5 Main Challenges to Staying Christian, and moving forward anyway (part 1)

In a post last week, I asked you to think about the one or two biggest challenges you face to staying Christian. Including private emails, I got about 300 responses, many of them heartfelt and moving. Thanks for your courage and honesty!

Although a wide range of challenges were mentioned and specifics naturally differ, I grouped them under five broad categories below. I hope this helps.

One request at this point: As we continue here, I want to remind you that this is not the place to defend the faith by offering counterarguments to what has been expressed, no matter how sincere. Neither is it the proper forum for former Christians to chime in and offer their opinions on how these challenges lead to one and only one “logical” conclusion.

There was a fair amount of this type of banter in the previous post (and in a follow-up), and such responses tend to dishonor those who relayed their experiences. I will be diligent in removing comments from this thread that I feel are driven by an apologetic motive in either direction. There are other websites that do this sort of thing. If you feel you really have something to say, ask the commenter for his/her email address and permission to send an email with your thoughts.

My intention for writing the post was not to undermine faith nor to set up issues for which I could give pat answers. I simply wanted to give people the space to express themselves in a spirit of trust and group support for the ultimate purpose of encouraging a continued walk of faith, however that might be configured in each person’s experience, community, or theological tradition.

To utter one’s deepest fears about their faith is for some only slightly less risky that buying heroin on a street corner, and such fear is too common a phenomenon in the various iterations of conservative Protestantism, i.e., for traditions rooted in the importance of detailed and absolute knowledge on a wide range of topics. For a variety of reasons, these “systems” are not viable for a considerable element of the Christian population. It is what it is. And, like any conflict–internal or otherwise–talking about it unloads a burden, a first step to at least getting some perspective.

I’ve numbered the main categories below, but these aren’t rankings (except for the first, I suppose, which seems to be the overarching stressor expressed). I am simply summarizing what I saw as the themes that came up. If you see an angle I am missing, by all means tell us.

I’d like to list my own top challenges at the end. Then, in a separate post (coming within a few hours–I don’t want these posts to be too long), I’d like to give you space to talk about why you stay on the path of Christian faith. This will only work if you limit your comments not to what others should or should not do, but how YOU navigate the challenges–either generally or specifically.  Keep it personal. I’d like to begin that conversation by laying out some of my thoughts.

Anyway, here are the 5 main challenges I saw in your comments.

1. The Bible, namely inerrancy. This was the most commonly cited challenge, whether implicitly or explicitly, and it lay behind most of the others mentioned.  The pressure many of you expressed was the expectation of holding specifically to an inerrant Bible in the face of such things as biblical criticism, contradictions, implausibilities in the biblical story, irrelevance for life (its ancient context), and the fact that the Bible is just plain confusing.

2. The conflict between the biblical view of the world and scientific models. In addition to biological evolution, mentioned were psychology, social psychology, evolutionary psychology, and anthropology. What seems to fuel this concern is not simply the notion that Scripture and science offer incompatible models for cosmic, geological, and human origins, but that scientific models are verifiable, widely accepted, and likely correct, thus consigning the Bible to something other than a reliable description of reality.

3. Where is God?  A number of you, largely in emails, wrote of personal experiences that would tax to the breaking point anyone’s faith in a living God who is just, attentive, and loving. Mentioned were many forms of random/senseless suffering and God’s absence or “random” presence (can’t count on God being there).

4. How Christians behave. Tribalism, insider-outsider thinking; hypocrisy, power; feeling misled, sheltered, lied to by leaders; a history of immoral and unChristian behavior towards others (e.g., Crusades, Jewish pogroms). In short, practically speaking, commenters experienced that Christians too often exhibit the same behaviors as everyone else, which is more than simply an unfortunate situation but is interpreted as evidence that Christianity is not true–more a crutch or a lingering relic of antiquity than a present spiritual reality.

5. The exclusivism of Christianity. Given 1-4 above, and in our ever shrinking world, can Christians claim that their way is the only way?

