Friday, August 1, 2008

A cross-post

The following is a post I did on my other blog that I do with my friends from college. On a friend's blog, a large discussion about the Christian faith in general became somewhat heated (and my Roman Catholic friend acquitted herself rather well). However, to deflect and draw fire potentially from my strongly secular friends, I have made the following post. I figured I would put it up for your consideration here.


07:02 am - Why I hold to the Christian Faith

A brief look at why I hold to the Christian Faith, although in reality, it will be why I don't feel compelled to abandon the Christian faith or be ashamed of it.

To begin, one should understand that as a Lutheran, I hold that faith itself is a gift from God, not cause by man - a la Ephesians 2:8-10 - saved by grace through faith, and this not of your own doing - it is a free gift from God, not by works, so no man may boast. Or, as the Small Catechism puts it in the explanation to the third article of the Creed - "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, My Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel. . ."

So, to be clear - I reject, and in fact oppose all types of, "I have decided to follow Jesus. . . I gave my heart to Him" rhetoric that you might be used to hearing here in America.

Why am I a Christian - because it is who God has called me to be. I am no more responsible for the fact that I am a Christian than I am for the fact that I was born in America or born smart. Now - as I can cultivate my intelligence and put it to use, just as I can participate fully or not in the American political system, so too I may treasure and cultivate that gift of faith (which you might surmise I have), or I may let it remain fallow and see what happens.

In my studies of it - the Christian faith makes sense to me. I find that the doctrine of Original Sin is quite apt to explain human behavior. I find the warnings against self-justification and pride lead to a fine, if not always followed system of ethics and behavior. I find that salvation by Grace through faith is liberating - that I am not saved because of what I have done, but rather what Christ has done for me. Moreover, I find this liberating towards proper behavior. Rather than an excuse to sin, I can live in confidence, do what I think is best, and not wring my hands over everything worrying that it is a mistake. Show love - and if you mess up, confess your sins, receive forgiveness - and move on with the showing love.

It's a nice life. A difficult one - for I am compelled to show love at all times, even to people I don't want to. It is a difficult life, because should I become prideful and start to look at how wonderful I am, God's Word will poke holes in it - and I will see how everything I have pride in is tainted and tinged in this life. It leaves no room for boasting for me, it's not about patting myself on the back or making me see how I myself have value - it's about making me understand that, as we get in Romans 5, that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. It makes me see the value that God has placed upon me - that I am more valuable to Him than even the life of His Son, Christ Jesus, who willingly suffers and dies that He might claim me as my own.

And that is liberating. Not from duty, not from responsiblity. Not from pain and hardship - for our Lord faced all those things. But it is liberating from guilt, from fear, from fear of death - for if the Son of Man sets you free, you are free indeed.

No, that wasn't talking about political freedom - it was talking about something bigger.

That is the why, or maybe it's better to say the wonder I see in the Christian faith, as I was raised to know it as a child from Luther's Small Catechism .

Now, to the second part - and the part I actually had planned to spend more time on, maybe I won't - but why I am not compelled to leave this faith.

What of the discoveries of Science! What of the atrocities done in the name of God! What of the fact that there are other beliefs out there!

This is where I look to History. What will the science of the day say in 50 years? Or 100? The thought of the day has changed many times. . . as it ought. Science is the quest for the the truth, for an understanding of how things work and why things happen - and it's a quest that is never done. With that perspective - I don't worry about. 100 years ago Archeology told us that there was no such person as a King David or a Pontius Pilate. Then. . . oh. . . um. . . yeah, um, inscriptions. Oh well. What will the next 100 years of scientific research yield - how will it effect our understanding of the world? Who knows. But my faith has remained through the pinnacles and heights of wisdom of more cultures than I care to name. I worry not about mine.

But there are the atrocities! On an August day nearly 63 years ago, a scientific program led to the instantaneous death of tens of thousands, and a painful death of varying speeds of tens of thousands more. Or before that - better engineering and better chemistry led to such carnage that we thought we had just experienced the war to end all wars. Another discovery is so shocking that a man takes his proceedes from his destructive discovery to establish an award for peace.

There. Are any of you in the fields of science now impelled to abandon your studies and work? By no means! Yet, those are atrocities made possible by science. Or, perhaps, listen to the rhetoric going on now - we're in Iraq for the sake of Democracy - shall we abandon democracy now? Stupidity and stupid actions are not the sole possession of the Christian Church (indeed, all religions have their good history of violence - in particular I find the history of militant Buddhist monks to be especially entertaining). So no, that doesn't impel me to abandon my faith.

But there are other beliefs out there. And there always have been. That's been part of the package since the beginning. And it doesn't bother me. I work on understanding mine own. Thus is life. I simply rejoice in who I have been called to be.

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