Last week, I talked about how Monica Valentinelli and I (the pic is me and Monica, with Anton Strout determined to photobomb us!) were discussing faith in writing. Monica started us off, I followed it up with Part II, then she picked it up with Part III on her website.  We conclude with Part IV with her asking:

How integral to a plot is your views on faith?

MB: The weird thing is I know there are people who read about me and assume I must be cramming Christianity down my readers folks every chance I get.  And it’s true:  just the other day I was plotting my vampire story and while being chased by said vampire, my heroine turned to him and asked him if he knew Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Or maybe I didn’t.  (Although, now that I think about that, that would be pretty funny).

My plots are integral to my plots, meaning that my job as a writer is to service the story.  Who I am is a Christian, a person of faith.  Sometimes the two intersect, sometimes they do not.  I’m currently writing a steam punk romance story.  Faith doesn’t play a part of the story because neither the plot nor the characters themselves demand them.  I’m not going to shoehorn in some Jesus just to do it.  Then again, this story began with an editor approaching me and asking me to write a steam punk romance story.

Sometimes though, my stories begin with a question, specifically some idea related to faith that I’m trying to work out in my head.  for example, what if science believed it could cure people’s “sin nature” through gene therapy (“broken strand” apex magazine) or what does a saving/real faith look like (“orgy of souls” apex books) or what if a person who thinks they have faith is confronted with the reality of their belief (“nurse’s requiem”, dark dreams III).

Then again, I’m always prone to over-sharing.

Do you think you owe it as an artist to share all parts of your life, your hopes, fears, and even your faith as a part of your art?  Is this even a struggle or tension for you?

MLV: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I went to college. The first story that I wrote in a writing workshop I pretended to be very dramatic and smart, using butterflies as a euphemism for a summer fling that never was. I was young. I was immature. And I was embarrassed. (Think sappy haute couture literary romance.) The experience taught me something. I can be inspired to write by the things that happen in my life, but I am not driven to express or share them with other people. Add social media on top of that, and I need a part of me to remain private. Especially since I’m eighty-percent introvert with twenty-percent extrovert. 😀

There are a few things that scream Monica that are found within my writing, though. Often, my stories (like “Pie” from Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas) are a “story within a story.” When you read my work, there’s always a sense of something greater, that you’re reading something in context. That is very, very “me.” The other thing about my work is that I like to venture off into new territory by experimenting with character viewpoints and formatting. When unleashed, I produce things like “The Queen of Crows.”

My struggle is more along the lines with “Does this suck?” than “What message do I have to say?” At the end of the day, no matter how much of my personality I put into my work, the only thing that matters is whether or not I told a good story. After all, the reader wears the crown.


(Continued from part I, as Monica Valentinelli and I engage in a dialogue about our worldviews and how we approach our craft) Has anyone ever accused you of being non-Christian because you write horror? How do you respond to something like that?

MB: Honestly, my spiritual life functions pretty much the same way.  I’m a trained scientist and I know our culture swims in waters of rational explanation first.  So that creates stumbling blocks in my faith as well as strengthens it.  On the plus side, I question a lot of things and explore why I believe what I believe.  On the negative side, I wish I had more faith some days.  Faith in prayer, faith in spiritual gifts, faith in the reality of the supernatural.  I believe, but if I’m honest with myself, I wonder how much I truly believe.

So when people accuse me of not being Christian, my answer depends on what kind of day I’m having.  some days it’s something along the lines of I don’t think you can judge where I’m at with Christ until you’ve actually engaged me in conversation and gotten to know my heart.  Some days it’s something like horror is how I grapple with the reality of darkness, evil, and the supernatural in the reality of my life.  Some days it’s there’s a lot of what you call “horror” in the bible, it’s easy to label things if you don’t want to think.  Some days it’s just kiss my non-Christian black ass, but that’s not terribly helpful.  Though sometimes satisfying.

We are people of varying worldviews.  Do you think there is a dearth of spiritual or religious exploration in the genre?  Why do you think writers shy away from it?  Is it something you explore at all?

MLV: I’ve talked to a lot of writers who avoid sensitive subjects in general because they’re concerned with marketing: what sells, what their platform is, whether or not they’ll alienate readers? I haven’t read every story or book that’s out there, but I feel that

spiritual/religious exploration is affected by the current climate and the glut of tropes that are out there. Obviously, those tropes aren’t meant to be an accurate depiction of any faith, but I still feel they lurk in the background. What’s interesting to me is how these tropes affect what a reader’s preconceived notions are of a particular monster. Big difference between a Western European vampire and a Chinese vampire.