These issues aren’t new. We all know that. They keep coming up, which is sort of the point. I understand that some may feel they have found final and universally applicable answers to these issues, but the fact that these issues don’t go away tells us something: either the answers aren’t all that persuasive or the answers aren’t getting to where they are needed.

Whatever the reason, in my opinion, opening up and talking about these things with others also on the Christian path should not be the exception but the rule.

As for my own challenges, I resonate with all of these on some level. My personal top challenges–those nagging back seat issues that keep forcing their way to the front seat–are: various issues of intellectual implausibility, few and far between “God moments,” random suffering, and the fact that Christians can be complete jerks to each other and everyone else (I being chief among them, to borrow Paul’s words).

“Implausibility” is a word that a couple of the commenters used (also “plausibility structure”), and it captures well what I am thinking here. So as not to be misunderstood, let me elaborate on just this first point. The issue is not really the miraculous nature of Christianity, but things like: Heaven portrayed as “up there” and hell beneath;  if Jesus is coming back to judge the world, what’s keeping him, especially since NT authors (Paul, Revelation) seemed to think this would happen very soon.

For many of you, I know I’m singing to the choir.

Part 2 of this post can be found here…

  • Matt

    Thank you for your honesty, Pete.

  • Mike

    I appreciate this too. Category 3, especially reading verses about how God will “never leave you nor forsake you” then experiencing absolute absence from God during the midst of heart-wrenching trials, is probably where most of my struggles come from.

    Particularly challenging as well is how poorly Christians treat each other when they do struggle with their faith (#4?). Seeing how often the response to an admission of suffering is just blithe quotation of bible verses leads me to think that nobody really understands what they’re even talking about, which lends credence to the idea that it’s not even real.

    Thanks, Pete.

  • Timmy C

    Thanks for this, glad to follow here and look forward to the discussion…

  • Larry

    A number of things catch my attention on this, but I think I’ll comment on just a couple.
    First, this list of five doesn’t strike me as something challenges staying “Christian;” these challenges seem more so within the context of a certain type or types of Christianity. Perhaps slightly less over-generalized Pete, these are challenges to Evangelical Christianity. Or more specifically, fundamentalist-leaning Evangelical Christianity. Or even more acutely, 20th century North American fundamentalist-leaning Evangelical Christianity. Too conflate elements of that specific subgroup with the norm or center of Christianity is to be vastly under-exposed to what Christianity has been and is today.
    Second among “things that make me go huh,” I’m a bit perplexed by what you mean by a scientific view vs. a Biblical view. On the scientific side, while there is often generally held concensus, there are often an array of views. The unifying factor is less the “view” of what’s seen and more the *method* of the “viewing.” It is the methodological that holds together. On the Biblical side, the diversity of thought is profoundly greater. Not only in interpretations of what’s “Biblical” today among different sects and wildly varied in-the-pew held beliefs, but the authors of the texts themselves seem to have a great array of metaphysics, presuppositions, fears, hopes, encounters with God, and conceptions of how those relate to interactions with others. Perhaps, you’re not wanting to have a book which in its essence might be Holy.
    Perhaps even more disturbing on this list though is the concern that God is randomly absent/present. Are you looking for a God who is contingent and not Wholly Other? One who is not present in the faces of the least of these? One who is not wrestled with as Jacob wrestled? One who is not met as man on the dusty plains under the oaks of Mamre?
    Finally, what I perhaps find most disheartening about this whole list is that no where is “I must daily die to myself and live for the gracious benefit of others.” For me, personally, that’s a much greater challenge of staying Christian.
    But maybe we’re soon getting to the underlying essence of the question, what does it mean to be Christian?
    What does it mean to pattern one’s life after what we best know as the person of Jesus of Nazareth?

    • Seeker

      Hi Larry,

      I sort of get where you are coming from, but I think you may be missing the point of this series of posts. Have you read through the nearly 200 comments from others on the previous post Pete referenced? If you have, I can’t quite see why you would find anything on the summary list as “disturbing” in the sense you use it… The point is that we are together wrestling through these issues – and they are not problems of Pete’s own making. These are issues/problems that have come from the collective voice of nearly 300 different commenters – and they likely are only a small representation of a far greater number asking the same questions.

