Friday, January 25, 2008

Faith and Christianity Misunderstood

I have been in some 'discussions' with some skeptics and critics of Christianity as of late.

I am continuously frustrated by having to tear down the straw men and 'clear the bushes' to show people a clearer presentation of what Christianity is.

G.K. Chesterton once stated that it wasn't that Christianity had been tried and found wanting, but rather that it had not been tried.

Not only am I convinced that so many of these skeptics and critics misunderstand Christianity, I'm becoming increasingly aware that many people who bear the name of Christ share some of those misunderstandings. As a result, those of us who call ourselves Christians share some of the blame. Christianity is getting largely misrepresented by Christians themselves.

I blame this phenomenon largely on a belief, held both by the religious and non-religious alike, that faith is throwing out your brain. The media often casts this in terms of "faith vs. science" themes in what is passed as "reporting". Many Christians, having bought into this same thinking (how ironic), seeing their faith as an opportunity to disengage their minds.

I reject this notion that faith and thinking are antithetical. I bring one illustration to support my point. Before I proceed, I note that there are numerous illustrations, taken from everyday experience that I could draw from. I believe the multiplicity of these examples gives further witness to my point.

When I get into a car to drive to a destination, I don't KNOW that I will arrive safely. In fact, statistically, automobiles are one of the most dangerous forms of travel. However, I hedge my bets. Life requires risk (faith). We can't live in a bubble and I need to travel. But I don't hedge them to the degree that I would be willing to sit in the passenger seat while a totally inebriated drive took the wheel (critical thinking).

This is just one of many examples of where critical thinking and faith converge. The Pendulum effect swings from the extreme of advocating critical thinking at the expense of faith, or advocating faith at the expense of critical thinking. I see life's espistemology as a collaboration between analysis and faith.

As a Christian, I believe the stone was rolled away from Christ's tomb, not so that Christ, who in a resurrected and glorified body could get out, (the Bible reports that He walked through walls with this resurrected body) but so that the world could see in.

Christianity, whether you agree or disagree with it, bases its faith claims in part on historicity. Incidentally, this separates it from many other religious faiths and traditions....

But there is a second straw man that the skeptics fight. That straw man is manifest in confusing what is done in the name of Christianity with the beliefs and creeds of the teachings of Christ.

A person who might call themself a Darwinian who doesn't believe in evolution is no Darwinian or evolutionist. A bicycle should not be mistaken for a car just because it might be parked in a garage.

As Augustine said, "Do not just a belief by its abuses."

Many awful things have been done (and said) in the name of Christianity. If you are a skeptic, you can point to the inquisitions, the crusades, the Salem Witch trials, modern-day neocons and televangelists as evidence that *religion* has problems. But you won't be able to connect these abuses with the teachings of Christ (which is true Christianity). Christ never taught that the good news of the Gospel was to be proseltyzed through coercion, legislation, military force, judgementalism, capitalism, socialism or the like.

To sort of 'clear the bushes' as we engage in these discussions in the forms of blogs, email and old fashioned face to face interaction, I challenge these antogonists of Christianity to judge it on its own merits, not on the merits of those who hypocritically or ignorantly shame its name.

I can only hope to exemplify a model that might bear some sort of imperfect resemblance to Christ's teachings....

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