Anyway, I do explore these concepts from a character’s perspective if it fits the story. In “The Queen of Crows,” the Native American character turns his back on his faith to save his people. In a recent flash fiction piece that’s coming out, I wrote a story about a manticore set in a salt mine. When I was doing my research, apparently miners in Poland carved whole chapels into the rock salt and added saints, etc. Great setting with religious overtones built in; so I utilized that in the story’s plot.

While spirituality/religion isn’t part of my platform, it’s a part of yours. Why did you decide to go that route?

God Doesn’t Have Writer’s Block

I’ve written about the church’s uneasy relationship with art and spoken before of how story impacts my Christianity, but I’ve been thinking lately about how the many in the church have an uneasy relationship with story. Which is ironic considering that a good chunk of the basis of our faith is rooted in lessons provided by a collection of stories.

Our imagination is an amazing gift. Our ability to conceive ideas and construct stories is beautiful. It joins us to our Creator and is part of what makes us human. Its dark side, however, is that it can be used as a destructive device that can distort reality and is why so many inherently trust any sort of metanarrative. Story is a powerful thing, rife with potential, and because we were created in God’s image, we want to write our own stories.

I write by outline. When I’m plotting out a novel, there’s a story I know I want to tell. So I can spend pages creating characters, laying out plot points, describing different scenes, jotting down snippets of dialogue to capture each character’s voice, and generally plotting out the overall story. But I leave the end of the outline, the climax of the story, open. If my characters are real, they aren’t always going to cooperate with the story I have in mind. If they were created as living, breathing, fully fleshed out characters, they have freedoms and will make choices. They have their own story to tell and I need to give them room to allow them to write it themselves. If I impose my plot at the expense of their character arcs, the story I’m writing will ring hollow. I am not being true to them or the narrative.

I wonder if this is how God operates?

Stories can sometimes be painful and take dark and unexpected turns. When situations, crisis moments, rise up, we want to impose out plots on them. As a church, we can get tempted into wanting to write our own stories, trying to create “look what God did” tales—wrapping things up in time for our Thanksgiving service or next sermon series—that we overlook the people involved and the story HE’s writing. Stories proceed at their own pace, moving along their own timeline. Sometimes when faced with a painful or overwhelming story, we want to get to the end quickly (sometimes any ending), not allowing time or any sort of narrative process to unfold, simply to get over it and feel better. Trying to manage the story rather than being true to the story and characters.

I had a story once where the words were coming easy, the characters fully imagined in my head, and then I tried to force a story onto them. Instead of dealing with the characters in front of me, as they were, I moved the story at the expense of them and their needs. Shocker of all shocks, the characters quit cooperating with me. It was like they opted out of the story. So I had to scrap the story I was trying to do and start over.

We also have a way of trapping people in stories, not just as a people, or as a church, but also as individuals. We are quick to label people—“that’s the crazy one”, “that’s the drama queen”, “that’s the villain”—defining them into roles that they aren’t free to grow out of. Similarly, we can sometimes do the same damage to ourselves when we believe lies about ourselves.

Similarly to losing focus of the characters, we can lose focus of the story and end up forcing stories, locked into the endings we want. We end up trying to salvage a story:

-if we can just get this person saved
-if we can just get these people to reconcile
-if we can just change this person’s thinking or way of life

All good ends, but mixed in with an inherent hubris: as if we’re the author’s of those stories. What it reveals is that we don’t trust narrative. or the Ultimate Author. Our need to control locks us into creating “an opportunity for a miracle” (you know how we like to give God a helping hand with the situations we encounter), wanting to have a good “look what God did” story to tell, as if we need to provide Him crib notes to help the story along.

But God doesn’t have writer’s block.

As much as we would wish or act like it is, life isn’t a choose your own adventure story. Stories happen on God’s script and on His time table. As such, narratives are uncertain and should be prayerfully written. Narratives aren’t safe and require faith in an ultimate Author and asks us to surrender our narrative to Him and the story He wants to write. Our stories are ones of continued surrender.

We need to encounter each other as stories, bumping up against and connecting to others as fellow participants and co-authors of a story of reconciliation and healing. Pain and suffering is our universal language, our great uniter. Our collective sin, our response to that sin, requires that we walk through the pain of a fallen world with a willingness to enter into one another’s paralyzing situations.

