[Bringing you up to speed, here’s Part I, Part II, and Part III – I now respond to B]

Sadly, I’m quite used to the tone.

Atheists constantly try to convert me and whether they realize it or not, usually with a chip on their shoulder. I know (or at least try to remember) where it comes from. Many of their stories follow similar trajectories. Many were burned by the church. We have burned a lot of people, literally and figuratively; and frankly, as much as one person can apologize for other’s history of mistakes, I’m sorry. If for nothing else, my participation in that history of mistakes. We, as the church, fall short of who we ought to be and what we ought to be doing.

Many have been burned (or enlightened) by their own faith, as in they asked questions and didn’t get answers that made sense to them and it led to them becoming disconnected with the historic Christian faith and led them down other paths.

Overlapping those two trajectories of stories are those who, due to their re-experience with members of the Christian faith, walk into conversations with Christians anticipating certain reactions. In other words, it takes a while for their guard to drop.

However, the tone does rub me the wrong way when it’s not just enough for you to not believe, but you want to spread the “truth” or, more on point, when anyone who doesn’t believe like you is stupid. It smacks of not respecting the beliefs of others and, in truth, you become everything you don’t like about religion and/or Christian folks.

So let’s just be careful that the tone doesn’t end the conversation.

Let me tell you where I’m coming from. Whenever anyone is trying to convert me (or even engage me in an agenda driven conversation), their message is only as good as the messenger. It forces me to constantly be evaluating my life and faith. If my life isn’t marked by me loving others and taking care of the poor, my faith (or whatever I profess to believe) is meaningless. If I’m not being formed into the kind of person my faith claims to make, then all of the logical arguments in the world is not going to convince anyone of anything.

Of course what I believe is foolishness. Faith often is. Look, I’m basically saying I believe there was a guy running around 2000 years ago claiming to be God (a claim which would get folks committed these days). Whose life impacted those around him. Who was crucified, like so many others were, but then folks said he rose from the dead. And that’s before the 3-in-1 God I believe in or even the idea of God incarnating and becoming a man.

There are days when I’m not feeling it. Days when I wake up and go wtf? Days when my prayer feels like me talking to my imaginary friend. So folks wanting to convince me of “the truth” probably aren’t going to share anything I haven’t thought about.

Is there a God isn’t necessarily a good question. A better question would be if He does exist, has He revealed himself in a way we understand but not exhaust? After all, if He hasn’t revealed Himself, He might as well not exist. (In my faith paradigm, He has revealed Himself truly and fully in Christ). To be compatible with secularism, we would have to remove any sense of mystery, any sense of the transcendent, and to do so would remove the essence of faith.

Faith isn’t an epistemology, but it is how you know what you know. It’s meant to shape you, to create a relationship, what could be described as a mystical knowing of God or the supernatural. Which is what I would describe as the role of the Bible in my life.

The Bible is a collection of stories. Not a history book, not a science text, not even a series of dogmatic propositions. To treat it as such is a failed proposition, reducing and misusing the canon. It’s a collection of stories I’ve chosen to let shape my life. It is a tool for spiritual transformation and formation, not necessarily given as a “Christian epistemology.” In short, I use it to affect my life. The idea of the Bible as a story especially appeals to me as a writer as I firmly believe that stories convey truths propositions can’t, or rather, fall short in being able to do it. Stories can be grasped in any age, by any culture. And a story doesn’t have to be totally true in its details for it to be true.

The only thing analogous to faith that I can think of is the act of “falling in love”. Falling in love isn’t rational. We can pretty it up to where “the practical information outweighs the romantic notions to the point where the romantic notions are meaningless.” Is love an evolved response to protect our genes being passing on? A biological imperative dressed up, given more meaning that it has? That kind of answer is sure to crimp ones dating life.

Since it can’t be quantified, I measure my faith experientially. Though there are days when it doesn’t make sense, there are many more days when it does. If only to me. And when all is said and done, all faith is personal and experienced individually.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.