Well, I must say that I did not quite expect to get as many responses to the questions on my previous blog, A Curious Christian with a few questions for de-converts, as I did. Wow. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. After some careful study of your answers and thoughts, here’s what I think and what I think I hear some of you saying.
Some of you struggled with leaving your faith, others of you left easily. Some of you were happy as Christians, some of you were miserable. The Bible, for most, is not authoritative in any way, but instead full of contradictions and fantastic stories. Most of you have nothing against Christians, you just think that many of them are misguided. No one seemed to have a problem with Jesus (I can only think of one post where that was an exception). The hypocrisy of the church turns some of you off, the feeling of being lied to for others.
Some of you felt deserted by God and some of you just awakened from an untruth you thought you had been told, similar to finding out that Santa Claus wasn’t real. In some way you couldn’t reconcile conflicting parts of your faith so you decided that maybe the reason was that God wasn’t there to begin with. One of the most heart-wrenching statements I read was that you prayed for God to help your unbelief and He didn’t answer. Some of you feel like the foundation of your former faith only stood on the slippery slope of personal experience and not on fact.
Am I hearing you correctly? I hope I am. Please let me know if I missed something. Recently, there was an interesting treatise posted on re-converting in which using experience with God as evidence of His existence is seen as perhaps lowering the amount of evidence needed for faith. Maybe, maybe not. So here’s another question for you: What do you think it means to experience God, if He exists? Why is personal experience or personal testimony not enough?
Christianity is built on the foundation of eyewitnesses, of personal testimony. Yes, there are foundational beliefs that are non-negotiable, but the Bible is the story of humanity’s experiences with God. The Gospels are eyewitness accounts of the apostles three years with Jesus, Acts is an eyewitness account of the birth of the church, etc. It is impossible to separate experiencing God from faith in Him. Now I am not talking about an emotional experience. Emotions are far from trustworthy and are in themselves very deceptive.
Here’s my definition of what I mean by experiencing God: a type of life-altering daily process in which you are changed drastically from thinking, feeling, and being one way to thinking, feeling, and being radically another way. Like Darth Vader in Star Wars except reversed.
Here’s where I am going: what means the most to me and what gives me certainty of God’s existence is the experience I’ve had with Him. I really can look back at my life and see God’s work in it, even during His silence. (Delusion you say? I don’t think so.) Some of you had to have at one point seen God’s work or been drawn to respond to His invitation of a relationship with Him. Or maybe you thought you had a relationship with Him only to find that you never heard Him, He never answered your prayers, He never seemed present. I’ve been there. I thought I knew God only to find out that I didn’t really at all.
I have one more question for you to ponder. Why did you decide to follow Christ (to become a Christian) in the first place? I only did at first because a childhood friend did and I didn’t want to be left out. I lived that way for a long time. I went to church because my family did; I was involved in youth trips because my friends were. But then I had what I like to call a crisis of belief. I looked at myself for what I really was. I said I was a “new” creation but I was still the same old me. I had never changed; I didn’t sense God’s presence, I never heard Him speak, I never saw Him answer any of my prayers. And I asked why, just like many of you did. That’s when I realized I didn’t really know God at all. I knew about Him; I knew what people claimed He said in the Bible; I knew what people claimed He had done in their lives, but I didn’t KNOW Him.
You see what I have come to understand is that no one can prove or disprove the existence of God. If we could, none of us would still be writing about it. Neither side will ever convince the other. But for me, the evidence of God is found in changed lives, because that is where He does His greatest work. I am a completely different person from the one I started out to be. Does that mean I don’t struggle with doubts, that I don’t worry, that sometimes I don’t ask “God, where are you?” No, not at all. Does doubting in some way indicate that I am not convinced of the authority of the Bible or have never had an undeniable experience with God? No. I can look at a plane and doubt that it is going to get me to my destination even if the facts say that it is safer to fly than to drive. Doubting doesn’t negate that I haven’t experienced flying and getting to my destination safely. I can look around me and see God at work in people’s lives whether they want Him to be or not. I have seen God change people I didn’t think it was possible to change. That to me is a modern day miracle.
Does God still do the kinds of miracles we find in the Bible? Absolutely. Why don’t we see them? I don’t know, but if we could see them do you think that would really change your mind? (I’m really asking, would it?) Or do you think we would still find a way to explain them away and hold on to what we think now? (I’m only asking because if you were to disprove God’s existence I would still hold on to what I think ) Why does God allow suffering? I don’t know that either; but I have experienced His peace in the middle of it and have been comforted.
I say all of this because I think I’m beginning to understand some of your struggles, even if I can’t completely identify with them. God doesn’t seem fair; you feel like He has deserted you and now you wonder if He was even there to begin with. You feel like you have been told a lie or been manipulated to believe in a fairy tale. So my answer to you is this: keep searching. Because I believe God is faithful to His promises and that those who seek Him with all of their hearts will find Him.
Thanks for reading.
– rfogue (Rachel)