The story isn’t that we sin and God forgives, but that we’re children of God’s, co-heirs with Jesus, called to a life of joy. We are to make His life our own, transforming us, sometimes through the refining fire of pain, to look like Him, as children come to resemble their parents. That’s the story we find ourselves in.

The Faithful Wrath

I don’t know why Wrath James White can’t simply say “Hey Maurice, I miss you. Why don’t you give me a call sometime?” Noooooo, instead he has to go all passive-aggressive on me and write a blog specifically designed to pick an argument with me. (Right, because we all know Wrath’s passive-aggressive … when he’s not being, you know, aggressive-aggressive.)

In the foreward of Orgy of Souls, I wrote that “faith is that sometimes tenuous, sometimes stronger than we think thing that keeps our world in order. [Wrath and I are] both men of faith in our own way, be it faith in ourselves or faith in God. We each are on our own spiritual journey. My faith follows a story, something that especially resonates with me as a writer. However, Wrath’s faith is every bit as rich and varied as my own.”

Why have I described both Wrath and I as men of faith? Because of one of the definitions of faith he cites: complete trust; something that is believed especially with strong conviction. Faith is an intuitive leap to what you choose to believe and how you choose to process the world around you. Any choice of a worldview requires a leap of faith, to believe that your worldview is the “right” one. I believe quest/knowledge journeys begin with a leap of faith, that is, what we choose to put our trust in. For some, it is ourselves (the individual or humanity). For some, it is science (the determination of our senses). For some, it is the spiritual (under the assumption that there is more to this life than presented, both in terms of the spiritual and in terms of after this life). To quote from the blog of my friend, Rich Vincent:

“Christianity does not consist in a series of verifiable and interlocking hypotheses. Nor is it a philosophical system consisting in satisfactory, mutually consistent propositions… the way that truth is sought and engaged with is not through detachment but through a living relationship of faith and love with the object we seek”. The Christian seeks more than “objective truth,” facts, or information. “The goal is not to find information, or even to discern fact, but to bring ourselves, as living subjects, into engagement with reality, culminating ultimately in a participation in the ground of what is real”.

Also, Christians don’t have a monopoly on truth. As Christ himself says, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (John 18.37). In my faith worldview, Christ is the universal truth and all truth leads to him. Faith doesn’t always make sense to me, I think that’s one reason why we’re told to work out our faith in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). I can only work out my faith in the doing. I have always seen myself as a soldier, someone who dives in to do the work. Your faith should drive you to action. It has its own dangers as I’m prone to working hard FOR Him, or doing good works for their own sake, rather than working hard to KNOW Him. And it’s the knowing of God that’s at the heart of my faith. Again, to quote from Rich’s blog:

An authentic encounter with the living and eternal God touches both our hearts and our hands. God calls us to nothing less than complete spiritual transformation. Those who desire to simply dabble in religion will get nowhere. Only thoses willing to submit to the rigors of regular acts of self-examination, confession of sin, and deeds of repentance can know deep and lasting change.

An authentic encounter with the living God will never leave us as we are – it will challenge our lifestyles, attitudes, actions, and motivations. The reason is simple: God regularly calls us to change – to repentance. If we are unwilling to change, we harden ourselves to spiritual transformation. Only a humble heart, open to God, ready to admit mistakes, willing to start again can know the fullness of what God desires.

Religion needs to be more than a get out of hell free card and church needs to be more than a collection of folks who huddle together to debate theology and revel in their rightness. The point of Christianity isn’t to make it into heaven, but rather the story we find ourselves in: we’re lost, dying, and in need of new life. Through Christ we’re found, saved, and given a model for a new way of living.

I believe that we’re all people of faith in our own way, it’s just a matter of what we choose to put that faith in, be it in ourselves, science, humanity, or in God. As such, each of us are on our own spiritual journey. There will be times when science will clarify matters of faith just like there will be times when faith can temper our sometimes irrational admiration for the rational. I think we can do more than just make “a” decision and hope that we’re right. We can continue to test what we believe and say we’re about and live out our lives accordingly.

My Name is Earl – A Doubting Faith

“Bad Earl”

“After everything that happened, Karma had me pretty confused.” –Earl

Entering its third season, My Name is Earl spent much of the season following Earl’s misadventures in prison. A lot of his life prior to finding out about and following the ways of “Karma” were spent breaking the law and showing up on episodes of Cops. However, Earl was imprisoned for trying to do right by his ex-wife, Joy. This led to a string of largely mediocre episodes, but watching Joy and Darnell lead a church service (“Oh Jesus you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Jesus!”) was a series highlight. The episode “Bad Earl” follows Earl’s crisis of faith, what some call a “dark night of the soul.”

