t much of a defense against this, because the meaning and purpose of one’s very existence is at stake and everyone seems to need to go on living as if their moral sense is no accident and there life has purpose and meaning. This doesn’t prove God exists, but it does seem to eliminate atheism/agnosticism as viable possibilities. Aside from the rational arguments, which are important in themselves, there are important non-rational aspects to knowledge. These must be involved if our intent–and God’s–is not just to be satisfied with mere assent to the existence of God, but with an actual and vital relationship with God. I’m not sure God cares much whether people believe in his mere existence. He wants more than that and getting more than that involves–even requires–leaving plenty of room for intellectual doubts. Some have come to realize that, without God, we’re “lost in the cosmos” as, I think, was Walker Percy’s subtle point in his book by that title. As Edward Tingley pointed out in his article (http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=21-05-020-f), it’s important for skeptical inquirers to not give up the search when the material evidence seems to have run out. There’s still much further to go.

    • Chaplain Mike,

      Agreed. Comments on several of the last few posts have been somewhat ‘surprising’.

      To the letter writer, a couple of points to consider.

      First, concerning ‘proof ‘ There are several levels of proof or certainty that we operate from every day. It seems that when it comes to knowing the truth about God many people focus on the kind of proof that approximates mathematical certainty. 2 +2 = 4, that kind of proof. In religion and philosophy, this kind of certainty is unobtainable. This proof only rules in the disciplines of math, Chemistry, Physics and the like.

      Another level of proof would be the kind you get in a courtroom. ‘Beyond a reasonable doubt’ or far more likely than not. The claims of Christ and His resurrection can be validated at this level of proof.

      On an everyday level most of us operate at the level of blind faith. We get in our cars and drive to work never giving a thought to the idea that we could be in a serious wreck. We cross the street assuring ourselves we won’t be hit by a car. We trust government officials whom we have never seen nor met to accomplish their jobs and send us our tax returns. We sit in a chair or fly in an airplane with barely a second thought that these things will carry out their purpose and not let us fall to the ground.

      My question to you is, “How sure do you need to be?”

      I was raised in a staunchly Darwinist family. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a botanist at the Smithsonian Museum for his entire career. He was so hard core that he didn’t believe the soft sciences (sociology, psychology etc.) were even real science. Called it educated speculation. He did not take kindly to any of his progeny embracing religion. Despite his best arguments I could never buy off on the Matter + Energy + Time + Chance = Life equation.
      Basically all his arguments boiled down to this – everything was a giant (and extremely lucky) cosmic accident.

      There is too much order in the universe for me to believe that. Especially where living things are concerned.. Furthermore, I cannot believe that our lives are utterly meaningless. Do you really believe that we came from nothing and all of the sudden through some cosmic accident came alive for a brief and shining moment , having incredible experiences of love and hate and beauty and sorrow, being able to understand large parts of the universe we live in, and it ALL means nothing?

      Is it all the product of some chance combination of matter and energy that was able to propagate and become increasingly complex over long periods of time all by itself? That to me seems the less likely option.

      You need to consider exactly what it is about Christianity that is drawing you towards it.

      Also, ask yourself what it would mean for you and your life if Jesus really was raised from the dead and everything He said was true. Then read the Gospel of John and the Book of Acts, then see where you’re at.

    • Chaplain Mike,
      As I say in my comment below, I think part of it has to do with our culture. We value doubt over faith, and skepticism over confidence. I also think that some people think they will come across as more “authentic” if they play the role of the agnostic. We also value misshapen desires as proper virtues, and that only compounds the problem (I’m thinking along the lines of Augustine here). I agree that there is a very compelling argument that can be made for these topics, but ultimately (as I say again below)…I don’t want an argument, but a relationship and I think that’s the direction that many of the seemingly agnostic comments may be directing themselves.

    • Unfortunately this can be where one is at, at that point in life. I can remember thinking that I wasn’t capable of faith. No, it didn’t seem reasonable to me at that time. I seriously doubt that one can get to Christ only by reading the scholars. If you want to know Christ, get to know Christ.

    • Chaplain Mike, I know what you mean about the responses. Some are a little odd for this blog, and there are a lot of unfamiliar names. I’m wondering if people have used Google Alert or other means to notify them of topics about agnosticism.

      No matter, you’ve asked the good questions and the answers are implicit in them. Just to reiterate, and maybe to add a few more questions:

      Is this at least reasonable to believe?
      Is it worthy to investigate?
      If true, is it a better alternative?
      If true and better, why would I not at least try to find out?

      We’ve mentioned John Stott’s book, Basic Christianity, in an earlier post. I encourage anyone to read at least the intro and first chapter. Stott addresses these questons better than I can.

      Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matt7-7)

    • Chaplain Mike,

      I agree with every bullet point you mentioned about the reasonableness of Scripture, of the existence of God, etc. I’m also glad there are people out there who devote themselves to this. I just think that when faced with these questions, we can’t really treat the answers that we have as if they are the fulfillment of the real desire/dilemma that each human being has. The existential sense of sin, and the in-born need to be loved in a way we don’t really experience on earth, and the answer we find in Jesus’ propitiation the Father’s love, these are the compelling things about faith in Jesus. At least that’s the way it seems to me. I’m an extremely reason-able person, prone to logic and rational proofs. I also don’t find any compelling satisfaction in knowing these well-reasoned arguments. At last not in them alone. Perhaps they do offer existentially satisfying knowledge of God and I’m just not seeing it. In any case, it wasn’t what I experienced.

      Nate

    • Hmmm …. I don’t share your responses. I find myself nodding along with the comments. Funnily enough this week I had several discussions about this subject: what is the basis for faith? Can we really know that God is there?

      You are right when you say that it is not unreasonable. There is a very hard case to make that believing in God does not go against reason. There’s a lot of support for what we as christians say is true, and there’s a lot of reasonable, convincing answers to objecions raised against the faith. i think the evidence for Christ’s resurrection especially convincing. For me, the most rational basis on which to build the case.

      But is it possible to ‘proof’ God exists? Is it possible to make a scientific case for God that would once and for all undoubtedly proof the truth of what we believe? So that there would be no room for doubt?

      I don’t think so. Christian faith may be the best fit for what we see around us (beauty, truth, intimacy). But there are counter explanations. Even to my most personal experiences about which I say they prove to me God is real, a friend might say they’re psychological. The proof that apologetics offer is always inconclusive. There’s always room to disbelieve.

      And I think God made this world this way deliberately, because he longs for us to choose for him. Not to be forced to serve him, but to choose freely to live in relationship with him, or: to choose to trust in Him. This trust is a choice. A choice to hold real the things we hope. It’s never a case of proving, but of seeing God in the face of Jesus, and choosing to let my life depend on Him.
      I for one know that I cannot live without Him. I know that I’m weak. That I wouldn’t last in the ‘survival of the fittest’. I know my limitations. But I also know what God has promised, and I’m holding fast to that.

      I know as long as I thought faith was an intellectual disposiont, something like faith in the big bang, accepting theological truths, that can be proven or disproven, the building of faith in me was constantly threatening to fall apart. A single word, the find of a fossil, or the question about suffering could tear it apart.
      Now I know it’s not about intellectual truths, it’s about a relationship with a person, and that makes all the difference.
      You don’t get to know a person by reading truths about him or her, but by taking the risk and visit or call. And then we find that He has been waiting for us all along. That’s what I believe at any rate.

      Johan

      • I wasn’t suggesting that we approach the letter writer on the basis of “proof.” The writer already expressed that such an approach has been unfruitful for him. However, I don’t think that means we totally abandon affirming the reasonableness of the faith when talking to a person like this.

        We cannot make an absolute divide between “intellectual truths” and “relationship with a person.” That is a false dichotomy. The Reformers said saving faith consists of three aspects: “notitia” (knowledge), “assensus” (agreement), and “fiducia” (trust). We don’t jump to trusting someone without some level of knowing and responding positively to them.

        • I must say, however, that I like the emphasis that I am hearing in many of these posts encouraging this skeptic to enter a vital Christian community, and learn by doing as well as by thinking. After all, Jesus himself taught through a form of apprenticeship, not by recommending a good book. “Come and see” can be one of the best ways of gaining “notitia” and “assensus” on the way to “fiducia.”

          This raises an important question. Where is the community that welcomes those struggling in faith like this, and what practices do they exercise that would help someone both learn about God and know God personally?

        • You are right: having a relationship with someone does also include knowing thruths about that someone.
          And it’s absolutely vital to show that believing in God does not go against reason. I myself think the case for Christ’s resurrection is very strong and a secure basis for belief.
          It’s just that I react from my own tendency to abolutize intellectual acceptance of truths as what belief really is.
          In the church I grew up in, the verse was regularly quoted that says: ‘My people perishes from a lack of knowledge’.
          and I took that to mean intellectual knowledge about the bible and god, and drove myself to a burn out doing bible study and reading apologetics.
          But those apologetics couldn’t shore up my faith when the real crises hit (the burn out, the question of pain etc.).
          Then it was the realisation that it’s a personal relationship with God that’s the basis of my security and not my knowledge that kept me going.
          I later found in another translation that the above verse was given as: ‘My people perishes because of a lack of trust in me.’
          That made things clear to me: it’s about trust, not knowledge. Doesn’t James say that te demons have knowledge about God and tremble? There cannot be trust without knowledge I think, but trust does transcend knowledge. It’s about what you do with the knowledge.
          I’d wager the letter writer has knowledge in abundance. Now it is about choosing to trust.

          I think my above comment may have come on too harsh, as English is not my first language (I’m Dutch), and to find the right words for the right expression is not very easy …

          Johan

    • I personally have been friends with some folks who were brought into the church largely through intellectual arguments. Although I would say that their hearts were already primed by the Holy Spirit, it seems to be that having solid intellectuals communicating the Gospel gave these persons the final strength or courage to publicly profess their faith.

