[The thoughts present in this post germinated from my ponderings of the past responses and discussions. I was going to reply to the previous thread, but decided to make this an entire post by itself. Therefore, this can be read by itself; however, its intellectual predecessor is the thoughts of Porch Rat, Duct Cleaner, and Skrignov. It is rather lengthy and the beginning is confusing…but please, bear with me.]
My first statement will seem entirely contradictory, but hear me out: When it comes to PROBLEMS OF FAITH, I believe the issue is usually not a problem of faith, but instead a different problem. What is this different problem? There are countless answers, but I will draw on two, since they hit closest to home for me. First, OBEDIENCE AND PERSONAL STRUGGLES: truly believing in something means that we need to act according to a certain code of ethics --- and this code may not always be pleasant to our lazy, selfish selves. In fact, this may seem extremely difficult to us, especially if we’re struggling with something contrary to this code. Second problem: FORGETTING OUR CONVERSIONS or personal moments of spiritual connections --- personal moments of spiritual power and depth.
PROBLEMS OF FAITH
Let me first begin with the ostensible PROBLEMS OF FAITH. This may not be applicable to someone who grew up as an atheist. I am referring to those of us who say we want to believe, but struggle with skepticism, the inability to objectively grasp the idea of God, the inability to prove God, certain apparent weaknesses in theology, etc. I could go on and on. We often sit long and hard, arguing these points with others and ourselves. Now, it’s not to say that these dilemmas aren’t in fact dilemmas --- because they are. They are intellectually daunting questions: Can I love a God I cannot rationally grasp? Can I pray, even if I don’t understand the efficacy of prayer? How can I believe MY religion, when I am surrounded by thousands of religion? In what way can I justify my beliefs? These sorts of questions go on. There are real questions.
OBEDIENCE AND PERSONAL STRUGGLES
However, what I’m claiming is that we are often deluding ourselves by pretending that these are the things that are keeping us from growing closer to God. “How can I love a God I don’t know exists?” we ask ourselves. “How can I pray everyday if I can’t intellectually grasp the idea of prayer?” Is it really these intellectual debates that keep us from God; or the fact that we struggle to maintain a prayer-life? Is it truly our intellect that keeps us from God; or the fact that we struggle with personal sins? Hiding behind our vast and clever skepticism, our sins don’t seem as bad. “Since I can’t even intellectually accept the idea of God, how can I apply a specific sort of morality to my life?”
In this way, our minds are unconsciously using our intellects to allow us to wallow in mediocrity. As Kierkegaard said, “It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey.”
FORGETTING OUR CONVERSIONS
Although it is OK to bring things to an intellectual level, what we leave behind in this sort of thinking is any experiential knowledge that refuses intellectualization: such as any type of personal moment of conversion or spiritual depth. We are using a lens to view a subject; but this lens cannot see the very things that make many of us true Christians. It’s alright to argue these things logically, but logic falls very short.
Christians do not believe in Christianity because they logically proved their religion. We believe it because Christ came down to Earth. We believe it because Christ came into our lives. On a certain level, these sort of experiences refuse intellectualization. We don’t believe in God because we can intellectually justify it; we believe because something happened personally in our lives --- something spiritual and powerful.
When struggling with questions and problems of faith, it has helped me to step back from my philosophy, skepticism, and egotistical intellect. From a distance, I ask myself these questions: What is causing my questioning? Is it a laziness, or a desire to remain mediocre? Is it an area of personal problems or sin? Let me recognize these as the issue and disregard rationality for a moment.
Then I tell myself to remember that faith is not about proof. It is about a personal experience and a personal relationship. If Christianity were about proofs and rationality, it would have died long ago. My intellect is not why I believed in the first place, so why should it be something that stops me from believing now?