Saturday, August 30, 2008

Life: The Story of My Faith

(This is adapted from a post I made during a discussion over on Thanks to all the intelligent, respectful people involved over there.)

I had no dramatic conversion moment, no time I can point to and say that that was when I switched, but I can tell you my story, do with it what you will.

I was born in Kijabe, Kenya. My parents were over their working as Bible translators for the Endo people. We left when I was three-and-a-half (I remember very little, though I do have some vague memories from when we went back for a summer when I was seven).

My upbringing within Christianity was very strong, though I never felt like my parents were keeping me in any kind of cage. Whenever I had questions they did their best to answer them, or to help me answer them (the later especially as I got older).

I officially accepted Christ in a sinner's-prayer-style way when I was seven (or was it five... I don't remember). Again, I have some vague memories of the moment, and I believe that it was genuine, but also I was still a child then.

Through sixth grade I went to a private Christian school, and then from there went to a school which, though public, was pretty much Christian.

Enter high school. Enter OCHSA. My Freshman year of high school I attended the Orange County High School of the Arts, which was like stepping into the Arctic Ocean after hanging out in the Sahara. Talk about shock. I don't think there could have been a more liberal, agnostic group of know-it-all freshman than I met that year. On top of that I had my first class that presented evolution as being the only valid theory for the origin of life. Needless to say I began to question what I believed. When your old friend from Christian school tells you he's gay and a teacher you respect tells you that your ancestor was an amoeba, you can hardly not ask questions.

From their I went to Huntington Beach High School, which wasn't much easier.

Let me make it clear, I never lost my faith in any sense, or turned my back on God, but I began to wonder. Is God real? What about the Muslim? The Jew? The Hindu? I met insane (and wonderful) liberals. I met a Jew who asked me if I thought he was going to hell upon our first meeting. And I began to see how just plain screwed up my fellow believers could be.

Luckily for me I had my parents who, as I mentioned, could take questions. They understood the difficulty of faith and they didn't try to shove anything down my throat. Sure there were a few rough spots, but on the whole it was great. And they were intelligent, forgiving and compassionate. They may not approve of homosexuality, they may think that Jesus is the only way to God (as do I), but they nevertheless loved everyone.

I still kept running into bumps though, questions that needed answers. I felt like I needed to have them all, to understand everything, because if there was anything in the Bible that I didn't understand, then everything would fall apart.

And I discovered Answers in Genesis, a creationist organization, and it helped a lot, though not how you might think, and not immediately. At first it "helped" in the way you might expect. I read all their articles and became a rabid Creationist, ready to defend my faith with my mighty sword of reason. Then I met Christians who believed in evolution (AiG says this is impossible) and suddenly I was confused again. And I got frustrated. I had my first run in (internally) with epistemological questions. How do we know ANYTHING? What does authority mean? How can I trust that the "experts" are telling me the truth? AiG may, or may not, be completely wrong about evolution, but wrong or right they do an amazing job of apologizing their viewpoint, and taking the exact same evidence the evolutionists use and instead using to support what they believe. And here (and in other similar things) was were I learned my lesson. I've never fully become an apostate from creationism, though neither do I strongly support it anymore (it feels weird saying that about scientific ideas anyway). Honestly, I don't really know and I have some trouble caring because it's not something that directly affects my life either way (I'm agnostic on evolution I suppose).

I'm not saying there's no evidence one way or another on the question of God there are things that I see that point to God, but nothing is ever entirely conclusive because God is spirit and He is unseen.

What I did learn from this was how much I really didn't know, and just how thoroughly any idea could be deconstructed until I found myself floating in some crazy void of empty thought, devoid of meaning. For a time this scared the hell out of me. I suppose it might have led me to agnosticism, but there was something else.

I knew God. Not just an emotion, nor an idea, but a relationship. So many things in my life have pulled together in the perfect way. The traveling eye doctors who passed through in rural Kenya when I had an eye infection that might have blinded me, the friendships that had come just when I needed them and just when I prayed for them, the amazing family and church that I was blessed with, and the times I had encountered God in worship and prayer. Beyond me there were the things that happened to people whose accounts I trusted, like the time my dad was there when a man's leg grew out six inches.

No. I could never know everything. Perhaps I could know nothing for certain. For all I knew the world was an illusion of my mind, or a butterfly's dream. Perhaps all the things I encountered were coincidence and chemistry. I discovered faith. I discovered that at some point everyone has to make a choice. They either need to decide to believe nothing and be agnostic, or take a stand. I took my stand.

I also discovered faith in those around me, and in those I admired. I figured that if my dad, who is brilliant, could believe then so could I. If C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien could believe, than so could I.

I love God, and I believe he sent Jesus to die for me. I don't always get him, why He does what He does. I sometimes read something in the Bible that boggles my mind and I could give up, but I won't. I find that the answers tend to eventually come, if I wait with patience. I'm so finite that I can't pretend to know everything. God has been faithful to me.

And while I believe, I'm all certain that I could be wrong. I can't fault or hate someone for believing other than I do. However, because I truly to believe what I believe, which includes the assertion that the Bible is the holy word of God, I follow what I believe to be His words. I do share my faith, and I try every day to become like Christ. I always fall down, I always trip up, but He's there to pick me up and help me grow. As the great apologist C.S. Lewis (himself paraphrasing another author) said in Mere Christianity "As a great Christian writer (George MacDonald) pointed out, every father is pleased at the baby's first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said, 'God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy".

In the end we are to love God with all our hearts, minds and souls. I don't don't want anyone to think that I'm saying forget the mind, I am a philosopher after all. I know that I will continue to ask questions all of my life. I will always explore the questions of God and reasoning why he might exist is important to me. In the end though, I'll never know everything. In the end it all comes down to faith.