      Although the ultimate “cause” I believe always remains a work of God, it may be that for many the immediate “cause” is apologetics. For others, those arguments don’t work, but for some, it’s just what they need to finally have the light turned on.

      Beyond that, having solid apologetics to me helps us formulate a coherent worldview based on the wisdom of Scripture and gives us a vision for building the kingdom.

    • Well, yes and no, Chaplain Mike.

      It certainly is reasonable to believe that “Okay there was this person named Jesus who existed and can be historically authenticated” – but that’s as far as you can go, in one sense. Going from believing “There was such a person” to “The claims made about that person are true” is a very big step.

      The supernatural element is difficult, because if I say “Accept that the ancient writers were telling the truth when they witnessed to the miracles”, how do I account for the witness of ancient writers about pagan miracles? How do I convince someone “Our miracles are honest, theirs are fake or lies or hoaxes or demonic impostures?”

      Fatih is a gift. 🙂

  26. Mark, that’s a cop-out and Calvinists should know it, or they would if they weren’t so busy thanking their sovereign God for making them better than those unfortunate enought to not be elect. that thought process is responsible for a lot of agnostics, IMHO.

  27. I was once in the exact same position: wanting to believe, but seeing the possibility of both sides (God or no God) so clearly. God made it easy for me and gave me a vision of himself and he cross, and told me “This is true”. God will meet you where you are. He knows what the key is to your belief. Your seeking him is all you can do. Luckily he he’s a lot bigger and more powerful (and more loving and patient, etc) than we’ve even conceived. Don’t worry. He’s got it.

  28. Dear OP,
    Go on YouTube and search for the video series “The Real Jesus”.

    I have to admit that I came to Christ through a personal experience and later studying the issues laid forth in this video series has helped me to rationalize my faith on an intellectual level. I have no doubt that Jesus was a historic figure, that He was resurrected from the dead and the amazing thing is that it can be argued historically. But even after all that, you have to choose to believe.

    Not all Christians are idiots. 🙂 Some think they are doing God a service by letting their pastor think for them, but I think if you look into the issues on these videos, then you will be pleasantly surprised and (with the Spirit’s help) remove that final intellectual barrier that keeps you from believing.

    Best wishes and God Bless you.
    -Derek

  29. Alexander says:

    Because New reformation press is a sponsor of IM, I might as well pass this along

    http://www.newreformationpress.com/blog/nrp-freebies/2009-apologetics-symposium/

    Listen to the lecture by Rod Rosenbladt. Its free.

    In the lecture Dr. Rosenbladt makes the intellectual argument that seems to be lacking in the comments so far..

  30. As someone who was drawn out of a dark, nihilistic philosophy and into a living relationship with God, I would advise this person to start out with small steps. Start trying to talk to God, either in your thoughts or even out loud if you’re alone. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Give Him permission to start intervening in your life. Tell Him that, if He really does exist, you honestly want to know Him. Ask for His help with the mental and emotional struggles you’re going through. Ask him to help people you know with problems they might be experiencing. And be totally honest, both in regards to your doubts about His existence and with the beefs you would have with Him if He does indeed exist. Talk to Him like you would a personal journal. And pause now and again, try to still your mind, listen, and give Him opportunity to talk back.
    Sure, you’ll feel stupid doing this at first, but just relax and cut both yourself and God some slack. If there is no God or transcendent force in the universe, then ultimately you’ve got nothing to lose. It’s not like an indifferent universe is going hand out merit badges for maintaining strict rationalism. And from reading your post, I would say you’re in very little danger of slipping into some kind of religious psychosis.
    As far as attending church services, I’m not sure I would recommend that at this point. However, if you do have any solid Christian friends who aren’t pushy about their faith, make a point of hanging around them more. Observe their lives. And, if they’re cool with it, have some deep conversations about issues of faith and doubt.
    For some people I’ve known, faith in God seems to come easy. For me, it took several years of struggle. Ultimately, it did come down to a choice to either embrace faith in Christ or move on, but by the time I had reached that crossroads, some strong personal evidences and experiences and the accumulation of some authentically rational reasons to believe had taken some of the edge off my skepticism. So be patient, and don’t expect faith to fall on you full grown out of the sky.
    Consider it this way. If the Christian God revealed in the Bible really does exist, then He has made it clear through scripture that He has chosen faith as the exclusive doorway through which human beings can come to know Him and have a relationship with Him. And if all that is true, then it’s really no wonder that God can’t be proven, disproven, or accessed in any way through scientific or purely rational means. I suspect that He designed both us and the universe that way on purpose — because He values things like faith and love and relationship more than He does the intellectual study and analysis of the things He created. When you get right down to it, there’s really not much virtue in simply believing that God exists. Most of the people on the planet believe that in one form or another — and these belief systems alone don’t seem to be improving the way human beings treat each other. However, I do believe that there is real virtue and benefit in knowing God in a personal, intimate way and having His Spirit within you.
    In my experience, acquiring faith was kind of like learning to swim. Standing at the edge of the pool and trying to work it out in my head was getting me nowhere. Ultimately, I had to step out into the water. And I don’t think there’s any shame in starting out on the shallow side of the pool.

