the logic of a life of faith

Category : choice, different, faith, living a life of faith, taking action


“One day I realized there was no God, no one behind reality, no life after death. I realized existence is a meaningless accident, begun by chance and destined for oblivion, and it changed my life. I used to be addicted to alcohol but now the ‘law of natural selection’ has set me free. I used to be greedy, but now the story of the Big Bang has made me generous. I used to be afraid, but now random chance has made me brave.” - John Ortberg, Faith and Doubt

This, tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek quote from John Ortberg illustrates something I’ve been thinking about the last couple of weeks: reasoned thinking.  I recognize this isn’t any great revelation, but as a society we have seemingly abandoned reason and logic.  On the one hand this can be good.  Pure reason and pure logic can lead us to cold and unmerciful decisions.  Playing the “odds” can dehumanize problems.  It can take human suffering and tragedy and make it a statistical anomaly.  Isn’t that the point of the Borg in Star Trek?

But I think there is more to logic and reason.

I’ve been a fan of Greg Koukl and Stand to Reason for a few years now.  Their biggest teaching effort is in “clear thinking.”  By that they mean teaching people to think logically about problems.  And since I’ve been listening to the Stand to Reason podcast, I am utterly shocked at how few world views really apply logic across their beliefs.

There are perhaps no worse places for this then watching children’s TV shows.  Which, I suppose, is another post all together!

Stories are powerful movers to a human.  How many of you immediately picked up on my Borg reference?  Did it not create an immediately concrete image in what it means for logic to run amuck?  It’s not a coincidence that politicians spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to create a story for the public to hear.  TV ads don’t sell facts to us, they sell experiences and lifestyles.  We, as people, fall for stories.  And that can be a good thing.  Even God uses stories to illustrate what it means to live out a life of faith.  It’s called the Bible.

Ravi Zacharias has commented that if stories are powerful on their own, think of the power they have as a culture.

Every day we are given competing world views.  Every day we are told that the way to happiness lies through sex, drugs, wealth, and power.  That’s a view that is logically inconsistent with what God teaches.  Someone has to be wrong.  Both world views can’t be right.

This brings us back to Ortberg’s quote from his book Faith and Doubt.  Why is it, that you don’t hear quotes like this from naturalists?  If there is no life after death, and there is only randomness and chance, how do we ever have hope in anything?  How can we believe that something good can happen?  How do we break free from the grips of alcoholism if it ultimately doesn’t matter?

I believe it goes back to logical consistency.  Most of us don’t want to follow the logical consequences of our beliefs.  Atheists want morality because it’s convenient and offers protection.  But morality is impossible to explain if there is no God.  Because you’ll never be able to overcome the argument of “might makes right.”

Believer want the blessing, protection and hope that God provides.  Yet we often aren’t willing to count the cost.  We don’t want to follow the logic of what it means to live out a life of faith.

The world is filled with world views that don’t make sense.  We are inundated with views that contradict themselves but no one seems to notice.  No one is immune to problems of logic.

But what good is a world view if you don’t apply it consistently?  What good is believing in God if you don’t live that way?

Faith & Doubt – core beliefs

Category : Jesus, R3, faith, living a life of faith, taking action


For many people Easter represents the one or two times we attend church in a year.  It’s where some people approach church tentatively, not sure what they think, but seeking God.  Others go because of a formality, usually a family obligation.  (Don’t worry.  I attended many church functions out of obligation before I became a Christian. )

Churches spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to connect with these Christmas and Easter visitors.  They try to understand why they don’t attend.  Or how we, as the church, could reach out to them.

Those are all well and good questions.  But that’s not what I’m interested in today.  What I want to focus on is how we, as the church, behave.  How do our actions, our lives, play out to these Easter attenders?  Can they tell we live out lives of faith?  Or are we viewed as what’s been called the “unChristian“?

In the book Faith & Doubt, John Ortberg identifies three levels of belief – Public, Private, Core.  Depending on the topic, your views may fall into any of these three categories.  It’s the difference in categories that determine your actions.

1. Public – These are beliefs that you want people to think you hold, even when you don’t.  “Oh sure I loved your ‘macaroni surprise’” is an example of a public belief.

2.  Private - Beliefs that you think are sincere, but turn out not to be.  Peter was convinced he would follow Jesus to death.  But when it came down to it, he denied even knowing Jesus.

3.  Core - These are beliefs that are shown through our daily actions.  When we say we care about the homeless, that’s all well and good.  People with core beliefs do something about it.

Think about any belief you have.

