Archive for August, 2008

wrestling with faith

So, lately, I’ve been viewing faith (and specifically faith in Christ) from the perspective of an “outsider” or skeptic.  Why would anyone believe this stuff?  What is “good” about the Good News?  How does faith make life today any better than life with no faith?  Are the faithful really more ethical than your average humanist?

And on and on.

Helping me along this path is Sam Harris, author of the 2004 New York Times bestseller The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.  An outspoken atheist and humanist, Harris is actually one of the more civil voices coming out of the “new atheist” camp. (juxtaposed against the vitriolic Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens, among others)  I am not too far into the book, but already Harris is raising some really good points about some of the problems with religion.  I hope to share some especially meaningful passages on this blog in the coming weeks.

For the record, I am positively still a Christian, and an active one at that.  I just think it’s important — especially in a day when so many people simply do not accept our traditional “proofs” for the existence of God or relevance of faith — to begin to see things from other side of the fence instead of demonizing that side.

If you haven’t heard, comedian and HBO talk show host Bill Maher has a new movie called “Religulous.”  It’s a scripted, documentary-style comedy asking questions of and mercilessly poking fun at every major religion.  If you’ve seen Maher’s stand-up act or watched his show, you’ll know he pulls no punches.  But behind the slapstick and downright meanness, Maher has some real issues with religion, and we’d be smart to take heed when he says something of substance.  Remember, this is the guy who said this a few years ago:

It’s a shame that Christianity has gone so far from the teachings of Jesus. I don’t know anyone less Jesus-like than most Christians.

The other night, in an interview on Larry King Live about “Religulous,” Maher made a good point:

One thing I don’t like about religion is — and ask any of the truly devout — it’s not mainly about doing the right thing or being ethical, it’s mainly about salvation.  It’s mainly about getting your butt saved when you die.  And that’s why I think they’re less moral than ethicists.

Is this a fair critique?  What do you think?

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mission in a world God is restoring

I really like this short speech.  I think it’s where Chrissy and I are “at” right now when it comes to mission, evangelism, gospel, etc.  It’s what we believe we were put in our neighborhood to be and do.  Give it a listen if you have a few minutes.

N.T. Wright at Lambeth: A Biblical Hope for Mission

I just listened to it twice.  It’s not long, and it’s powerful.

Great quote:

We have an opportunity in our day to get past that sterile antithesis of either saving souls for a timeless eternity or trying to improve God’s world if we really believe, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, that “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” … If we really mean that, then we must be doing things that are signs of hope.

The church is called to be the people who give the answer to the question, “What would it look like if God was running the show?”  We live between the achievement of Jesus and that final achievement of Heaven and Earth coming together … We have to implement the first and therefore anticipate the second.

What does that mean? If a doctor — if somebody in the university — discovers a wonderful new medication, the doctor has to implement that discovery by making that medication available to the people who need it.  But we believe that one day, there will be a time when God will wipe away all tears from all eyes.  So it isn’t just that we are implementing something that’s been done already; we are anticipating that day — signs of hope, little bits of hope, coming to us from God’s future.

the past year

Over the past year — the 26th of my life — I have:

  • made my first trip to Africa, traveling to Tanzania and Zanzibar
  • quit my 9-5 day job and become a work-from-home freelance writer
  • served as part-time staff for 10 months at an after-school program in our neighborhood, where we took trips to see the Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Red Sox, the Celtics, and Six Flags New England, among others.
  • spent time in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
  • purchased a home
  • acquired a roommate
  • celebrated four years of marital bliss
  • enjoyed the company of numerous friends and family in our apartment and new home
  • seen more of our city and state than ever before
  • organized a 5K race in our community
  • represented our neighborhood at a local community development conference
  • made some wonderful new friends in our neighborhood, while rekindling some childhood friendships
  • begun hanging out with our neighborhood friends’ faith group
  • seen the Red Sox and Celtics return to the top of their respective sports and the Patriots suffer a monumental collapse with perfection on the line
  • lived, loved, laughed more than any other year of my life

Thanks to all of you who have contributed in big and small ways to this wonderful year!

Later this week: The significance of the quinciñera.

seeing God

If another human being can’t look at me and see God, then maybe I’ve missed the high and holy calling.

— Landon Saunders

Related:  A list, sorted by category, of reasons why people left Christianity.  I’m convinced we need to know and take seriously these stories just as much as we need to know how to defend our positions and doctrine … maybe more.