    • This is the closest to the advice that I would give that I’ve read here so far. One thing I do know is that the things that convince me are not going to be the things that convince you. The apologetic part of your journey is a road all can travel in the same way, but the faith part is something each person has to experience for themselves.

      Read C.S. Lewis if you haven’t already. Mere Christianity, Screwtape, The Pilgrim’s Regress, all good. Miracles is good too.

  31. I am still a recovering doubter and skeptic myself, tho I’ve been a follower of Jesus for over 30 yrs. I can appreciate your struggle for certainty. I’m still learning to trust more in God’s love for me as revealed thru the life, death and resurrection of Jesus than in my mind that wonders, “is it really true”? Many great thinkers, even apologists came to some similar, simple conclusions, roughly stated:
    Paul said knowledge and wisdome will ultimately fade away but love will remain. Augustine finally settled on it being “love that knows him” more than anything else. Pascal experienced the “love that has it’s reasons that reason knows not of” in coming to Christ. Kierkegaard believed that the love of God experienced thru the love of Jesus Christ was the only cure for our “sickness unto death”. Leo Tolstoy said, “You dash about, struggle – all because you want to swim in your OWN current. But alongside of you, unceasing and near to everyone, there flows the divine and infinite current of love, in one and the same course. When you are thoroughly exhausted in your attempts to do something for yourself, to save yourself, to secure yourself, then drop all your own course, throw yourself into that current; and it will carry you, and you will feel that there are no barriers, that you are at peace forever and free and blessed” (Journal, 176f). GK Chesterton said “love is the most powerful force in the universe, it is even deeper than reality”. The great theologian, Karl Barth when asked about the greatest truth he had discovered, answered, “Jesus loves me for the bible tells me so”.

    All this to say that by grace I am still choosing to trust (more than question) in the love God has for me in giving his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross, to save me from my sin and to welcome me into an experiential relationship with him – now and forever – even when my mind wants to sometimes doubt and fear and rebel against him. I know in my heart that the person of Jesus Christ alone is Way, Truth and Life. I pray you will come to know and trust in his love for you too.

  32. As many have said, I was once in this situation myself. It took awhile (years) of research, study, trusting, praying and hoping to come to genuine faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m now fairly confident in what I believe and have a growing relationship with the Lord, albeit as a fallen and finite individual who does not have all the answers (and never will). Still, I have enough to trust and follow, and in doing so I’ve found the answers to much of what I previously asked.

    We live in a culture that promotes individuality, skepticism and even some forms of rebellion as virtues. We are all shaped by this factor, but not many seem to want to talk about it. Even when faced with good evidence (for any number of topics), our minds are flooded with doubts and questions, and most of us have natural urge to challenge the status quo, because we are unique individuals. Thus, it would be much easier when shaped by this culture to be agnostic on the big issues…especially when the evidence means that we may have to follow suit with the majority (which we naturally want to rebel against).

    Thus, whereas I believe very firmly that a compelling “case” can be made for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, etc., I still think that our culture has shaped us to say, “yeah…but what if?” and resign ourselves toward agnosticism. Furthermore, existentially speaking, I don’t want a “case,” as if I were some judge weighing the evidence and making whatever decision seems most “rational.” How arrogant could I be? No, I want a relationship with the God of the universe. Thus, even though I firmly believe that a good argument can be made for these topics (and it appears that you believe so as well), I would start asking, “But if I want a relationship with this God, why am I treating the situation like an exam question?”

    I highly suggest you read a blog post at Faith & Theology which was written by George Hunsinger. Hunsinger is a professor at Princeton in just these fields. Consider these paragraphs that explains things far better than I could (but be sure to read the whole thing):

    The NT cannot be read intelligently unless it is read as a spiritual book, as opposed to a merely historical document. The truth to which it bears witness necessarily transcends every ordinary rational mode of perception. Unless the doors of perception are opened, and we begin thinking in a whole new framework, it will never make any sense.

    It is finally not we who read the NT, but the NT that reads us. It calls us and our detached role as would-be authoritative, evidence-weighing spectators radically into question. That is why it is so dangerous. Many of those original “unreliable” witnesses to the resurrection of Christ, like Peter and Paul, went to their brutal deaths as martyrs. “When Christ calls a man,” wrote Bonhoeffer, “he bids him come and die.”

    No one who is not willing to take this risk should venture to read the NT. But many of those who have turned to it spiritually have found, throughout the centuries, that they end up saying with Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68).

    http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/2010/01/are-gospels-reliable-letter-to-young.html

  33. When I was a young adult, I dabbled around with with TM and other ways I thought may lead me to peace, to understanding, to God.. I just KNEW there was something more to life than how I was living it, but I couldn’t seem to get to the “center” of it it all. I would read the Bible, especially the Gospels, and know that if the things in there were true, I needed what Jesus was talking about. I needed that living water that he talked about. I needed Jesus. I was brought up as a good little Catholic girl, so of course at one time I believed in God and Jesus in the innocent way that a loved child can do. My doubts got in the way as I got older and it took my awareness of the sad state I was in and the need that I had to turn back to Jesus, asking for him to guide me.