      In order to get to this blog, I usually click on on the “Evangelical” Channel in Patheos… So, of course this discussion may be primarily focused upon issues that “recovering”?? Evangelical/Fundamentalists are dealing with. I think that is indeed the audience who is here – and the reason it is great to address these issues specifically. There are other places to discuss the issues Christians in the 3rd world are dealing with, not?

      Dying daily to oneself is certainly at the heart of following Christ, but that does not make the questions disappear…nor do I think it is wrong to ask them. Peace.

      • Larry

        I read through many of the posts.
        Yes, these are not problems of Pete’s making. Perhaps these questions ought to be directed to the individuals and institutions for whom these challenges are of their own making. Pete, another interesting project and conversation to host after this one would be, “What do we do with this?” How do we engage clergy? Lay leadership? Small groups? How do we take an online conversation and incarnate it into the real world of our face-to-face personal relationships at church and elsewhere?
        Perhaps, there, we can find intersection of dying daily to oneself and these questions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.ortiz.54 Dan Ortiz

    Very interesting project … you verbalize really well the challenges that are been brought forward. The one observation I would offer, is to consider that all these are 1st world, english speaking problems. That is, the people who mentioned them come from that background. it is not a criticism, or means to “labelling” but it is means to give context to it. For example, no. 3, would this be an issue with third world Christians living in poverty? Don’t know…. but the fact that the majority of Christians are from third world countries, and, that 3rd world churches grow at a greater rate than Western churches might indicate that it is not a general issue for them…. (or that it is)…

    • peteenns

      Very good point, Dan.

  • Johannes Richter

    I am also looking forward to this series, and appreciate how humbly it is presented here. Faith for me is a speck of knowledge in a sea of ignorance (that sea of primordial chaos which we expect to disappear in God’s Kingdom). But it is so small a speck that we can focus either on it or on the sea, but not both – our field of vision is just too limited. So we have to rely on spiritual senses in an attempt to take it all in at once – a peripheral vision of blurry images – and religion is the practice of honing them.

    • Larry

      I’m glad the ancient tale of the Hebrew god Yahweh against the chaos dragon Leviathan didn’t get fully purged out of the Bible. Perhaps this story as residually present in Job, Isaiah, and the Psalms can speak to us today on several of these five questions.

    • peteenns

      Nice analogy!

  • Samuel Adam Reese

    The issue of hypocritical and horrible Christians doesn’t keep me from the faith as much as it keeps me away from them in general, be it at Church, religious programming, writings, etc (and I’m talking “popular” writing, not academic or speculative). The others are definitely sticking points, but I have an even bigger issue that I’m not sure exactly how to articulate. The best way I know to describe it is that certain forms of “alternative religions” speak to me at a deeper level than Christianity, or at least the Christianity I’ve grown up with.

    • Larry

      Samuel, good point. In an earlier post, I had said these aren’t issues with being “Christian” per se but being “20th century North American fundamentalist-leaning Evangelical Christian.” Perhaps “popular” needs to be added to my string of modifiers. Many of these challenges are particularly of interest with “popular” forms of Christianity. This, then gets us to the community aspects of this project and specifically church and relating to believers of who share different perspectives and even interest/angst levels of these kids of questions. Sadly (at least in my experience) these kinds of questions get poor quality treatment from the pulpit. I wonder how much of this is because the clergy have signed statements of faith and professional/income practicalities that limit, if not prohibit, free exploration of this kind of dialogue.

      • Samuel Adam Reese

        I wonder that myself. I know many people who have shared in private with me their struggles but have given me the caveat that I can’t tell anyone, because they wouldn’t understand and it could cost them their job. I have always thought it sad that the culture that was commanded to bear one another’s burdens has such a hard time actually bearing burdens.

