Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reason and Experience (The Reason for God part 6)

(I'm reading through Tim Keller's book "The Reason for God" and taking my small group through a DVD study based on the book. Over the next few weeks, I'll be blogging about the book, the study, and the discussions occurring in my group.).

During our Sunday night discussion of "The Reason for God", the members of my small group shared about the role that both reason and existential experience played in their decision to follow Christ. Our stories varied. Some had to think through the basic tenets of Christianity before becoming Christians. Others began their spiritual journey with powerful experience of the presence of God and then entered a season of working through the rationality of their faith. Some combination of reason and experience was present in all of our stories. Mine was no different.

I grew up in an irreligious home. I rarely attended church except for occasional visits to Sunday school or Vacation Bible School with friends in the neighborhood. Like a jigsaw puzzle with no box top, I collected pieces of the Christian story but had no idea how it all fit together until, at the age of 13, someone essentially gave me "the boxtop" outline of the New Testament that explained the gospel, the invitation of eternal life to all who received the forgiveness and leadership of Jesus. Finally, the puzzle pieces of Christianity that I collected over the years fit together into a coherent whole. I began to follow Jesus and experienced a sense of His presence, peace, and power that I had not previously encountered.

That experienced remained unchallenged at first. Though my family was irritated by my enthusiasm for all things Jesus, they rarely offered a direct challenge to what I believed. The more significant attacks on my faith in Christ did not occur until I entered college. Starting my freshman year, everything foundational belief I held was dismantled.  I was forced to think deeply, read widely, question persistently, and examine fully "why I believed what I believed." Like a body with no germ fighting agents, my confidence in the veracity of Christianity was vulnerable and needed to be either strengthened or replaced with a trust in something more reliable.

And strengthened it was.

What about you? Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, all of us have reasons for the beliefs we hold and experiences that support or contradict those beliefs. Did you come to your position first through experience, then by thinking it through? Or vice versa? Or a bit of both? Do you have a reasonable basis for "why you believe what you believe?" Do you seek as much evidence for your current world view as you do for the alternative world views that you dismiss?

1 comment:

J at said...

I've thought of religion a lot over the years, considered converting once or twice. The only problem for me (and it's a big one) is that I was raised an atheist, and I just haven't found a way or a reason to give that up. There is a wonderful sense of community to be found in church, but there is community elsewhere. There is great morality to be found in church, but there is also great morality elsewhere, with less dogmatism. I don't look for evidence anymore, either way. I am happy to accept evidence, either way, but I don't search for it any more.