    Studying is good. We are given brains and I believe God wants us to use them. But at some point, we realize that all the studying in the world can’t PROVE God to us. Thomas Aquinas studied intensely, but when he had an “experience” of God’s power, he wanted to burn all that he wrote, feeling his writings were nothing. His students prevented that. So, it’s possible that his studies brought him to the furthest point he could go, then God did the rest and the best.

    I say, just for today, ask Jesus to guide you into all Truth. And tomorrow, do the same. And again and again. Every day, you will have doubts, but you may find that you feel an inner peace and confidence running along right beside the doubts. Give yourself some time each day to pray, maybe at least twenty minutes. I know we can pray any where at any time, but it’s good to give yourself some very specific time to be present for God to “speak” to you. If you need some help in beginning to do this, I suggest doing some reading on Centering Prayer as taught by Thomas Keating, Basil Pennington and now William Meninger. It’s based upon an old book called The Cloud of Unknowing which documents techniques used by a medieval monastic community around 1375. (The actual author is unknown.) Centering Prayer is only one way of learning to listen to God, but it can be very helpful for many people, including myself.

    And to Nate who wrote here, “Jesus is the food. My deepest longing is not an explanation, it is to be loved perfectly.” Wondefully stated, Nate.

  34. lots of good advice in these comments. As someone who is going down the same path, I would recommend: 1) Stay away from Unitarian Universalist (They throw all religions together into a mess that really doesn’t work). 2) Turn off the TV. If you want reality, go volunteer at a soup kitchen. 3) Try reading the bible with the mindset that the people who wrote what they did believed in every word they were writing. Try hanging with the perspective of “What if?”. 4) The “oh, wow” God moments seem to happen when you get fed up with trying to make sense of it all, and quit thinking about it for awhile. Good luck and good journey my friend.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’d try investigating the older Liturgical churches; you’re less likely to get the off-the-wall extremism so common in Nondenoms & Evangelicals. There are going to be flakes everywhere you go, but centuries of experience in the old Liturgical churches has winnowed a lot of chaff from the wheat.

      Or you could contact Fr Obregon (Orthocuban) and check out the Eastern Rites. Orthocuban has his head screwed on pretty straight.

      Or check out JMJ/Christian Monist over at http://evangelicalinthewilderness.blogspot.com/, who blogs a constant struggle with his skeptical nature and vow to live his Christian life honestly in a church environment of simplistic absolute Faith Faith Faith and Happy Clappy Joy Joy Joy.

      The thing is, you have a skeptical nature. Total Blind Faith is NOT going to work with you, and will actually work against you. Too many see Faith as something to hide from, and Utter Certainty/Zero Doubts has the appeal of escape from a bad Reality, same as a drug.

  35. I am not in the habit of recommending books I have not read yet, but I was just at Amazon looking to read the reviews of books by Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) to see which one I may want to read. I have read a book ABOUT him by George Weigel called God’s Choice, but I haven’t read a book written BY Ratzinger. So I started out by reading the reviews of his book called, simply, Jesus of Nazareth. It looks like this just may be the book for today’s questionning, yet searching, people. I will order it myself after I read the other books I have coming. Amazon allows you to “look inside” the book and gives a lot of pages to read, more than usual, it seems.

    Perhaps this book could help the person who wrote the original email to Michael Spencer.

  36. Monte Hawk says:

    There is hope in Jesus Christ. Their is peace in Jesus Christ. There is comfort in Jesus Christ. There is assurance in Jesus Christ. There is reconciliation in Jesus Christ. There is love in Jesus Christ. There is removal of guilt in Jesus Christ. There is forgiveness in Jesus Christ. I can find none of those things elsewhere.

  37. Rom. 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and that of the Word of God.”

    I understand this verse to mean that we don’t put our faith in what is said so much as what is said puts faith in us.
    You can’t really explain a supernatural thing; if you could then it wouldn’t be the miracle it purports to be. With all due respect, my suggestion to the writer is to listen more. All the studying, investigating and research has been done…now sit under a good Bible teacher, listen to the presentation of the gospel and see if a spark of truth will ignite all the kindling that has been set in your heart for that express purpose.

    • Bingo, Annette. Faith is not something intellectually grasped, but something God does through His Word. We simply cannot, nor will not repent and believe the Gospel unless God, through the declared Word, instills faith to do so. Please pay particular attention to the last 2 parts of the following verses. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

      Then remember what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”

      So, to suggest to a skeptic the logical approach seems fraught with only further disappointment.

