“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Too Good Not to Be True

Often I run across some component of my faith, that, in and of itself, seems unlikely or does not seem to fit well with the rest of my faith. For example, there are numerous passages in the Bible that bother me. In each case I ask, what the heck is going on here? Certain verses seem to make no sense. Some are, well, aesthetically displeasing. Some passages are even revolting - I can see (partly) why many atheists find the Bible repulsive. I am bothered by the fact that God commands the Israelites to go wipe out entire cities, including women and children. How should I respond to this? Should I conclude from these descriptions that the God of the Bible is either malicious or inconsistent, or that these unsettling stories are more likely inventions of mankind? Should I jump ship on Christianity? When taken by themselves, these bothersome issues might incline one to do so. But that would be a rash decision, and it would not account for the comprehensive whole of the Christian worldview.

The truth is, I’ve seen way too much to jump ship. I’ve seen too much majesty and greatness in reality to deny the existence of God. I’ve seen too much beauty and goodness in the world to deny the goodness of God. I’ve read of too much evil and horror in history to deny the reality of moral absolutes, and of a God who defines morality. I’ve seen too much wisdom and truth in the cross to deny the resurrection. I’ve seen too much love and joy and beauty in the world to ignore the reality of redemption, and that all will be well in the end. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that is the foundation and center of Christianity. It’s a story that is too perfect, too ideal not to be true. It’s a story that is written on our hearts, one that we desire to be true, and it finds its way into all the great stories we tell – love, justice, redemption, sacrifice, sorrow, victory over evil. Those stories may be fiction, but this story is true. If I was to ditch Christianity I would have to ditch the Great Story, the victory of God, and I know I could never do that. It is too beautiful not to be true*, and from the central truth of this story must follow the truth of all Christianity.

Every now and then I wonder, what might convince me that Christianity is false. The only possibility, I think, would be if I were to experience horror and suffering beyond imagination. But even then, would I be drawn to God or driven away from him? Would I say, “if this can happen, there can be no loving God,” or would I say, “if this can happen, there is no way there is not a God”? I don’t know. But I wonder why people ask this question more than the question of how they would respond to an experience of beauty and love and joy beyond measure. It’s interesting how we find ourselves so bothered with the problem of evil, and yet we never pause to think that there is a problem of good! How could there be so much good in the world without God? For me, Christianity has shed great light on this mysterious existence we find ourselves in, explaining both good and evil. As the Son rises, he illuminates all reality. I for one can say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

*It might seem like I believe in Christianity only because I want it to be true. This is certainly not the case. For one thing, I see many reasons for God that do not depend on whether or not I want him to exist. At the same time, our desires are indications of truth, so in a way, the fact that I want Christianity to be true is itself a piece of evidence. This idea could certainly be taken to illogical extremes, or it could be ruled out as irrelevant. However, I think the best intellectual response to our desires is a balanced and careful consideration of what the existence and nature of human desire implies. I plan to write more on this in the future.

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