AND THE LACK THEREOF*

*we put the "mmm" in communism

about

This is the personal blog of Tim. Here, Tim writes on anything he has enough inspiration to finish a post on. That usually ends up being matters of science, pop culture, technology, religion, and philosophy.

This blog is around nine years old, which is over a third of Tim's current age. Back in 2003, it was called "Of Tim: Tim's life - or lack thereof", and it was as bad as you might expect the blog of a freshman in high school to be. Tim hopes that his writing is a little better, these days.

Tim welcomes any input that you, the dear reader, might have. Comments are very much appreciated, especially if you have a dissenting opinion. If you'd like to learn more about Tim, you might want to see his facebook or google+.

Also: Tim is a very avid consumer of various sorts of music. You may be interested in his playlists!

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I have, of late, felt driven to make some sort of decision about Christianity. I dislike standing on middle ground when people try to place where I am. When someone pegs me as a Christian, I feel cornered by stereotypes and misunderstandings, trapped with a group that I find less and less in common with. When another pegs me as an unbeliever, I feel undefined and vague, lacking in virtue and values, like a philosophizing windbag that thinks about deep things without coming to conclusions that positively change his life.

I know that whatever my choice is, I'll never be rid of it all (and not just because I have a phoenix plastered to my chest). My parents, and my parents' parents have forever been steeped in very core of America's Christian culture. My whole way of thinking, my worldview, and my language have risen straight from that - a fact which I do not resent or regret, but that I cannot avoid due to its prominence, even if it sits only in the background of my life. I don't mind this, because I can see that it gives me a set of experiences and a perspective that if I did not have, I would not understand a thing about, an ability which few looking from the outside in are very good at. It's given me a drive to ask hard questions and seek hard answers - but it's precisely there that I think the faith of my fathers does not satisfy.

I'm tired of trying to fit Christianity's answers to the problems that the world presents. While an impressive many of those answers work and are fruitful, too many, for my tastes, do not. If I am to be expected to disbelieve my senses and to trust in an ancient dogma, I would demand answers that do not falter in the face of scrutiny. Primarily, the problem of God's character is what troubles me.

I have rather high expectations of God - and while God is in no way bound by those expectations, if he expects me to recognize him for who he is and to honor him for that, then his character should be far more evident than I have yet found it to be, as the Bible presents it.

I see little consistency between the Old Testament and the New. I have heard dozens of scholars attempt to explain how the God of Abraham saw fit to enact genocide plural times or of his complete lack of forgiveness for deviance within his people, when the God of Paul claims to be so overwhelmingly full of love for his creations. I simply cannot reconcile the two: one is entirely similar to the gods of ancient Greece, or China, or Arabia: wholly vain, perhaps even whimsical and capricious in his judgment upon the world, while the other is suddenly willing to engage in a living relationship with people beyond an arbitrarily selected group of nomads. Yet, even this God is not willing to forget Hell, a place of judgment for those not lucky enough to be born of God-fearing parents, or (and this doctrine truly riles me) those pre-destined to know their Creator.

There is no justice or mercy in either God of the Bible. I am willing to admit that humanity is plagued by sin, and that we are in need of salvation from that sin - no one need look far to confirm that. Yet the fact remains that God is responsible, yes, responsible for his creation. I do not deny responsibility for my own actions, yet I cannot, in good conscience, worship a God that claims to be just and merciful, yet would knowingly craft billions (billions!) of people only to condemn them to Hell. It is folly to say that every person has had their chance at redemption - ill cultures raise ill families, and ill families raise ill children; sociology has taught us that much, at least, and it would be ignorant to claim that every person has had proper exposure. One lecturer at L'Abri put it roughly like this:

The Bible is not in every language. Even for those, not every person can read. Even for those, not all of them have access. Even for those, not all of them have a church to go to. Even for those, not all of them have a good church to go to. The simple reality is that most people will never hear the message of salvation.

For the longest time, I have refused to separate the many great Christians I've met from Christianity. Yet perhaps, like others that I have met, they were simply great people, that just so happened to be Christians. They would most certainly deny this notion, but I have yet to see anything truly miraculous in another person's life, or my own. The change (so often attributed to God) I see looks quite human. Perhaps faith was the key to unlocking that change, but to claim that true change can only come through Jesus is to ignore the many examples that speak to the contrary throughout the world.

Even still, however, I recognize many of the truths that Christianity speaks towards. The men that wrote the Bible were geniuses - the wisdom therein is timeless and wonderful, but this does not mean it is ultimate truth, the final truth, the only truth. The Bible carries a powerful story, and is itself an astounding piece of literature - but for now, I do not believe it is more than that.

