Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A three year hiatus ends

It's hard to believe that I started this blog over three years ago. I have hardly posted anything on it since those initial musings, and time has hurtled on by at a phenomenal rate. I can't believe I am on the other side of 30 now, although, as I am fond of saying to people, it is the age that Jesus was when he started his ministry...

And my faith journey has moved on since those ambiguous times. I have made a firm commitment to Christ (And also to a beautiful woman who was crazy enough to marry me, more of which anon). Life looks and feels different from this side of the Rubicon. I can see that before I made the 'leap of faith', I was hedging my bets, keeping my options open, looking for a life of significance but laced with as much 'ethical hedonism' as I could get away with. Now, I have made a firm commitment, it changes things. I understand myself to be a disciple of Jesus, seeking His will for my life. I believe that I am accountable for the way I choose to live my life, and how I behave towards each person I interact with. Given my lamentable tendencies towards selfishness, self-righteousness and self-preoccupation I am only glad to have access to what I believe to be unlimited Grace and unlimited Love. Indeed, I am convinced that Love is the creative power behind the universe. All that is not Love will be stripped away

Despite my new faith posture, I share many sympathies with those who struggle with doubts as well as those who find the claims of Christianity unintelligible at best and immoral at worst. I have a continuing love of the honest seeker after truth whether they be an atheist, agnostic, new age mystic, Muslim or even a Christian. I want to keep asking difficult questions about my faith, and being open to being challenged and surprised by different perspectives. In fact, only yesterday I stumbled upon confessionsofadoubtingthomas.blogspot.com.  I found some thought-provoking stuff on there and sent the author of the blog a message. He came across this old blog of mine and asked me why there were so few entries which is why I am sat here writing my first blog for nearly three years. I'll try to keep it up!

I firmly believe that making a decision for Christ is actually the very beginning of the search for truth and not the end.But I was able to make my final surrender to Christ only when I became convinced at my deepest core that he was entirely trustworthy, beautiful and very unlike a Republican-voting, gun-toting Tea party patriot. I became convinced that God revealed Him/Herself uniquely in the person of Jesus, and that my life would be safe in His hands. Sometimes, actually oftentimes, Christianity itself is the biggest obstacle in the way of a would-be disciple.

Despite this new-found conviction I still find myself entertaining doubts about the fabric of Christian belief. Over the past few weeks I have read books and articles by, amongst others, radical retired-bishop John Spong, Jesus Seminar scholar Robert M Price, ex-Christian pastor John Loftus with his www.debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com which I stray onto from time to time. I see the force of many of their arguments and, from time to time, I feel unsettled. And so it is my continued ability to hold faith and doubt in both hands, and to see the logic of both that makes me happy to keep this blog entitled 'The Christian Agnostic' even though I am no longer 'agnostic' in the truest sense of that word. I am a Christian at the beginning of a journey. Now, where are we going again?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

On the edge of reason

In the last few months I have been torn between faith and doubt, belief and unbelief. I have been inhabiting a world of strange polarities. All or nothing.

I have read several serious books on the question of faith in general and Christianity in particular.

Bart Ehrman's books, "God's Problem" and "Jesus, Interrupted" have highlighted the differences in the various Biblical author's approach to the problem of suffering and the many different possible interpretations of the significance of Jesus' life and ministry.

I read Robert M Price's amusingly titled "The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man" as well as "Why I Became An Atheist" by John Loftus. I read, "What is the Point of Being a Christian?" by prominent Roman Catholic Dominican, Timothy Radcliffe, and then followed up by meeting with him in Oxford and talking about life and meaning over a couple of pints, an encounter facilitated by my dad, an Anglican  priest...

I oscillate between shaky unbelief and tentative belief. I wrestle with questions of meaning and find no conclusive hook on which to hang my coat. No sooner have I taken root in a godless universe when suddenly a sense of eternity consumes me and calls me beyond myself.

On with the journey...

Monday, 23 March 2009

Beyond Fundamentalism

I recognise and acknowledge that fundamentalism takes many forms. I went to a Christian missionary school in Paraguay. It was in many ways a warm cocoon of safety and loving community but some strange beliefs abounded amongst staff and pupils alike. I was told, amongst many other things, that the world was created in 6 literal days around 6000 years ago, that the Bible was inerrant and dictated by God, that rock music was of the devil and that if you didn't pray the sinner's prayer you were destined for eternal conscious torment in the fires of hell! Subsidiary beliefs held by some included the understanding that the Catholic church was in fact the whore of Babylon spoken of in Revelation. This strain of thinking sat uncomfortably with the the fact that a lot of my fellow pupils at school were Paraguayan Roman Catholics paying hefty school fees to learn English and subsidising my free place (Free because my parents were missionaries). So I have a strong radar for Christian fundamentalism in its multi-layered complexity.

In the last two years I have read books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett that take aim at fundamentalism in general and faith in particular. I found myself nodding in agreement at many of the critiques they bring up. Something prevents me from joining their ranks however. Something at the deepest level in my pysche longs for their to be something more to this life then the material universe. I can't reconcile the profound longing of the human heart for justice and truth, with the idea that there is no such thing as ultimate truth. However, I seem to share little in common with people who claim they know and have experienced ultimate truth and yet hold beliefs that are demonstrably absurd (Like 6 day creationism). I have only scratched the surface here...I need to head for the depths....

Faith and Meaning

What is it to have faith?

I have often wondered what faith is, and what is it to have faith, to find it, and to lose it. I've certainly spent a long time looking for faith

Over the last year or so I have spent countless hours watching debates between atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett and an assortment of Christian apologists like William Lane Craig and Dinesh De Sousa. When I'm not watching these debates I am drawn like a dog back to its own vomit, to fundamentalist Christians...My technique is as follows. I find a Christian author who I like and find to be very reasonable and sensible, like Philip Yancey for example. Then I type 'Philip Yancey wicked heretic' into Google and see what comes up. This technique works well with a surprisingly wide pool of Christian thinkers. In essence I have found that the more what a particular Christian thinker is saying appeals to me, the more enemies they tend to have...

Come to think of it, I know a man who said a lot of things that really resonate with me. Came from an obscure town called Nazareth I think...he had a few enemies come to think of it...

Before I continue, I should nail my colours firmly to the mast...

I'm a Christian.


Well, maybe I'm more of an agnostic.

OK, so actually, neither category seems to fit me comfortably. For the sake of clarity I'm going to call myself a tentative Christian with agnostic leanings. I'm hoping that by putting some of my thoughts and questions down on this blog, I am going to enter into a period of new clarity and purpose!

Welcome to the Christian Agnostic...