I choose to write the following because I want to record my instantaneous thoughts. It is effectively public because I want to be understood and solicit feedback and observations from my friends and colleagues. I think that is one of the advantages of blogging - it enables exposition to a wide audience, even if that audience is small, uninterested, or unknown to the author.
When I was a teenager, I formulated two axioms about how I wanted to live my life:
1. The primary objective I have in life is to understand the nature of life - a sufficient understanding of reality, an understanding of my relationship to other people, an inquiry into the existence of God (as many posit it) and my relationship to it. There are many questions to answer; I see my objective in life as answering those questions (in addition to living, caring for other people, and so on).
2. Everyone is faced with the challenge from (1). The conclusions we arrive at are personal; we do not have a robust way of identifying truth, and so it is a corollary of an underlying assumption about the value and equality of people that we each respect the conclusions others arrive at.
The cornerstone of the Christian faith is the Bible. The Bible is the set of axioms on which Christianity is built like a logical system. There is no other reliable source of knowledge - our own insights are too vague and weak to support Christianity. If the Bible is not true, it is impossible to assert what is true within the Christian worldview; it becomes nothing more than speculation. As I wrote in 2006:
If it [the Bible] is not true, then we Christians are pretty screwed up and lost. Otherwise, how can we have assurance that Jesus is the only way to God? That our salvation is based on faith in what Jesus did and not on how good we are? What can we know?
The Bible offers a theory to describe reality, much like quantum mechanics is a theory to describe the behavior of matter and energy. As with any theory, it is necessary that the theory be consistent with our own observations. When I was finishing high school, I accepted the Christian worldview for the following four reasons:
1. Much of the Bible's commentary on the human condition was consistent with my own experiences
2. There was corroborating evidence with the Bible - for example, the historical accounts from the Old Testament were consistent with archaeological findings in the Middle East, offering a basis of credibility.
3. The Bible itself seemed to offer much wisdom and insight into who we are. The conclusion and mandate that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves seemed good to me.
4. The explanation of existence, of God, and of our relationship to it were satisfying.
I always qualified my acceptance of the Bible. For instance, I always concluded that Genesis was metaphorical, because the creationist hypothesis did not seem remotely consistent with what I observed. I also posited that some mandates in the Bible must be qualified as ceremonial or cultural law - for instance, almost everything in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and many things from the New Testament, particularly with respect to women - as opposed to absolute or moral law. Certainly not every action falls into the domain of a moral choice. But the existence of an absolute morality resonated with me and seemed consistent with my own experience.
Adopting the Christian worldview gave me more questions than answers. I struggled with the notion of Divine Foreknowledge
- what is the nature of God's omniscience? Does it have a probabilistic knowledge of the future, i.e. knowing every quantum state? Does it have complete knowledge of all actions and events? Or, in the extreme (Calvinist) view, does it know everything because it designed events to come to pass? I have mused on that question for the past eight years without great insight. I reflected on the problem of pain
in the world, and the implication for God's supposed benevolence. I mused on death, the afterlife, the notion of the consequence of God's justice, and the nature of salvation through grace. I reflected on corollaries of moral policy and the legal application of a moral system; I thought about abortion, about the rights of homosexuals, about national policy and the supposition that we are a Christian nation.
I have never held to a particular school of thinking - I accepted that God exists, that we have defied it, that the consequence because of God's character and justice is Death, and that through the grace of Jesus Christ, that consequence might be commuted. On everything else, and even those points, I questioned what I believed.
1 Peter 3:15 says "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." I needed to be able to justify what I believed. That and one other question motivated me: What would I think was true had I grown up somewhere else? After many long years, many discussions with others on what they believed, I found myself unable to convincingly answer the question: why do I believe?
I can no longer see past the inconsistencies I note in the Bible; I can no longer assume that there exists an explanation to the questions I have examined without success. It is not that I think the Christian worldview is false; I simply am unconvinced it is true.
It turns out that this does not significantly change my approach to life. I still adhere to the axioms of my youth - that I must seek out the truth about existence. I don't think it changes how I treat people, because I always sought to corroborate my actions and beliefs with what I observed. Treating other people with compassion, love (agape, e.g.), and benevolence is an excellent way to live. There do exist some behaviors, especially some powerful conclusions, that I would change with my revised thoughts about existence. For those whom I affected in that way, I am sorry for the hurt I caused you. I have always and will continue to enjoy conversing with people about what they believe and what I believe in a free, open exchange of ideas; that is not a corollary of my faith. Proselytizing has ever been abhorrent to me, and a contradiction of my second axiom.
I still have many questions, and I probably will until the day I die. But would be worth living if that were not the case? I welcome feedback and discussion, and I commend the brave among you who have read this far.