      Listen to the Word. Yes, faith comes by hearing, foolish as that might seem. However, that is God’s methodology. This verse tells us further that not only does faith comes by hearing, but it tells us this hearing is the hearing of Christ’s voice, through His life giving Word.

  38. Up until just a few eyars ago i was in this EXACT situation.

    The fact is that logical arguments for an against Christianity can go on all day and all night never come to any conclusion. You canNOT prove or disprove the resurrection and for that matter you canNOT prove Gd. This has to be accepted in order to progress.

    It’s not all about the logic and proofs. There are a million, billion things in the universe we don’t understand yet and i wouldn’t worry about them so much.

    One is drawn to religion, Gd, and Christianity by something deeper. One wishes to commune with something… Sacred. One looks around and perhaps finds it most clearly in Christianity. (I did.) The process of this communion with something Sacred, which leads one to Gd and perhaps even to Jesus Christ begins with the act and practice of Faith and Prayer.

    You do not need to forgo your intellect. Not at all. But entering a state of Faith and Prayer and reaching towards Gd is not a cold, intellectual thing and not about logical gymnastics wherebye you prove this or don’t prove that. It’s something more basic and beautiful.

    This si what i would tell this gentlemen. This is what happened to me. And i LOVE to sit around and contemplate the tough questions, but at the end of the day i see it as an enjoyable excersize, not as the basis of the Faith that takes me on the Journey towards Gd. (And Who has reached out to me in return. I definitely believe that. I’ve seen serendipities at incredible moments and…other internal things harder to describe… but i would NEVER be able to prove this or convince someone who was extremely skeptical)

    Good luck.

  39. The word, “reasonable” scares me. It isn’t that the Christian faith is unreasonable. Luther himself would not be convinced unless shown from scripture and pure reason. That gets to the heart of the matter. The word “reason” took on a weird meaning during the medieval ages in the hands of the nominalists. Positivism created arguments which were so incomprehensible that all one could do is accept them under the authority of the nominalist teachers.

    Luther was also an opponent of Aristotle/Thomistic reeason; he was much more in-line with Augustine, where God is found internally, rather than externally. With external senses, you can perceive the effects of God, but you do not truly find Him essentially. The infinite gap which remains has been filled in the past via authority – obedience to the church, accepting whatever it says. It’s easy to see why protestants have a problem with this type of reason, because it destroys the possibiltiy of a personal, I-Thou, relationship with God. Focusing on proving the existence of God actually reduces God to a mere object (“it” rather than “Thou”).

    I think the issue needs to drive us to the cross, which refines the question from, “where can I find God?” to “where can I find the gracious God?”. There is no point of seeking God if either a personal relationship is impossible. What we find at the foot of the cross is a gracious, loving, forgiving God who sought us out in the incarnation of Christ. Apologetics become useful to defend the historical evidence of the crucifixion and resurrection; if these events didn’t happen, then we have a nice meta-narrative and nothing else. But the apologetics alone will not lead us to God. It is in this encounter with Christ upon the cross that God comes to us and touches us. This is where faith enters – accepting what God has already done. It is not a “leap” into the abyss, but the infinite coming to us to close that abyss. Then, as Augustine stated, we seek not to understand that we may believe, but we believe that we may understand.

    I think this is very relevant the post-evangelical journey. There are many evangelical books out there that talk about chasing after God, finding God, or experiencing God. One book begins by talking about the nearness of God, but then says God is hidden in plain sight, sort of like Waldo in the picture books. Of course, then you have to buy this author’s book for the ten magical principles to find God – asserting himself as an authority to mediate between us and God. Even within evangelicalism the possibility of a personal relationship with God is under attack.

  40. donald todd says:

    A Greek philosopher named Anaxagores took issue with the thought of all of his peers. Anaxagores noted that mind did not come from matter, rather matter came from mind. It was a blinding philosophical insight, (and has – for me – the convenience of being the opposite of current evolutionary theory which posits that mind came from matter. Given the astronomical numbers involved in something as basic as compatible human beings capable of bearing additional human beings being an accident, Anaxagores position was most welcome.)

    Anaxagores is due great credit for the use of human reason to arrive at his conclusion.

    A thousand years before Anaxagores, God introduced Himself to Moses. When Moses asked God how He could describe Him to the Jews, God answered “tell them I am has sent you.”

    Moses, like all of us, was a contingent being. That is, Moses was dependent on someone else for his life. The Person introducing Himself to Moses was not subject to the limitations of contingency. His life is His own and He is not dependent on anyone else for life.

    If reason is used, as Anaxagores’ efforts noted, one can discover a Mind from which matter comes, but reason is impersonal and will deny a person the closeness of another Person.

    I started with reason because the thread noted an effort to use reason to arrive at a conclusion. Having been given a mind, one is supposed to use it to the best of one’s ability. Yet it was noted that Anaxagores arrived at a conclusion which was not personal. Anaxagores was not able to arrive at the Person Who he recognized as the Mind responsible for matter.

    The personal depended on revelation, which is what occurred with Moses. God had to introduce Himself to the human race. Barring revelation, reason is dry.

