Faith and Needing Apologetic Reason
by John Billington
If asked why I am a Christian my reply is simple, for the hope it gives. As a Christian it is on hope that I stand, it is the reason I return to Christ time after time.
But hope for hope's sake is only wishful thinking. I have made a life of faith based on apologetic research. And it has given credence and a realist underpinning to base my hope in the Christian faith and that these things are true. But I have always been left with an uneasiness, a gnawing doubt that this was not real faith. I was left to trust God's mercy that my confession of "this is all I have" would be enough. The other day I was listening to a tape about repentance. I thought why do I go through the pain and hurt of rehashing my failures and sins. The thought came crashing in I WANT LIFE, REAL LIFE! Then, in my mind another connection was made. The gnawing doubt I have is not simply a gnawing doubt but a quiet cry that I want life. Directing that cry to God, in recognition that He is the only one that can grant it, is faith. The doubt and fear that it is not enough is cause for a need--a need that I'm afraid will not be met, the need for life.
In my searching I have, if nothing else, found this truth. It seems thus far anyway, that secular thinkers both past and present come to a depressing end in their thinking. Simply put, it is that they cannot find any reason or purpose in and of themselves. Man cannot give himself purpose for being, thus all hope is lost. As Francis Schaeffer puts it "Man, starting from himself cannot give himself any reason or purpose of being." Although most deny it, this causes them to fracture their being; their actions are not consistent with their thinking. Their mind simply cannot accept the logical conclusion of hopelessness if this reasoning is carried out to its logical end. After all what is cognizant life apart from purpose and reason? Asserting it is a miraculous accident and should be cherished as such, seems hollow at best. It seems more a cruel joke. No matter how unlikely the accident is, in the end it is still just an accident. Thought out, it still means the love I have for my wife and kids is nothing more then some electrical/chemical impulses occurring in a gray mass we call a brain. When I die the only thing left is the electrical/chemical impulses in their brains that make up what they remember of me. And one must ask why that is important to an accident? Any good I do while I am alive is a waste. You may argue this and say it is selfish and wrong. You might say you should be concerned for your fellow man. You may just be instinctively repulsed by such a suggestion. But the question still remains, why do good if you are an accident? What is wrong with being selfish? And why if I am an accident, should I be concerned for my fellow man, another mere accident? And who said that was right or wrong? If you and I are both accidents why do you or society have the authority to make any objective moral declaration about me, right or wrong? You would be right in asking what purpose does all of this serve other then to aid an otherwise purposeless humanity to continue drudging on with no reason for the drudging. Is helping a purposeless, reasonless accidental humanity with no other meaning enough for me to sacrifice my life, comfort, and pleasure if this is really all there is?
This is the dichotomy in our existence. We rail against God to be our own, rejecting His claim to us. In so doing, we also give up His higher purpose and reason for man, leaving us free to claim ourselves, yet we cannot live coherently with the hopelessness of that rejection. In short it states I am my own, and then relentlessly asks but what am I?
My view of faith has changed. Reflecting on it, I saw faith more as a cold, intangible quality God required and I struggled to have. I had concluded this world alone could not sustain the important underpinnings like hope and fulfillment that make life valuable and worth living. I recognized God as the only one able to sustain them. Yet my view of faith, "I must believe" left me struggling to manufacture it. I see faith now in terms of filling a deep-seated need that I instinctively have. The searching itself is evidence of the need. Viewed in this light the question changes from "do I have faith?" to simply "what or who better fills my need for real life?" A cold, impersonal, indifferent, purposeless, reasonless, accidental universe or a loving, just, righteous God that seeks me at all cost, one who gladly and wholeheartedly answers the faintest cry for real life. Of course one must also consider the other religions to completely validate this question.
In the end the driving motivation of faith is not simply a desire to live but to live well, to live at peace with God and self, the very definition of living well. Does not faith require recognition of something gone wrong, not what it is suppose to be, life unfilled? Is it better to die young having lived life well before God with the hope of a better life in your heart then just simply to live a long, good life? Faith is more than an expression of hope and trust in God for personal redemption. Although that is certainly part of it, personal redemption alone is too small. Faith is an expression of hope and trust in God for God's vision of life, that all things will be made right, life itself fulfilled.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).
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