I gotta tell you, church is making me sick these days. The self-help stuff was bad enough, the I-centric worship was getting to me, but now, we aren’t even talking about God like he’s God any more.
The last line of the Christmas eve service was “to put Christmas simply, God showed up.” That’s ridiculous. The Creator didn’t “show up,” he was here before the world began. I wanted to scream.
I just don’t understand what message I’m supposed to be hearing from the modern pulpit. And honestly, I’m slightly concerned that if I keep listening to this drivel, I’ll forget who God really is and start spending all my time trying to be a Really Good Person (TM) so that God will let me hang out with the cool kids when I die.
So, in an effort to preserve, in at least this limited medium what it is I believe, I give the blogosphere “Credo.”
My personal journey of faith has been very cerebral and analytic. That may seem very perplexing at first glance, but nonetheless, it’s true, and I’ll try to justify it in just a moment. But first, as with any good dissertation, we should start with some assumptions.
First, there is a God. It turns out to be a logical fallacy to state anything else, but only a slight fallacy. I get a little annoyed by the Christians who try to pretend that you can’t make a negative statement without being God yourself. But if I say, there are no porcupines on Jupiter, you won’t find anyone making the case that the only way I can tell that is if I’m a porcupine on Jupiter.
When people say “there is no God” they’re making the claim that there is no evidence that convinces them that there is a God. Frankly, as this goes hand in hand with a belief in evolution, let me just tell you that evolution is a fallacy, for at least the following reasons:
1) as a mathematician, the probability of evolution is ridiculous
2) as a logician, the concept of reproduction is ridiculous
3) as a scientist, successful mixed chromosomal breeding is ridiculous
At the end of the day, you just have to come to grips with the assumption that there is something which created all this. We’ll call that Creator, for the sake of argument, God.
By the way, it’s my personal view that Logic and Science and Math are all part of the Creation, and as such, the Creator doesn’t have any fear of them. So when I say my faith is extremely analytic, it doesn’t strike me as odd in the slightest even though most people I know balk at the thought of someone thinking through their faith.
Next assumption - we are not better than God. So God isn’t a spaghetti monster unless it’s “better” to be a spaghetti monster. What this assumption does imply to me is that God isn’t the Force or Physics or Chance. God is a person, for some definition of person, and I am at best a subset of that definition of person. God is the ideal, not me.
A natural corollary of these two assumptions, namely there is a Creator named God and God is better than us, is that God cannot lie. He may do things that to us seem inconsistent or untrue, but he cannot by definition say one thing and do another as, quite simply, he is. In other words, this God is the absolute, everything else is derivative. Truth is a relative term, and to define a standard for it, we will use the only thing which “is” of its own volition.
As a rather regrettable result, already these assumptions have pruned out nearly all pantheistic and polytheistic forms of defining God. We now have to tackle the following dilemma: either God is the God of the Jews, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or God has instead chosen to remain in the shadows and let this fake thing, which must then have been completely invented by the creation, masquerade as God instead.
So, my claim works as follows: given that there is a Creator named God, and this God is better than us, then Jesus Christ has explained him fully. Technically, this isn’t my claim; all I’ve done in the last few paragraphs is regurgitate John chapter 1. But when I first stumbled down this road, I wasn’t really aware of the consistency of this line of reasoning with John’s preamble.
So, we have to accept that either God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or he has chosen to remain quiet. If he has remained quiet for millenia, I’m not sure I’m the guy who’s going to find him after all this time. But if he’s the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I at least have something to start analyzing.
The bible on the whole is a very confusing book. It’s full of seeming contradictions, paradoxes, and ridiculously impossible stories. But it’s also full of something which, for the sake of this discussion is crucial. It’s chock full of promises and prophesies. If this God is God, then he better not lie. That means if he makes a promise, he better keep it.
And there’s one promise in particular that bears mentioning. It’s a 3 parter made by God to Abraham. God says to Abraham, “I will turn you into a great nation, I will give you the land under your feet, and through one of your descendants, I will bless the whole world.” I’m paraphrasing, but there you have it. If God is God, this better be true. He did turn the Jews into a great nation living in Israel, and they even went to great lengths to make sure they could trace their ancestry back to Abraham. This was still the custom even when Jesus was born, which is why we have recorded lineages for both Joseph and Mary.
Then you have a ton of prophets with a ton of prophesies all pointing to Jesus. This isn’t Nostradamus making a bunch of random prophesies about a bunch of potential events, this is several men over thousands of years all making prophesies that were completed in exactly one man, Jesus Christ. This is stunning. And it included things that Jesus had no way of doing if he were not the descendant of the promise; things like where he was born and what stars would be in the sky at his birth and his lineage. This is stunning evidence that God is exactly the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
But here things take a dramatic shift. If God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Jesus Christ is the descendant of prophesy, then all kinds of things are suddenly on the table. Jesus is both God and Man. Jesus was present at the dawn of creation, even though he was born in a stable. This Jesus, the Creator, died on a cross for claiming to be himself, the God who cannot lie. However, just as he gave up his life explaining himself to the creation, he took up his own life again for the sake of the creation, that his death would be an end to the spiral of rebellion and rejection we all have pursued our entire lives. Our “salvation” is from a life without him. Our gift then is a new life with the creator that starts now and goes without end.