    Given the apparent age of the person who started this thread, the idea that one might grow up inside of Christianity and transcend the issues I have been reading about above are precluded. That leaves one in the position of determining IF the reasons for the Christian God are enough to cause one to examine the ideas for baptism or the believer’s prayer.

    I might suggest reading the biography or autobiography of some people who interest the person who started this thread. I would also suggest CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity and GK Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man. Finding people like oneself who have gone through a profound conversion retelling their stories might speak to our requestor, and because this is about a Person and a person, it is personal.

    It is grace got you this far. Grace will bring you home if you permit it.

  41. Dear seeker,

    May you find what you are looking for.

    Now for some suggestions. You are looking for certainity about God’s existance. I don’t think that it is really possible. But, how do you know that a chair is going to hold your weight when you sit on it or stand on it to reach something? You can either put it into an Instron, and break it, and then knowing that your weight is less than the breaking point (but opps, you’ve destroyed it), or you can just sit down on it.

    We use that kind of trust all the time in our daily lives, and that is something that you will have to try in your search for God.

    I also recommend that you concentrate on Jesus, the man who lived in the Roman province of Judea. Look at the historical evidence of his death, resurrection and life. Compare what we know to what we know about historical figures of similar time periods.

    Read about the lives of earlier Christians, their doubts, their choices. Consider how a woman who did so much for the poor and helpless as Mother Theresa of Calcutta, yet with such an absence of touch from God. (To me, that is quite humbing, )

    Even though, I am not a fan of try it, you will like it, I recognize that Christianity isn’t totally about intellectual answers, but a relationship based on love with God, through the one who was both God and Man. We know His name as Jesus.

  42. To the writer of the letter,

    I am really, really, thankful that you had the courage to write that letter and post it here on Internet Monk.

    I have some background similar to yours. I’ve been an atheist and a Christian in at least three different traditions. My own struggles lead me to a Theology degree and a current Master’s in philosophy. I know you probably get tired of “advice” that has come here, but without a email address I can’t ask you any questions about what’s going on.

    First, Doubts never really stop. I find again and again in my life as faithful Christian that I must constantly revise my understanding of my own faith. My questions about such and such must occasionally be suspended so that I can ACT within God’s church for sake of God’s mission. I generally find that I cannot sit on the sidelines until “every question is answered” or something like that. Doubt is simply part life, and it is a larger part of life for academics.

    Since you know Philosophy, Apologetics, and have an idea that there must be a moment of decision making, I can recommend two articles. First, read through “will to believe” by William James. He describes what it is like to have to make a decision for or against God or anything else in life. It helped me sort through a big theological dilemma during undergraduate.

    Secondly, read “Cognitive Idolatry and Divine Hiding” by Paul K. Moser. He’s a great philosopher out of Loyola of Chicago. The article explains, among other things, that we as humans have a tendency to want God to be revealed on our terms and our terms alone. This doesn’t always work with the God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our relationship to God is one in which God challenges us and even “threatens” us in some ways. It is a difficult, but wonderful, transition.

    I hope that helps a bit.

    Deus Te Cum,
    Joel

  43. I just returned from a morning service with the kids at a local Youth Detention Center, my heart yet on a question asked us by one of the inmates when we were last there: “How can you be sure?” she wanted to know, whether she meant that “there is a God” or that “He abides in me”, I am not sure; but, either way, how does one answer? At the time, three of us gave short scenarios of how we had come to Christ. This morning I took them to the 14th Chapter of John’s gospel and the statement of Jesus in verse 29 where He tells the disciples that the mind-boggling things He has been feeding them were spoken of before they happened so that they might believe when they indeed come to pass. For me, the practice of reasoning with our mind about our faith is Biblically endorsed. Is not our mentality one of the four elements named within the first commandment? In truth, God expects us to dig into the whole affair rather than follow some Jim Jones down the path. We just also have to be aware that (a) there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is death”; and (b) our “heart is deceitful above all things”. Where, then, does that leaves us? “Search the Scripture”, Jesus said; but (in my own words), “Don’t build a totem! Instead, get ahold of Me in the middle of it!” In other words, it is “out of a man’s belly”, an inner connection re-established, a Spiritual “anchor-line” that tugs and holds me to center as I stumble in my next step, then another one down the road. The place where we start must remain, in a sense, for the entire journey, for I don’t think we begin to “see” God until we are willing to see ourselves. In Romans, we are told it is “from faith to faith” and that the interim is where we learn His righteousness, which leads me to believe that, in learning His, I am increasingly made aware that the only thing “righteous” about me is He who indwells me…….

  44. One think we cannot say is that this anonymous agnostic, if he ever comes to Christ, is redeemed because of what he ultimately did. The fact that this agnostic has not fully entrusted himself to the Lord in faith is due to the fact that God has yet to supernaturally draw him to embrace the gospel. This is made clear when our Lord stated: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44, NIV). Our Lord also made the same point earlier when he told Nicodemus: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its good, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8, NIV). This does not mean that we just sit back and not share the gospel to the lost. We are mere agents of God so that when the Word is shared with the unbelievers that God will work in the hearts of the elect to bring them to saving faith.

