On more than one occasion I have had a crisis of faith of sorts. From my negative experiences in churches and with leaders that I trusted, to a deep disappointment in my own inadequacies and failures, to my struggle with reconciling some of the intellectual shortcomings of my faith – yet I remain committed because of the resurrection of Christ.
I can relate with those who either refuse to become Christian or those who leave the Christian faith on the grounds of hypocrisy, and I believe that the standard Christian response is inadequate to address the emotional state of those people.
To say for example “if you ever find a perfect church, don’t join it because it won’t be perfect anymore,” while being true, this cliché response fails on so many levels to address the real issue: I think for most people the issue is not that there are imperfect people in a church that ought to be perfect; the real issue is that the church ought to be held to a higher standard then secular society, a standard that is, which reflects a Christ-likeness.
When the church is as bad if not worse than the secular society then this is what the critic means by saying we are all a bunch of hypocrites.
Now let me get personal:
It took a good five years from conversion before my rose-colored Utopian styled glasses came off and I began to see “the Church,” the people in it, and its’ leadership for what it really was – human. When this happened it rocked my world and shook my foundation. Since then I have seen friends more or less sent to the guillotine for reading the bible and asking questions. I myself experienced my own inquisition by way of a preemptive strike by a young arrogant pastor who perhaps feared my influence or else (and more likely) feared the fact that I would dare use my brain without his permission.
I have seen Jelly Fish with more backbone and godly conviction then board members. I have seen entire “spiritual churches” filled with young “Christian” guys knocking up all the young “Christian” girls, while nerdy kids in youth group get ignored by the “cool” youth pastor, and I have seen the adults who preached a “lofty Christian-ise” yet were more interested in maintaining the status quo and keeping traditions “as usual” then in living with sincere Christian conviction.
Gossip, backbiting, judging, criticizing, two-facing and the such, all the while “playing Church” at their finest.
That was when I looked at the outside, at the Christian community around me.
But I am a reflective guy, it did not take long before I could no longer avoid the ugly truth inside of me: that I was just as bad, just as susceptible to being corrupted by the alcohol of power and authority as any pastor is, just as tempted to sleep with any pretty girl as any young guy is, just as quick to judge from my lofty throne as any elder is. Hadn’t I read somewhere in the Old Testament that the heart is desperately wicked, who can know it? So yes, I have considered leaving this Christian religion in the past.
After all, where is this Christianity which the Bible speaks of?
The secularization of the church (and of my own soul) is but only one poignant reason among many. There are other issues.
For example, I have struggled in the past with science and the creation account of Genesis. I believe that it is impossible for the earth to be only 6,000 years old (following James Usher’s date of creation: 4004 BC, October 23rd – my brother’s birthday). Holding desperately to such a view – bending reason, manipulating science, ignoring Biblical context – does nothing but harm the witness of the Church.
Furthermore, what about the issue of “theodicy”?
Theodicy addresses the question: If God exists, if God is all powerful and if God is all good then why is there evil in the world? If God is good he is obligated to stop evil; if he does not it either means that God is not “all good” or else he is not “all powerful” – that is, he is either not strong enough to prevent evil or he just doesn’t care (or worse, he is the cause – as some Christians actually believe!). If none of these answers are adequate then perhaps the only answer remaining is that God doesn’t exist at all.
There is no easy way to answer this question; brilliant holy men have addressed it for centuries (the best answer – I believe – is found in the doctrine of Atonement called Christus Victor).
And if these issues are not enough, the worst of all is the biblical teaching of Hell. I have known friends and relatives who have died over the years, and for most of them, unless some type of thief on the cross experienced occurred which (let’s face it) is possible but no likely to have happened all the time, at least some of them went down stairs instead of up. This reality probably more than any other makes me wish God didn’t exist because I would rather my loved ones die and go into oblivion then for them to be burning right now in the horrible down under.
And there are more reasons still.
More recently some of my most fundamental convictions have been inwardly challenged. The more Christian books I read, the more Christian people I dialogue with, the more views I encounter the more difficult it is to maintain the belief in “essentials”.
There are so many views of the atonement, so many views of hell, so many views of scripture, so many views of the nature of God, so many views on “how to get saved,” so many traditions – the Orthodox, the Reformed, the Roman Catholic et cetera, and that’s just scratching the surface. And so many of those arguments are legitimate. How can we even speak of essentials anymore? How can we even speak of a Christianity anymore? It’s more like “Christianities.” And if that’s the case how can we know for sure which form of Christianity has the truth?
What more can I say?
Many have left the faith for less and yet, despite all of this I remain a committed Christian.
Because when I lie awake at night and ask myself if God really exists and when I ask myself if I cannot still find purpose in life by caring for others without the prerequisite of believing in God (C.S. Lewis would swiftly and decisively take me to task here), there is one reality that I cannot escape: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is not simply an intellectual response (though it is partly that); when the Resurrection creeps into my forethoughts it does so from the deep recesses of my soul.
What about the Resurrection; if God doesn’t exist then how did Jesus rise from the dead? The Apostle is surely right when he says: “If Christ has not risen from the dead then our faith is in vain.”
And if the Resurrection of Christ is true then surely so is the gift of the Spirit, for He was given as a result of the Resurrected Christ to us as a down payment (a seal, a guarantee) that we too will raise from the dead.
If we have the Spirit then it must also be true that it is by the power of this Spirit we may live Christ-like; that is, the evidence of the Holy Spirit (Paul uses the term “fruit”) is that we are being transformed into the character of Christ.
From this reality I am overjoyed whenever I meet humble and godly pastors, teenagers, and everyone else who I must take up as examples of Christ to imitate! They’re out there and they are not hard to find.
My church is filled with them… and so are many other churches I’ve attended over the years. When you live from the perspective of the Resurrection you see things differently.
If the Resurrection is a reality then nothing “pop science faith” can throw at us can change this fact and everything that flows from it. If Christ rose from the dead, then God exists. It’s as simple as that. And if Christ rose from the dead, then we have both the answer to evil and the answer to Hell.
If the Cross of Christ saved me, it is the Resurrection of Christ that sustains me.
Why am I still a Christian? Because of the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.