And this is where I now am. I know that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the Creator, that is not subject to debate. I know that Jesus Christ is the descendent of promise, true God and true Man, He who was and is and is to come, and that he has come to explain God fully. This God has kept every promise he ever made concerning the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is all moot. There is nothing to “believe”. There is no faith in any of this.
But now we get to something interesting. There are still some promises yet to be fulfilled, for instance, “For where I am, there you will be also.” He promised an eternity with him, that there is nothing for me to fear in death, that just as he rose from the grave, so too will I. This then is the only thing for me to believe, that this God who has created all things, who has kept every promise he has ever made, he will keep this promise.
Some things are just too easy. Some burdens are too light. Believing this one thing is the stumbling block for so many people I care about, and many of those people even claim to be Christians. But this is the only thing to believe, that his death and resurrection have opened the door to my own death and resurrection, and that by his blood, I’ve been given the inheritance of a child of God.
You may be familiar with the creeds, sets of statements about what confessing christians believe. My creed goes a little more like this.
Before the world, God was. He created the world, and all things in the world. He created us even though we would reject and rebel against him. He promised that even though we rejected and rebelled against him, he would come into the world and make things right. He did.
He came into the world as Jesus, not with any of the trappings of Godhood, but as a baby to unwed parents. He fulfilled every prophesy and promise made over thousands of years to completion and then just a week after a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he was beaten and horrendously killed for saying he was who he was. He was dead. He was buried. Three days later he rose from the grave. Not because he was only mostly dead, but because he was who he said he was. 40 days later he returned to his rightful place as Creator God, but he promised that he would send his Spirit so that we wouldn’t be alone. He did.
He sent his Spirit at pentecost to the people who had seen him after his resurrection. They passed on his Spirit to others. His Spirit is still present in his people to this day. All of this is true regardless of whether I believe it or not.
He promised, from his own mouth, from the mouth of the Creator, that he would never leave me or forsake me, that he would come again for me, that death would have no power over me, that I would be raised on the last day and would live with him forever as a child of the living God.
I believe these promises. I believe Jesus. I believe him because he keeps his promises. I believe him because his Spirit gives me the strength to believe a bible full of seeming contradictions, paradoxes, and ridiculously impossible stories because it’s full of promises and prophesies that he fulfilled to completion.
One of those promises was that his Spirit would dwell in those who believe. So as a result of believing in Jesus (a faith he gave me), he now lives in me. He blesses me without ceasing. He gives me hope and peace where the world has nothing to offer. He fills me with more than I can contain so that I would share my abundance with others. And even though I continue to reject and rebel, he forgives me and restores me and renews me, not because I’m special or different by my own right, but because he has made me special and different by giving me his Spirit. He does it because he is who he says he is, and I can’t come up with any response to that other than “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you…”
This is my creed.
I enjoyed reading this. You articulated it well. I have a few thoughts:
“But if he’s the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I at least have something to start analyzing… [The Bible is] chock full of promises and prophesies.”
This is one of the key reasons Christianity is worth checking out. Many other religions make claims that you can’t truly check out critically. For example, Mormons want you to pray about the Book of Mormon and see if you feel that it’s true, but that requires you to trust your feelings, and I know I can’t do that. The Bible makes factual claims (most notably, that Jesus rose from the dead), and you can examine the evidence for those claims.
Craig Parton writes about that in his book Religion on Trial – it’s worth reading:
But you started your post talking about church making you sick. I can relate. For a few years we were members of a church where the message was either “God loves you, now go get to work!” or, worse yet, just “Go get to work!” Self-help sermon series, singing about what I am going to do instead of what Christ has done, and treating God like a buddy or life-coach… it really does make you feel sick to your stomach.
We transfered to Trinity Lutheran in Austin, and we are truly getting Law and Gospel every Sunday, and the sacraments are faithfully observed. You can read or listen to Pastor Harris’s sermons on the church website:
Before we transfered to Trinity, I listened to Issues, Etc. a lot (well, I still do). If you haven’t checked out that program, you might browse their archives for something interesting and give it a try:
I would also mention another book by Craig Parton called The Defense Never Rests. His defense of the historic Lutheran faith is worth reading. Both of these books by Parton are pretty short. The Defense Never Rests is also worth getting for its extensive annotated bibliography.
Finally, I’ll say one more thing about changing churches. It was hard, and we lost contact with a lot of people we loved. However, I no long leave church angry – I now leave forgiven.
Posted with : The Way