Conversation With a Friend

The following is a portion of my response to a kind email from a good friend of mine, in regard to the relationship between intellectual rigor and faith. As always, I hope God's grace is somehow imparted to you as you share in my story...

When it comes to your perception that I've "gone academic" on you, I want you to know the weak place from which that comes. I've sought truth 'relationally' and in mystery, and I've been found wanting. Since I've been reading through the Bible in a year, I've been enfuriated by some of the things I've read, to the point that if I can't figure out a way to make sense of them--to SOME extent--i.e. figure out "a place to put them", then I find myself hating God. Contradiction (not to be confused with paradox) goes against the fundamental essence of human cognizance. It drives one literally to insanity. At least it will drive me to insanity.

If faith in God means turning a blind eye to contradictions and retreating to my little world of simplistic certainties, then I don't want any part of it... I frankly don't have it. But faith, to me, means knowing that when I perceive something as horrendously contrary to God's nature, either it can't be true, or it is complementary and I am obligated to discover how. If pursuing answers, or, as our good friend Brett would call it, "reaching", is arrogant or misguided, then (a) it's going to take a hell of an effort to persuade me so, and (b) if I was persuaded, it would be the end of me.

When I am faced with seeming contradictions in scripture, I have to come to grips with one of three options: (1) I'm just not
knowledgeable enough (YET) to understand it... i.e. I haven't done my part to work at knowing the Word and heart of God, (2) God is unspeakably cruel for intentionally trying to confuse us, commanding that we obey his commands that we can't make sense of, and then punishing us with eternal damnation if we don't, or (3) the Bible isn't, in fact, his word, and he hasn't given us a written word at all, and therefore there it is impossible to know anything with any certainty whatsoever about him; and thus I would be reserved to pure existentialism.

Right now, my faith rests in option #1. Three years ago, I went through a period of wrestling with options 2 and 3, and it brought me face to face with the prospect of suicide. I'm not hypothesizing when I say that if option #1 is not true, it's over for me, flat out over. Nothing in this world--not my wife and daughter, not my parents, not you, not ministry, not money or
fame or influence or pleasure of any kind--is worth living for, compared to knowing the one, true, sovereign God of the universe, who has been revealed in Jesus Christ. As Tim Hughes quoted the title of a James Bond film in a song on his recent album, "The world is not enough for me." And I would say that if someone could not make the wager I just proposed, he
needs to check his faith.

If Satan took YOU to the top of the temple and offered you the world in exchange for Jesus Christ, would you have to think about it?

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