Friday, March 17, 2006

Points of no return

[Cross-posted to Bad Christian. The original post was about not assimilating into evangelical culture: is it wrong? Is it spiritually immature? Can non-evangelicals find a place in an evangelical church? Warning: Bad Language. The original post is very honest, though, and I recommend it.]

The way I usually think about it is this:

I have felt very uncomfortable with wholehearted commitment to one set of doctrines or denominations. I became a Christian in college and was basically a fundamentalist at first, but even then I was holding a lot back, and the freedom to doubt. Since then I've only become more convinced that humility is the most appropriate response to questions that divide Christians.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a point of no return that I resist. I'm a Christian because I believe Christ came back from the dead and he was God, my God, but I find myself riddled with doubts. I'm open to not being a Christian if I'm ever properly convinced (7 years on, still hasn't happened). I wonder if something could break in me, or change in me, where I wouldn't be open to giving up my Christianity any more. Then, I think, I would be wholeheartedly committed. Would that be better or worse?

Then I ask myself if my abeyance in matters of belief amounts to under-commitment in my Christian life, my personal relationship with God. Sometimes in prayer I feel like I'm speaking to a person, in the room; sometimes it's like calling into the silent, dark void; sometimes my words echo off the walls. I struggle with the same old sins. And I wonder if, or when, something within me is supposed to break and change me irrevocably, or if I am stuck in this half-life. I wonder if it fails Jesus to have the half-life. "You are neither hot nor cold..."

I remind myself of that passage in the Screwtape Letters, though. The devil tells his apprentice, Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

Some of my friends might look at me sideways if they knew I felt this way (finally coming around to the original post). I don't hate church, but I feel detached from it at times. I feel guilty about it all, and I feel like there is some gulf between me and these people who have figured something out. I feel like I think things they never would.

But you know, I don't think this makes me spiritually immature or a bad Christian. In my lucid moments, I remember "now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known," and "Now the body is not made up of one part but of many." These are invitations to be bad, to mis-fit and yet to fit.

That won't stop me from being a coward, though.


Jacke said...

I was very moved by the honesty you expressed in this post. Thank you for sharing your inner most feelings and the doubts you have.

I know what you mean about the holding back thing. I have felt that way many times, drawing close and then pulling back.

It merely proves we're all human and that we have doubts, maybe we don't share the same doubts but we all have them nonetheless.

For me, my first episode of pulling back has effected me for years, it caused me to lose a portion of the joy I had in the Lord. I pine for that first joy, that overwhelming love I had for Christ.

I have prayed to have it return. I have cried and begged to have it return.

I cannot remember the name of the man I attempt to quote and so I can only paraphrase the quote but it went something to the effect that it would be amazing what one man who was wholly committed to the Lord could do in a lifetime. Do you know the man of whom I speak?

Anyway, he was a man of God and even he, with all the good he did, recognized that he was not wholly sold out to God.

Since, and recognizing that not everyone believes this way, I believe that we are made in God's image, I know that God is aware of our human predicament. After all he sent His Son because of our inherent weakness and inability to be perfect. Thank God for His Gift, and thank you for sharing your heart.

Dan Lewis said...

Thank you, Jacke.

Well, you reminded me of something else. Pascal had his own ideas about why he was a Christian, but he had his night of fire. CS Lewis wrote an allegory about a boy who pursued God to the end of his life on the fuel of one aesthetic experience. I don't think this is an unnatural pattern.

I have begun to wonder if uncertainty is the natural equilibrium of religion, at least for me. I read once (in Feynman) that quantum mechanics teaches us, at least in part, that the deepest description of reality we have is probability, not binary existence and non-existence.

I don't know how you stop balancing between belief and doubt. It seems to me that the saints had both a strong sense of their sinfulness and a strong sense of their redemption. I guess that is the best way to know we are not alone in our pulling-back from God.

Jacke said...

Dan Lewis said:

"It seems to me that the saints had both a strong sense of their sinfulness and a strong sense of their redemption. I guess that is the best way to know we are not alone in our pulling-back from God."

Yes, we only need to look at Elijah to see am example of that drawing back, of course, Elijah drew back out of fear of Jezibel (sp?).

I love the story of Elijah when he is hiding in the cave and God speaks to him in a still, small voice: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 17:8-13). We serve the most powerful force in the universe and yet we are still afraid. Amazing. We should be embracing that power rather than fleeing from it, but God made us human, after all.