As a scientist, a writer, and a practical theologian, intellectually speaking, faith hasn’t come easy to me (the question of faith has always hiccupped my spiritual journey). Some days I find myself wondering if I’m even a Christian. You pour yourself into people, befriend them, only to have them turn on me and/or leave the faith. It can be disheartening and you wonder if maybe you’ve gotten everything somehow wrong.

Some people find the prospect of doubt in one’s faith akin to leaving the faith entirely. They stand firm on “knowing” and “certainty” and “assurance” which can be understandable because people hate the idea of not knowing. Truth shouldn’t fear critical examination, and while there may be a point where you end up questioning for its own sake, every now and then it can be a healthy thing to question and re-evaluate our worldview.

Faith can be a relatively simple math problem: History/evidence + personal experience + intuition = faith. The personal dimensions to our faith, however, can be outlined in three phases: discovery (the kingdom of God/way of life), acknowledgment (this is true), and then reckoning (wrestling with it). Sometimes it seems like we chase after God and He’s playing hard to get. Paradoxically, or at least somewhat counter-intuitively, we can still draw closer to God through times of doubt and questioning.

“I’m pretty sure this Karma thing doesn’t exist.” –Earl

The Christian story on its face can seem ridiculous: God, this completely Other—sometimes seen as an imaginary friend, sometimes as the Creator—becomes flesh and blood, born of a virgin. This story unfolds in the context of angels, miracles, and fulfilled prophecy, only for him to die as so many had before and after on a Roman cross and then rise from the dead.

The journey of knowledge begins with an assumption: atheists begin with human reason (“I know through my reason, I know because I’ve reasoned that”); people of faith with theirs (“The Bible is the word of God because it says it is”). Oversimplified, I know, but minds of inquiry and genuine intellectual curiosity can journey together.

Doubting proves thought. How you arrive at truth, the contemplation of your own existence, demonstrates our ability to think and reflect. In the Christian tradition we typically draw on four sources: Scripture (the Bible), the historic church tradition (we learn in community, with time merely being a dimension to community), reason (both intuitive and deductive), and personal experience.

“I’m sick of people expecting more from me. How come I always have to act better than everyone else?” –Earl

Earl had certain expectations of his faith, a sort of “prosperity Karma”. Faith was almost like an investment scheme: after two years of doing good, things were supposed to be better, not worse. Things didn’t seem fair and we find ourselves (intellectually/behaviorally) spiraling. We can get so hung up on the possibility of missing the mark that we miss the point of being here. We end up asking the wrong questions (“Am I saved and thus ‘in’” vs. “Am I living in the way of Jesus?”).

The whole world is blessed and God is at work in all of us, working out His kingdom plan. Ironically, it’s Randy, Earl’s dimmer-witted brother, who stumbles over the secret to getting back on track: “Maybe you should go ahead and do something on your list. That always makes you feel better.” His list was his “Scriptural” guide for missional living. Living out one’s faith, the parts you clearly understand and know to be true, doesn’t make the questions irrelevant, but it certainly puts them in perspective. I may not be able to exegete every passage in the Bible, but I can grasp the concept of “love others as yourself” or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“I had no idea where I was going to, but I knew where I was going from … but Karma came looking for me.” –Earl

In the silence, God is there, or, in Earl’s words, “I thought Karma was dead, but she was just laying low.” You can turn your back on Him, but He won’t turn His back on you. And sometimes we need the silence in order to learn, if only to learn to listen. Having a life of faith means accepting the difficulty of living between paradoxes; it means getting rid of the arrogance and judgmentalism because you don’t have all of the answers. Having a doubting faith isn’t an easy road to walk. It can be filled with many dark nights and the weight of unanswered questions can sometimes be unbearable. But if you let it, a doubting faith can leads you to having to recommit to the journey daily. In the end, that’s all we can ask from our faith. As T.S. Eliot said, “Doubt and uncertainty are merely a variety of belief.”

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Betrayed by Faith?

A friend of mine shared a story about a critical phase in his faith journey. It occurred as he was transitioning away from a Pentecostal context to a Calvinist one. At the time, the church he was attending dropped names and quotes from the likes of Calvin, Spurgeon, and Wesley to prove their point about speaking in tongues as biblical and theologically sound. As he searched out the original source material for himself, he found the quotes that had been used, but he also discovered the parts that had been left out. It left him with a sense of feeling lied to.

