I had my times of doubt even though I have never considered renouncing my faith. The doubt was like a background noise, soft as a whisper but it was there…. I think faith is not the absence of doubt. But there can be doubt/faith in the midst of faith/doubt…When put together, it makes perfect sense. But it is not only pleasing to the mind. It allows me to wake up in the morning and look forward to each day with hope. That is why I believe
I had my times of doubt even though I have never considered renouncing my faith. The doubt was like a background noise, soft as a whisper but it was there. Since childhood, I have remained within the church circles. I was an obedient Sunday School kid, and an active church youth member. In college, I was a member of the students’ fellowship. In fact, through college, I have always been in the executive committee of students’ fellowship. But it was during those college days that I started to have this doubt: ‘what if all this is not true’. What if this whole Christianity or religion thing is just a construct of humans?
I think faith is not the absence of doubt. But there can be doubt/faith in the midst of faith/doubt. Gideon knew about God’s merciful dealings with Israel. But he had his doubt and had to double check before putting his trust on God. On the first night, God made the fleece soaking wet and all the ground around it stayed dry. The next night, God did the reverse: wet ground, dry fleece. So, Gideon took courage and went against the Midianites in battle. I wish God would show such clear-cut sign to every doubter. I wish Jesus would let every doubting Thomas touch his scars so that they may believe. But more blessed is he who believes in what he has not seen.
Over the years, I am able to spell out better why I believe. And this is what I would like to share with you; again, not because anybody asked for it :-). It didn’t come as neatly as this when I first believed. But it was built over the years. The arrangement is inspired by a talk given by John Stott. He used the structure of the Bible story – Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation – as the basis for Christian thinking. I would put it as Beauty, Sin, Resurrection, and Hope. This is the foundation of my faith.
The beauty of Creation is a strong reason for me to believe in a Creator. The orderliness of nature (day-night, seasons, rain-sunshine, natural order, intelligibility), the vastness of the universe (oceans, mountains, galaxies), attention to details (microscopic life forms, colours and shapes, landscapes), creativity within creation (technology, music, poetry, human progress), human creation (love, joy, friendship, procreation) are all amazing to see. How did all these come to being and are sustained? The beauty of creation speaks of the creator God.
The biblical concept of Sin best explains the contradiction of the human condition. And it is not something out there which is purely academic for some people. It touches each and everyone. Every human being is marked by both good and evil. As someone said that the line between good and evil runs through the middle of each of us. Romans 7 speaks of a universal struggle which everyone can relate to. Although we want to be good and do good, there is something pulling us back and it comes not from an external force, but from within. We can’t help ourselves out of it through human progress or self-mastery (although many still try to do that) unless we are saved by a Saviour. That Sin is not only personal but is pervasive through the structures and systems of human existence is plain to see.
The story of Israel leading up to Jesus – his life, teachings, death, and resurrection – cannot be pulled apart into pieces. For example, you cannot take his teachings and disregard the entire Old Testament, as if that part doesn’t matter anymore. But I find this most compelling as the basis of my faith that he rose again. It won’t do if he rose again just in his spirit while his body rots in the grave, or that he rose again only figuratively/hypothetically, that his teachings continue to live on after his death. He had to rise again bodily in history or else Christianity would be so promising but fall short like any other religion. And if he did rose from the grave as the disciples preached, now that is extremely powerful and you just can’t ignore it. We, humans, need no reminder that death is the finisher of everyone. So, if someone is said to have conquered death, everything about him becomes compelling to believe. It is written that when Jesus rose again, he first showed himself to women. If the disciples were simply making up a story, they won’t be so foolish to have placed women as primary witnesses because women were not regarded as reliable witness. The fact that the gospels recorded women as first witnesses is a sign that something extraordinary happened. It wasn’t a story which was made up by his believers. The first believers and believers over the ages would go on to live and give their lives telling the story of the risen Lord. Resurrection changes everything.
Hope, to me is more of an ‘experience’ of belief than an expectation, like, ‘I hope it rains tomorrow’. Before explaining that, let me say that ‘understanding’ and ‘experience’ has to go together. If I search only for the experience of faith and disregard understanding what that faith is, I am like a madman who is always smiling for no reason. Also if my faith is all about understanding but not accompanied by experience, I am like a sound engineer who doesn’t know how to enjoy music. Hope is an experience for me in the sense that, it injects joy and meaning to my life and what I do. Hope makes me believe that my life is meaningful and that I have an eternal future. Hope tells me that what I do has eternal value. Hope gives me the feeling that it will become alright one day, even when things don’t go my way, I come second or play second fiddle, or been injured by others. Hope says that it is alright to do good without being acknowledged before people. Hope makes me want to try again when I fail because it is not too late yet. So, hope impacts behavior and action, and is not an idle expectation for a brighter future. It can lead to depression if one thinks of all the things that are going wrong in the world. But hope says that ultimate victory is assured. And this gives the motivation to do small things, putting one wrong thing to the right at a time. Hope in Christ is the hope of Redemption. Our hope in Christ is nothing short of the redemption of our bodies, and the redemption of the whole created order, to transform the perishable into the imperishable.
When put together, it makes perfect sense. But it is not only pleasing to the mind. It allows me to wake up in the morning and look forward to each day with hope. That is why I believe
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