This past month has been a stretch for many of us. Entertaining doubt and hard questions, holding historic faith and present day culture in tension, giving the floor to a full blown atheist for 45 minutes…it’s been a lot to manage.
But where else could, or should conversations like this happen? If the church can’t engage people or questions of this nature then what’s the point? God certainly isn’t afraid of this subject matter, so why should we be? If Truth is Truth it can survive any scrutiny or storm. And if anything, our concern should be as God’s, who is jealous (read: wounded) over a creation that has distanced themselves from him. The God we serve isn’t a spoiled brat who forces allegiance, instead, scripture reveals an image of a God that has done and is doing everything possible to make all things right.
Last thought: One of the most encouraging comments following the conclusion of this series went something like this: “This has challenged me to be more rigorous in my faith. Not only to sort out what it is I believe, but to truly live it out!”
Here are some the thoughts and ideas that helped influence our conversation this month:
“Spiritual Formation is the great reversal: From being the subject who controls all other things to being a person who is shaped by the presence, purpose and power of God in all things.” (Ross Mulholland)
“Many people are rejecting our gospel today not because they perceive it to be false, but because they perceive it to be trivial. People are looking for an integrated world-view which makes sense of all of their experience.” (John Stott)
“The pain which Paul felt in Athens was due to neither to bad temper, not to pity for the Athenians ignorance, nor even to fear for their eternal salvation. It was due rather to his abhorrence of idolatry, which aroused within him deep stirrings of jealousy for the Name of God, as he saw human beings so depraved as to be giving to idols the honour and glory which were due to the one, living, true God alone. His whole soul was revolted at the sight of a city given over to idolatry.” (John Stott)
“However we may understand the details, there can be no doubt, in the biblical picture of human life, that we were meant to be inhabited by God and to live by a power beyond ourselves. Human problems cannot be solved by human means. Human life can never flourish unless it pulses with the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe. But only constant students of Jesus will be given adequate power to fulfill their calling to be God’s person for their time and their place in this world. They are the only ones who develop the character that makes it safe to have such power.” (Dallas Willard)
“This isn’t a matter of having all the answers or taking control of the world. Indeed, it’s just the opposite, when I am weak, then I am strong. We must pray that God will raise up a new generation of strong weaklings; of wise fools; of wounded healers; so that the healing love of Christ may flow out into the world, to confront violence and injustice with the rebuke of the cross, and to comfort the injured and wronged with the consolation of the cross. (Henri Nouwen)
“The essential difference between orthodox Christianity and the various heretical systems is that orthodoxy is rooted in paradox. Heretics, as Irenaeus saw, reject paradox in favour of a false clarity and precision. But true faith can only grown and mature if it includes the elements of paradox and creative doubt. Hence the insistence of orthodoxy that God cannot be known by the mind, but is known in the obscurity of faith, in the way of ignorance, in the darkness. Such doubt is not he enemy of faith but an essential element within it. For faith in God does not bring the false peace of answered questions and resolved paradoxes. Rather, it can be seen as a process of ‘unceasing interrogation.’…The spirit enters into our lives and puts disturbing questions. Without such creative doubt, religion becomes hard and cruel, degenerating into the spurious security which breeds intolerance and persecution. Without doubt, there is loss of inner reality and of inspirational power to religious language. The whole of spiritual life must suffer form, and be seriously harmed by, the repression of doubt.”
– Kenneth Leech
“We live in a beautiful, fascinating, complex world and we’re all trying to make sense of it the best we can. There are 6.7 billion of us living on this planet belonging to hundreds of different belief systems. Most of us want to live peacefully, yet we also want to think that are own personal beliefs are the right ones. And if we are right, whatever we believe, that means millions or possibly billions people must be wrong. As a world full of individuals, we are never going to think the same way. What we can do is accept that we hold many different beliefs and focus instead on what unites us as human beings because we are truly similar in so many ways. We all want to feel loved, and to give love freely. We all want to love long, enjoyable lives, free from fear and pain. We’re all muddling through life the best way we know how. What’s important are not the beliefs we hold, but that we are free to hold them and that we always express them peacefully.”
– Ariane Sherine
“Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”
“The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the ‘big questions’ is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble. And that’s what man needs to be, considering human history is just a litany of getting shit dead wrong!”
– Bill Maher Religulous