Too convenient to be true?

I haven’t come up with a good apologetic for this one yet. I don’t think one exists.

We’ve been focused on fighting the “is it true” fight for a long time, but the ground has shifted under us hasn’t it? Sure, some people still care about whether Christianity is true. They care if Jesus was fact or fiction. But most people, especially most casual atheists and agnostics, seem to have come to their belief via being convinced that Jesus is just too damn convenient.

And I don’t know how to respond to that. It’s kind of true.

I have this terror of death. It’s baked into me. I can’t shake it off. I can’t stare into the abyss of not being and walk away happy.

Then Jesus comes and tells me that he will raise me from the dead. He will be victorious over death. I will not go quietly into the dark. There is a glorious future, etc, etc, and it’s all invisible and after death and the proof will be in the pudding some time in the indefinite future.

The critique is that Jesus is just another bit of existential placebo. My faith is essentially a nicotine patch — it soothes that nagging voice in the back of my head that tells me I’m going to die and there’s nothing I can do about the nothing that comes after.

Again, I’m not sure what to say to that. I believe in the afterlife, I believe in the resurrection, I believe all that stuff… but you have to admit, Jesus and the cross and eternal life and all that stuff is pretty convenient. I mean, there’s this huge gaping scary hole in the future and Jesus just so happens to fill it. It’s meet-cute. Just a little bit too Hollywood.

If my faith is just an existential placebo, if it’s too useful and too convenient to be true, it’s suddenly highly suspect. Not suspect in the traditional way, where we all get together and mash our presuppositions and propositions together until someone is declared the most intellectually cohesive. But suspect instead on what I think is a deeper level.

In the end it’s about motives. How do you convince someone that what you believe is true when they’re convinced you only believe because your beliefs do something for you? They look at your religious convictions as a mirage. They look at their own lack of belief as more brave, more noble, and therefore more true.

I still don’t know what to say to that, exactly.

A little thing about faith.

On Monday, Laura and I read from Romans, where Paul talks about Abraham and faith. Or belief, as the Old Testament would call it. The strange this is the emphasis Paul puts on the order of events in Abraham’s life. Was he circumcised and thus made a child of God, or was he made a child of God and then circumcised?

Obviously he believed and then the evidence followed. Faith, and then works. But first of all, faith. It’s amazing, really, how this idea of faith is so radically important to the congruity of the scriptures, and to the congruity of our day-to-day experiences. I get the sense that the scriptures speak of faith the way you and I might talk about electricity: without it, we’re essentially dead hunks of metal and plastic. With it, we’re alive, moving, aware of the world as it really is.

And, like electricity, there’s a source. Faith comes from God. Faith goes to God. It’s a feedback loop that should never end, if only to show his glory.