Sunday, March 23, 2014

Introductions

Ever sit in church on Easter & wonder if 2000 years of worship by zillions of people was just one huge cosmic joke?  I did.  I used to feel like a liar for coming to church anytime, but especially on Easter.  What if Jesus was a myth or maybe he just passed out on the cross & revived in the tomb? We’d be believing a lie. The Apostle Paul was pretty blunt about it in 1 Corinthians 15:14:  “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless & so is your faith.”

Hi, my name is Matt Rhodes.  I’m a skeptic that came back to church after about 30 years of being a twice a year Christmas & Easter christian.  The purpose of this blog is just to share the answers that God brought into my life when I’d given up on finding any answers to my doubts.  

I grew up baptist, but lost most of my faith in college while I was studying science.  My courses all emphasized the need for logical thinking, so it was natural to apply it to what I thought about Jesus & God. Unfortunately that just led to lots of questions & no answers.  I always figured asking a preacher about what I thought would just lead to a lecture on the need to have more faith.  Mostly I avoided going to church & avoided discussing what I thought with anyone.

After 30 years, what changed?  Telling my whole faith journey here would make this post too long.  I wrote about it before for our church newsletter back in 2006.  You can find a copy here.  It was too long in the beginning, so I wrote on how I came to believe, but not the why. Later I wrote that down as Part II. I don't want to repeat all that here. The short answer is personal events softened me up to the possibility that God existed.  Still didn’t know what to do with Jesus, though.  Out of the blue in 2004, my niece sent me a book called Case for Christ by Lee Strobel & wanted me to read it.  All things christian were offensive to me back then, so I almost didn’t.  I did let it collect dust as long as possible.  When I did look it over, I discovered that it addressed some of the questions that had been running thru my head after all those years of doubt.  It never occurred to me that people wrote books on this stuff.  Didn’t turn me into a believer when I finished it, but it did make me doubt my doubts.  With time & a search for more information my doubts grew weaker & my faith stronger.  Perhaps, what I’ve found out will interest others who aren’t as inclined to spend a lot of time reading thru books.

I originally posted this a few years ago, but the information still applies.  The only difference is now you don't have to wait for me to write the next posts.  If you just want to get right to the answer to the question of why I believe, read post #10 first as it summarizes my thinking.  It won't answer all your questions, but it might make you interested in knowing more about how I can make such statements and not feel like I am lying. Feel free to leave me comments or questions.  I can give you more details in a reply.

2 comments:

  1. I was agnostic or atheist for many years.

    As we discussed on Facebook, I would call what you are experiencing difficulties rather than doubts. This is a distinction fleshed out by the Anglican turned Catholic John Henry Newman.

    http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/blessed-john-henry-newman-explains-faith-doubts-and-difficulties/

    I like this distinction. I believe as long as you are willing to believe any of the Faith, truly believe it, then your problem with a particular aspect is not truly a doubt.

    The Creedal denominations, such as Presbyterianism, have a set of beliefs to which believers assent. I don't think this is mindless. These beliefs are open to examination. Ultimately, if you believe in the creeds, you are questioning in the way Mary questioned the Angel "How will this be?" in Luke 1:34 as opposed to Zacharia laughing at the revelation of the Angel in Luke 1:18.

    I would encourage you to take up your difficulties with your Pastor or others in authority in your Church. I know that they are often hard to approach, but something like this can be serious and I do feel that people shouldn't go to Church for social reasons alone, that they should be committed to the beliefs. I'm sure many wouldn't agree with me about this.

    I can say that I don't often experience difficulties, but I do sometimes still catch myself suddenly thinking like an agnostic, that religion is just a consistent set of beliefs that make us whole without regard to the truth of the details. I sometimes imagine that I'll be surprised in some way at the Judgement that it was all true. This shows that there are still habits of thought that indicate a lack of faith. I suppose these are difficulties. Habits of thought are difficult to overcome.

    I often worry that I don't pray as I should and that is both the source and the consequent of any lack of Faith I might experience. I'm working on this, but progress is sometimes slow.

    I do feel that my own Catholicism has the most consistent set of beliefs and tools to deal with difficulties. The sacraments, especially the Eucharist, is an exercise in Faith. Faith grows through exercise, not as an abstract, I believe.

    Whatever you do, try not to give into despair. If you are honestly searching, I think you'll be fine. Don't let anyone tell you you are wrong for asking questions.

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    Replies
    1. Despair isn't exactly what I'm feeling about my beliefs these days. You could say some discussions with our friendly neighborhood Mormons & Jehovah's Witnesses helped crystalize some of what I think. I like Newman's spin on questions about our faith. Calling them difficulties makes them sound more manageable. Just something to work thru like a flat tire. On the other hand, we all know the basics of dealing with flat tires. Questions about faith can be more problematic in that often you may not know there is a good answer to the question. That's the purpose of the blog to supply information that some people don't know & erase a few questions from their minds. If you can't get more knowledge, though, your only choice to rely on belief in spite of your question giving you fits.

      That pretty much describes my typical visit to CNN.com. The gruesome crimes are the worst for me. My most common prayer is to ask God to see that justice is done & that somehow he use the bad to produce good somehow. I've also prayed about doubts/difficulties too. Once I accepted Jesus' resurrection & that he was the Messiah I wondered how I knew that made him divine. In a day or 2 I was reminded of Isaiah 7:14. That is the verse where it says the virgin will be with child & will call her son Immanuel. The footnote reminded me that Immanuel means 'God with us'. I've had enough prayers answered to consider prayer one of the most direct means of proving God exists, but so far I haven't found an atheist or agnostic willing to try it.

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