If God wishes me to be a Christian, then he'd best speak up. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong: to have some form of definite answer about the nature of the world around me would be a wonderful gift. To have a Creator I could recognize and share with and to love, would be even greater. Yet God has made no such attempt. If my experience is all I have to go on, I could conclude just as easily that he hates me rather than loves me, but of course this conclusion would merely change based on how well my day was going.

Until then, I've stopped wearing that good old coconut bead necklace. I'm not sure what to replace it with, though.
posted by MC Froehlich at
Anonymous A. Reader said...
Christians have often been guilty of making theology a tidier business than it has any right to be. I won't compound that error by denying that you have some good points.

I too would have grave difficulty with the idea that Hell is "a place of judgment for those not lucky enough to be born of God-fearing parents, or ... pre-destined to know their Creator." Some theologies may teach this, but the notion is in conflict with the teaching that "[God is] not willing that any should perish" (I Peter 3:9, see also I Timothy 2:4). Although God is under no obligation to answer to us with regard to why he does what he does (Romans 9:19-20), it seems reasonable to conclude that no one will be in Hell who could have been saved had God done things differently. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell chose it." I would add that, in this life, we have practically no reliable knowledge of who is or isn't in Heaven or Hell.

I don't mean to argue with you, but only to help clarify what it is you are rejecting. I have found the Catholic declaration "Dominus Iesus" to be very useful in understanding the relationship between salvation and the Church, especially Section VI, though I myself am not Catholic (and thus don't agree with Section IV). The Bible itself contains many examples of people who were saved by God's direct action apart from membership in any congregation.

I hope I'm not out of place in speaking. I appreciate the way you are wrestling with this, and I doubt you would mind my saying that you are in my prayers.
Anonymous danielreid said...
This was somewhat unexpected, and yet at the same time, not so, heh. We should talk sometime... I probably haven't studied it as much as you to date, but I'm kinda curious to delve a little deeper into all of that you just wrote about.

"Yet God has made no such attempt."

This strikes me as more dramatic than actually true. Perhaps it depends on your definition of "attempt", which would move rapidly in the direction of what seems to be an attempt to define God by your own standards.
Blogger MC Froehlich said...
When I say that God has made no such attempt, I'm not exaggerating. I've spent years seeking him - some years more than others, but any relationship I ever felt was not out of any clear or obvious response from him, but what I have been taught to assume was his reaction. I've spent so long hoping that I was really in the right, that I was serving the one, true God - but I haven't found any meaningful confirmation of that. Part of my motivation for this decision is that I want to see what happens when I stop pursuing him.

Essentially, I'm saying I don't trust the Bible's definition of God. Why would God make the primary method of relationship with him a book that is subject to such a large amount of misinterpretation? God, of all people, should know how far humanity would twist what's in there, and how many would be driven away because of that.

I do believe that God is there, or here, or somewhere - but I question his relationship with us, and I question if Jesus truly has any connection to our Creator. Jesus was certainly an amazing person, a moral juggernaut and a philosophical genius - but I find it hard to trust that his claims to divinity were not posthumously tacked on by those looking to add credibility to his message.

I'm not saying "If God loves me, he should speak to me directly", although that would be greatly appreciated. I'm stepping back from the assumptions of I've made thus far, and attempting to go forward without them. I'm tired of assuming that God loves me - if he does, I shouldn't have to reassure myself of it on a daily basis. I'm not saying God doesn't love me. In fact, I'm not saying anything about God at all, because I don't know him.

If he does love me, he knows best how to show me, so I have no expectations for how that will come about. I want to know him, and I want to do "his will" - but I am not persuaded that the Bible truly is part of "his will".
Blogger Sam Luddy said...
It is a comfort to know that I am not the only person who is struggling with this. Like you, I was raised in a Christian context, and given a set of values that I was expected to hold dear. As a child and adolescent, I accepted these values, and held the Bible in the highest esteem, accepting it as the sole truth as to the destiny of humanity.

Throughout my high school years, my faith was in turmoil; you saw me going from saying I was an "atheist" to saying that I don't know what to believe, and that I'm still searching. While we drifted in and out of contact over those years, up until present day, I have been trying to define my exact attitudes towards God, and his "plan" for me. I have never been comfortable being branded as a "Christian," because of the attitudes it evokes from others, and yet I want to be able to have theological discussions with peers. I agree with you, the Bible is a great piece of literature, and I also agree with you, that I do not believe that it is the sole truth that exists.

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