  45. My suggestion for this topic would be to read Dallas Willard’s new book Knowing Christ Today. He tackles the subject of knowledge in regards to knowing God and how there is an entire body of knowledge that is being cast off and covered up because it can’t be “proved” in a test tube. He goes into depth about how we daily access this body of knowledge on a regular basis even though science would say it doesn’t exist because again, it can’t be “proved” or even tested by science.

    My encouragement to the writer would be to remember that Jesus promised that those who learn to abide in him will actually know the truth and it will set them free. Thats my prayer for the writer.

    I came across a great quote the other day by the RealLivePreacher:

    “Doubting God’s existence is okay and perfectly acceptable within Christianity as long as the person doubting remains obedient and committed to the Christian path.”
    Real Live Preacher, Real Live Preacher weblog, 06-10-04

    Go in peace! Jesus blesses You in His Kingdom!

  46. My pastor said something this morning that I connect with this topic. He said faith does not eliminate doubt or fear. Faith casts a shadow of doubt, and the bigger your faith is the bigger your shadow of doubt grows. If you have faith the size of a mountain, your shadow will be just as big. Faith and doubt exist together, and will be in a constant struggle with each other until we get to the other side. Trust and fear exist side-by-side, too.

    I grew up a Christian, but have had several crises of faith in my life. Is Christianity the only way? Is Jesus the Son of God? One realization I came to is that there is no one belief system in the world that has all of the answers, not even Christianity. I kind of got this feeling from the OP–like he/she was looking for that one belief system in which everything could be proven. It doesn’t exist. So now go to plan B–start talking to God, the keeper of all wisdom. We don’t know everything, but He does, and will dispense His wisdom to you in ways unique to you, if you only ask Him.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      In other words, those who tell you they have Never Doubted are either handing you a line of Spiritual One-Upmanship or they have had such a smooth ride their Never-doubting Faith has probably never been tested under real load.

  47. I’m sure this has been said, and 79 long comments are very hard to read through, nonetheless-

    The questions he mostly asks are secondary. They do not matter.

    Was Christ born in the same Betlehem, manger, cave, etc. where we gather. Maybe not. Does it matter?

    Do we REALLY have to know HOW God created the universe? Will we ever? Again, does it REALLY matter?

    Does it matter that the gospels are at times historically inaccurate, or that some of the Old Testament books are full of basically “literature”?

    I think the point is this: God is there, loving us, and his Son, Jesus Christ was born, Christ died for us, Christ is risen from the dead, and Christ will come again. The rest – the “history”, the “details” are secondary.

    So what would I say to this “agnostic” friend? That I am, too, an “a-gnostic”, somebody who does not know, who right now only sees as if by a mirror, dimly, but I chose to beleive. I chose to look for the magnificent, uncomprehensible God that the man-written, scientifically refutable and questionable, yet true, right and clean word of God, the Bible is about. I chose to follow the teachings of a man who was the son of this God, because He is alive, and because He saved my life, turned me inside out, after I gave him my trust.

  48. Might I suggest a book?:

    “The Myth of Certainty” by Daniel Taylor. Excellent, helpful stuff. It’s written from the perspective of a doubting Christian, rather than a doubting agnostic (who are quite similar to each other), but it might still be helpful.

  49. Dear Letter Writer:

    I would advise you to seek out a mature, knowledgeable Christian who can disciple you in the faith. He should teach you whatsoever Christ commands to be done. Then do those things in becoming a disciple of Christ. Also, ask him up front to help you count the cost of your discipleship, and what that means.

    The inability to decide which side to take isn’t helpful because it won’t lead to anything settled. There’s nothing unreasonable about the Christian faith. You’ve already stated that in your letter. If there’s nothing unreasonable about it, why put it off? What can agnosticism and atheism offer you? Agnosticism offers you more of the same painful place you’re already in. The gospel offers you forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ and everlasting life. Place yourself in the path of discipleship I mentioned in the first paragraph.

  50. I too am surprised by the number of agnostic responses, but maybe we shouldn’t be. Internet Monk has developed a large following of those hurt by the church, disillusioned by evangelicalism, and has taught many of us to question everything. Conversely, agnostic readers are probably more likely to read Internet Monk than some blog called “My Jesus is Real.”

    The logic and reason of appologetics can only take a seeker so far. The truth is, Christianity cannot truly be understood by a person that is not a Christian. Anyone can study the Bible, but some biblical truths must be interpreted by the Spirit.

    I find Christian faith reasonable. I grew up in a fundamental Christian home, and came to faith many years before even learning about appologetics. I had blind faith in the accuracy of the Bible, including the Gospels, but reading The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel has helped me appreicate them in a new light. Perhaps I’m a unique case; my blind faith of childhood has been helped by the reason and logic of appologetics.