They fall into one of these categories.  We tell our kids “that was a wonderful recital”, but we know it wasn’t (public belief).  We say it because the truth isn’t the loving action, building into them is.  Public beliefs can be good.  They help us maintain relationships when the brutal, cold, “truth” couldn’t.  Yet we can get caught in a dangerous trap of always wanting to fit in.  We can get caught in the world of  “making other people happy.”  (How many of us have complained that politicians don’t follow through with their promises?   Those politicians often get caught in the public belief)

When I look at Christianity in the general, anecdotal sense, I fear that too many people only hold Christianity as a public belief.  It is only something to do for a few hours on Sunday.  It isn’t life changing.  It isn’t radical, it isn’t revolutionary, and it certainly isn’t different.

When we take that flat, boring, public belief and interact with non-believers, how should we expect them to respond?

Easter is about God stepping into history and taking a hit that you and I deserve.  Jesus was characterized by living in the core beliefs he espoused.  When Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” he wasn’t just giving a talking point.  He was telling the disciples what God was about.  Who God was at his core.

I want to move my beliefs from the public to the core.  I don’t want my life filled with things I say I believe, when I really don’t.  I started out this post saying that I used to go to church out of obligation.  But you know what?  There are times I still go to church out of obligation.  Simply because it’s Saturday.  That’s okay sometimes.  It’s okay to want to be watching football some days.  But pretending you want to be at church when you don’t – that leads you down the road of hypocrisy.

I want people to look at me and see no difference between how I live my life, and what I write on R3.  I want people to see me living out a life of faith.  How about you?  What do you want?

what i’m reading: Faith & Doubt


Category : God, different, faith, feeding my brain


I grew up never questioning what I was told about God.  I just accepted everything at face value.  Especially the part about “if you’re good everything will work out.”  So when I suffered a horrible set back in college, my faith shattered.  It simply couldn’t withstand the onslaught of doubt and questions.

It wasn’t until years later that I found a rekindled belief in God.  This time, instead of taking everything at face value I was filled with questions.  Is the Bible real? Is it relevant to my life? Why doesn’t God prove he exists? If a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around, does it make a sound?  I knew I could never believe in God until I wrestled with these questions.

To me questioning your faith can be one of the most important things you do.  I slowly learned that despite what I had been told, God never intended for us to hide our heads in the sand.

Likewise he never intended for us to act as if we had all the answers.

The story of Job cuts right to this matter.  Despite all of Job’s suffering he never learns why his life fell apart (it was a wager between God and Satan).  Even though God spoke to him and helped him come to terms with everything, God never revealed the reason why.  Job could have speculated all he wanted, but it’s unlikely he ever would have come up with the real reason.  Job didn’t have all the answers.  And his friends, who thought they had all the answers, turned out to be wrong as well.

It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.”

This is why John Ortberg’s new book Faith & Doubt appeals to me: I don’t know everything.  And yes, that’s hard to admit.

For most of us the words “faith” and “doubt” are separated by miles.  They couldn’t be perceived as more opposite.  We’ve been told we should never doubt any aspect of our faith has left us feeling guilty when we have questions.  Instead of addressing our doubts, we let them slowly erode our faith.  Is that how we’re supposed to feel?

Life is filled with difficulty and ambiguity.  And God doesn’t always give us clear cut explanations.  Just ask Job.  Yet we still need to operate in the midst of all this confusion.  As Ortberg points out, faith isn’t about 100% certainty.  It’s not about theological perfection.  It’s about going that last step, based on what you understand.  It’s about taking that “leap of faith” not because you know everything, but because you’ve come to some good conclusions based on what you do know.  Faith is about trusting in who God is, not what principles you have surrounded yourself with.

Faith & Doubt is filled with great information, good illustrations, and intriguing arguments.  As a whole I personally find it compelling.  But none of that is what I really take away from the book.  What I take away is something simpler:  it’s okay to have questions.

Which takes us right into R3’s mission (learning how to live out a life of faith).  This is rarely neat, and often a messy process.   We don’t always get directly from point A to point B.  Sometimes we need to ask questions.  Sometimes true exploration of faith raises hard issues.  At least that’s what’s happened in my own relationship with God.  As I struggle to understand what it means to live out a life of faith, I find I have questions.  That I have doubt.

Sometimes this doubt is significant (did God really kill people because he was angry?)  And sometimes this doubt is more trivial (Did Adam and Eve really live for hundreds of years?)  If I allowed myself to focus on the fact I don’t know everything, my relationship with God would end.  How could it continue?  If my requirement for true “faith” is 100% certainty, how do I console a family who loses a child when they ask if God is a loving god?  How do I reach out to the hurting when you expect theological perfection?

You can’t.

That’s why I will always have some doubt.  But I will also always have faith.  After reading Faith & Doubt, I no longer see faith and doubt as words separated by distance.  Instead I see them as part of the complicated picture of who God is. 

And I’m okay with that.