Jul 20 2010

This I Know

As I write in my introductory post My Childhood God,  I have discovered that I still believe in the same God I believed in as a child. That is, I believe much of the same things about God that I did as a child. While I have grown in experience and knowledge and my beliefs have been refined, I find that what I learned about God still holds true today.

I should also point out here that my understanding of God’s character and how He acts appears to be in conflict with the beliefs held by many people (hereafter referred to as OPB, or Other People’s Beliefs).  Some of these OPB were held by me at some point in my journey, others I have always rejected. My point is not that I haven’t changed what I believe; to the contrary, I have been in constant change. On at least two occasions I have gutted my library of books that I no longer agreed with. However, I am aware that I had a knowledge of God as a child that has remained. I also have discovered that I had a pretty decent theological education as a child.

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

My absolute core belief about God is that He loves me unconditionally. While various people over the years have tried to convince me that I have to jump through certain hoops in order to earn that love, I don’t recall any point in my life where I was not convinced that God loved me unconditionally. I know that this is not common, and it’s something for which I am quite grateful. I know far too many people who were raised believing that God was a stern master, more like the “angry God” of a Jonathan Edwards sermon.

My childhood memories are for the most part fragmented and random, filled with more emotion than fact. When I was three, I was given a small record player (some of you will remember records).  The case was red and white plastic, with a cover that lifted back to reveal a small turntable, just large enough to play 45 RPM records, and a tone arm so heavy I’m surprised it didn’t actually cut through the plastic disks. I had an assortment of 78’s and 45’s (we’re talking lat 1950’s, folks) which included an assortment of children’s songs, including the standard Jesus Loves Me (although my favorite was a 45 my dad had of Chopin’s Les Sylphides – go figure).

Jesus Loves Me is still a favorite of mine, the lyrics presenting a simple truth:

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong

Truth like this is hard to beat; and, unfortunately, it often seems hard to find in many contemporary worship choruses which tend to focus on our emotions about God rather than truth about God’s emotions toward us. If your church sings a lot of contemporary choruses, chances are many of them focus on “I” – “I will follow you” or “I love you.” We have this idea that worship depends upon our action towards God, as if we’re initiating the relationship.

The reality is that God really does love us unconditionally. When I hear “Jesus loves me,” I cannot help but respond; it’s how we were designed.  Unfortunately, there are many who have been so damaged by bad teaching about God or who have made emotional connections between the Heavenly Father and bad earthly fathers that they simply cannot receive such truth. Personally, I believe that we all need to hear “God loves you” over and over again. Like dripping water slowly boring through solid rock, eventually the truth that God loves us will break through.


Jun 25 2010

My Childhood God

Sometime tonight between wandering around Borders looking at NT Wright’s latest book as well as a collection of essays called “Belief” and walking out to my car, I had a very interesting revelation. As most really cool revelations go, I can’t really connect it to anything I saw or happened to be thinking about. In fact, I was probably thinking about going home and eating some ice cream, but that’s beside the point. The revelation was this: I believe in the same God I believed in as a child.

Seriously.

In spite of traveling in and out of various evangelical, charismatic, sometimes wacky, ancient liturgical, emergent, and boring intellectual Christian churches and groups, in spite of moving from liberal to conservative to something else, and in spite of being led through the morass of theological trends, I believe in the same God I believed in as a child.

I’ve had many, many people try to talk me out of it. I’ve had folks try to get me to pray “the prayer” once again. I’ve had folks pray for me and try to knock me over. I’ve had people try to deliver me from evil. I’ve been dispensationalized, fundamentalated, legalized, charismatized, jeopardized, and tribulated. I’ve gutted my library of trash theology more than once. And in the end, I believe in the same God I believed in as a child.

Now, smart atheists will tell me this proves that religion is a product of our environment, that if I grew up believing in Some Other God, that’s who I’d believe in today.  Granted, exposure is an obvious factor in belief. Paul says this himself in Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

However, I know many, many people who believe differently today than they did as children. Tons. So, I’d have to say that while I truly appreciate the fact that I was raised a Christian, I’d have to say that what I believe today is not because of what I believed as a child (I believed in Santa Claus, too).  What I believe today about God is a product of my fifty-plus years of relationship with God. And, as it turns out, I was taught pretty well.

This post starts a new series, where I discuss the things I remember learning about God–and Christianity–as a child.  As I go on, I’d also like to hear about the things you were taught about God as a child, and how you believe today.  It should be fun.


Mar 17 2010

Peter Hitchens: The Rage Against God

Peter Hitchens, well-known journalist, author and brother to outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens, has just written a book entitled The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith.   Here’s a short trailer:

And from the back cover:

With unflinching openness and intellectual honesty, Hitchens describes the personal loss and philosophical curiosity that led him to burn his Bible at prep school and embrace atheism in its place. From there, he traces his experience as a journalist in Soviet Moscow, and the critical observations that left him with more questions than answers, and more despair than hope for how to live a meaningful life. With first-hand insight into the blurring of the line between politics and the Church, Hitchens reveals the reasons why an honest assessment of Atheism cannot sustain disbelief in God. In the process, he provides hope for all believers who, in the words of T. S. Eliot, may discover ‘the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’

This should prove interesting.


Feb 28 2010

Hunter on the Conflict Between Science and Religion

From Cornelius Hunter at Darwin’s God, discussing The Real Conflict Between Science and Religion:

But as Henry Kissinger described academia, the battles are so fierce because the stakes are so small. From the outside the conflict between atheist evolutionists and theist evolutionists is rather meaningless. For the atheists, in spite of all their bluster, are no different than the theists in their religious beliefs. They call themselves atheists, but their convictions about god are as strong as anyone’s. (see examples here and here).

So yes many evolutionists are atheists, but as usual the theology rules. Evolutionists are either theists who hold strong religious convictions or atheists who hold strong religious convictions. Either way the science suffers. I guess you could say there is a conflict between religion and science after all.

Interesting perspective.  But does the science have to suffer?  I’m not necessarily convinced.

He also states (earlier in the post),

… a recent poll showed that a majority of scientists (51%) say they believe in God or a higher power. And that is up from the 42% who responded similarly almost a century ago in 1914.

The problem is not so much that religion conflicts with science as it co-opts science.

Again, interesting perspective – and I’ll let it go at that.