One of his spiritual mentors at the time pointed out that their intent wasn’t to mislead you. They were doing what they thought was best. They were trying to help. There was no malice. My point isn’t to argue about the legitimacy of speaking in tongues. That’s a “you” issue. The “me” issue is the idea of feeling lied to during your spiritual development. Just because there was no malice, does that make it right? No. However, now what do you do with that?

Some folks simply walk away. I’m reminded of the passage in John 6 starting in verse 60, when many of the disciples deserted Jesus. “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” they grumbled. And after Jesus questioned some of them (“Does this offend you?”) many turned their back and no longer followed him. So he turned and asked the rest of his disciples “You do not want to leave me too, do you?”

Sometimes I feel like the remaining twelve disciples. “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

Jesus never claimed that his purpose was to come to have a personal relationship with us. He did, however, say that He came to build his church. The church is as flawed as the people who make it up, but, as Miroslav Volf said, “I am not a Christian because of the church, but because of the gospel. However, it was only through the broken church that I received the gospel. Because of the gospel, I participate in the church.”

Some people persevere, realizing that the spiritual journey is about questioning and investigation. There’s a difference between being lied to about your faith and the natural progression of your faith and I think it is the latter that we are essentially talking about. It wasn’t too long ago that I was at a place in my walk when I was a hardcore adherent to the “universe is only 5,000 years old” school of thought. Unlike some you who get to simply grow from this place, there tapes of me on the radio defending this position. My views back then were much more conservative (don’t make me re-live my positions on homosexuals or Catholics). However, back then I was also a teacher. I discipled people, I answered their questions, I shepherded their growth. Folks looked to me for answers and I gave them as best I knew.

I’m not in that place now and I have spent many a night wondering what happened to the folks who were under me and where they are now. How many faith journeys did I stunt back then? How many people feel betrayed by me right now? It’s why I am so hesitant to be put in the position of teaching others. Because I can only teach up to what I know, and I know just how little I know.

What should you do in the face of feeling betrayed? What do you do with your questions and doubts? How do you remedy that? We’re not called to ignorance. Each of us has been gifted with a will and intellect of our own. We need to check things out for ourselves. It’s not like teachers, pastors, or other instructors are counting on your ignorance. Discipleship, listening to sermons, reading verses–learning period–can’t stop at the listening step. You must learn to investigate for yourself. Investigation is the heart of the real spiritual journey.

I try to keep certain parameters in mind as I continue to search out answers for questions that I have: Does it match up with the historical faith? Does it match up with reason? Does it match up with our everyday life and reality? Does it match up with what I DO understand of what the Bible says? Because in the end, faith is our best guess as we search for truth in a spiritual way. Walking away doesn’t equal perseverance, however, as you grow and develop, the tenor of your faith may change.

Do I regret my time spent in that conservative setting? Absolutely not. To be mad at being there then because I’m no longer there now is like my adult me being mad at teen me (and there’s a lot about teen me to be mad about). If it wasn’t for being there, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Plus, there is the specter of arrogance in believing that where I am at now is “correct”. No, the key is to keep journeying, keep probing, to keep that dynamic edge to my faith. The only true betrayal of faith is to abandon thinking about it.


Passing the Baton

My sons will probably be Colts fans. They will be raised Colts fans, probably a good chunk of it being to please me and spend time with me. We’ll cheer together and mourn their losses together. However, one day, they will have to figure out whether or not they like the Colts for themselves or even like football, period.

Or, my children will be sci-fi geeks. We watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Farscape together. They are taught from an early age that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the best of the Star Trek franchises. In a few years they will be going to the sci-fi tent revivals known as conventions.

One of the hardest things for parents to do is train their children how to critically think, to think for yourselves. Without the “indoctrination” or what amounts to spiritual coercion. To allow them to think through their faith, their beliefs, and keep stretching themselves – in other words, to allow them to keep asking questions.

It’s the parents’ job to pass on family, cultural, and even spiritual values. To instill our values through our actions rather than our words, even though we ought to be explaining our values to them. Passing on the faith, raising kids with faith, is a tricky proposition. Here’s our dilemma: in order for children’s faith to become their own, they need to connect to it on their terms in their time. What we’ve seen happen entirely too often is well-intentioned coercion as we manipulate kids to make “decisions for Christ”. Our spiritual journey is not about brainwashing our children or otherwise make them go to church in order to ensure their spiritual growth. My experience is more to the contrary: few things turn folks off of church and religion like forcing them to do it. Thus explaining the college/on their own backlash against church and religion we so often see.

Ours is a household of faith and our children will be “raised as Christians”. We, as parents, believe, we pray, we share our faith and our traditions. At our parents’ dedication, where we affirm in front of our church community our intentions on how we plan on raising our children, this was said:

By dedicating Reese/Malcolm, we are publicly affirming our desire as parents to submit (our son) to God’s protection and guidance. We are saying that we want God’s perfect will to be established in the raising of (our son). As parents, we are an instrument that God has chosen to be His tool to express to God and the congregation that our desire is to raise (our son) as God would desire. All we possess belongs to the Lord, this includes our children.

Also we received a baton symbolizing our faith that contains a letter, from our respective pastors at the time, which talked about our faith. On their 18th birthdays, they get to open the batons. Whether or not they have made our faith their own by then, who knows, that is up to them. I can only do what I know I am responsible for. Our children are going to grow to be who they are; we’re not in charge of what they’re going to be like. We create the ethos, the values, and the support structure for our children, guiding them while at the same time discovering them.


Rage Against Thor*

Yes, I know that I don’t believe in you, yet that won’t stop me from occasionally ranting about you. I can still blame you for everything that’s gone wrong in my life, for not being real to me like you are to other people. I can rage against my wanting to believe and my frustration at not being able to, and the futility (and facile nature) of faith. I have a problem with some of your followers, the institutions built up around you and some of the things done in your name. So despite my non-belief in you in the first place, I’m going to dedicate a good chunk of my thought life to you.

You have to realize some folks have to dedicate themselves to pointing out the faults of whatever it is we disagree with passionately. That’s what makes partisan politics such a special delight. Where would we be without the Rush Limbaughs, Ann Coulters, Michael Moores, and Al Frankens of the world?

Now some might say:

To love others means to characterize them; to caricaturize them (except when appropriate) is not to love our neighbor as ourselves. One of the first levels of critical thinking schools — and here I trade in being a teacher who has been asked to do far too much investigation of educational outcomes — is to learn to describe another person’s thoughts and beliefs (1) in their terms and (2) without evaluation. In other words, until a person can “characterize” properly, that person is not yet a critical thinker. If our attempts at characterizing end up in caricaturizing, we need to back off until our head cools.

I say, in grand retort, whatever.

It’s much easier to caricaturize a person, institution, or group rather than engage them. We all know that no person is much more than a collection of their faults, Thor, and someone has to keep reporting the weaknesses of the ideas people have built up about you and the litany of faults of the people who follow you. Otherwise, they might forget.

Thank Thor for people like us.

*Apologies to my friends who do worship Thor. This ain’t about you.

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Lately I’ve been contemplating what it means to have a truly theocentric worldview. I guess my worldview starts with the premise that life is either meaningless or it’s not; that I either matter or I am insignificant, random, or an accident. Of course most of the “questions” boil down to faith. Faith that there may not be any (satisfactory) answers. Faith that there may not be answers we would understand. And faith to trust God in the not knowing while we muddle our way through things.

Faith gives meaning to existence, which isn’t to say that I/we as Christians hold the patent on true faith. There are many different kinds of faith: faith in God, faith in man, faith in (your)self, and so on. Correct me if I’m wrong (and I know you will), but I assume that nihilists would say that we flee to the idea of God as a cop out because we can’t handle imagining a life without Him. He is our existential crutch in a meaningless life.

Just like I think that each of those faiths still have the problem of evil, I’m left with some other questions if life is meaningless. If I have nothing but this life, why should I be selfless? Why should I be sacrificial? Why should I be concerned about other people? We only have a momentary chance to “go for ours” and there is little benefit (evolutionarily speaking) to living for others (tribe, species, or what have you).

A recurring comment since my discussions fleshing out what the Bible may or may not be saying on premarital sex has been why? Going with that question, why stop there? Why restrict yourself in any area of your life? Eat what you want. Drink what you want. Both are valid, necessary, and vital drives, why not do as much of either as you want? As I study what it means to be a Christian, I am struck by this pattern of a (holistic) lifestyle of restraint. Christian living seems to be one of denying oneself in all areas of your life, learning discipline.

I believe that we, as Christians, lead lives of delayed gratifications with the ultimate belief that the supreme gratification comes with eternal fellowship and communion with God. However, again, that’s a matter of faith.

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