  • Betsy

    The first obstacle regarding the Bible, is what translation (s) to read and study. I have noticed that the choice of one or two words in a verse can lead to significantly different interpretations. I have also noticed certain denominations tend to favor one translation over others and it seems to influence their dogma/ethos.

  • Seeker

    Wonderful summary in my opinion Pete. I do find it very helpful to have the vast number of comments categorized in this way. And for me personally, I would say these 5 categories pretty much hit the nail on the head. I have been following this discussion with great interest, and will continue to do so. Thanks again for starting this conversation and for giving so many the space to “wrestle with God” together… Thanks for avoiding pat answers to major issues and having the honesty and integrity to keep pushing back when others too quickly wish to silence doubt without giving it the rightful voice it deserves…

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    I am in my sixties. I began as a fundamentalist, became an evangelical, and now I am at the progressive edge of evangelicalism. I have dealt with these issues and more, though how Christians behave has never caused me to question Christianity. People are people and tribalism often is a stronger draw than the love of the Father.
    In my opinion, these five categories are excellent ones. I also very much appreciate your generous attitude in presenting this topic. I look forward to the follow-up.

  • Gail

    I am really looking forward to further discussions on these topics. This is a timely series for many reasons.

    Would politics/culture wars/lack of social justice fit under category 4?

  • Jack

    Yep, basic unbelief. Lack of child-like faith. Children don’t have “implausibility” problems.

    • Timmy C

      Depends on the stage of the kid, for mine, from 4 onwards was DEEPLY suspicous Santa was really me and my wife.

  • iankog

    It all comes down to the issue of Biblical literalism. As our understanding of scripture matures, allowing us to accept that the Bible is a human document that contains Truth *and* mythology, the other barriers to faith start to dissolve.

    • Jack

      Scripture itself testifies that it is breathed out by God and Jesus himself did not view it as simply a human document. Whom should I believe? Him or you?

      • peteenns

        Jack, did you get my email of a couple of days ago concerning your comments on my various threads? Please acknowledge by emailing me back. You seem to be on the troll for arguments. Disagreement is fine, but only in the spirit of true engagement. I need to ask you to abide by that request. If you want to discuss, we can do that via email.

        • Jack

          Sorry, no I didn’t Pete. I’m not on the troll for arguments. Just trying to make sense of things here.
          I’ll bow out then, thanks

      • homeschoolingmom

        Sounds like circular reasoning to me. You believe what scripture says that Jesus said about scripture.

        • Jack

          Right. And I believe in Jesus because of what Scripture says about Jesus. All reasoning involves some circularity

  • Jonathan Pitts

    Finding a consistent but reasonable approach to the Bible has been the key thing for me. The other issues very much flow from that.

    Right now it seems that people who have been struggling with these issues alone for years are being brought together (in places like this blog), ready for a big change in the church—the sort of change that happens every 500 years.

    One issue is that we will have different conclusions to our questions, but we do need to find a rallying point in order to work together.

    I suggest that the rallying point might be that the Bible is a *conversation*. It includes a diversity of a different views that people have had about God. These views are in dialogue with each other.

    We have to come together to continue that conversation and develop it for our time. We won’t always agree with each other, but we need to listen and learn from each other.

    Viewing the Bible as a conversation, allows for a lot of leeway and could be attractive to a broad variety of Christians and others. I suspect that my view of the Bible’s creation is a bit different from yours and others reading this, but entering into the ongoing conversation of the Bible gives us a basis for moving forward together (but with variety).

    It is encouraging to see so many people contributing here.

    Since childhood I have known that I wanted to be on God’s team. That has continued through over 20 years of searching and dissatisfaction with the answers that church was giving me. I hope we can build a church where everyone is welcome to engage, and we leave God to decide who is in and who is out.

  • Jim

    Awesome and brave post, but one big mistake – you mention “if you see an
    angle I am missing, by all means tell us”. By way of background, I’ve eaten a
    lot of paint chips when I was younger and so my main challenge to staying
    Christian relates to your point 1 in a bizarre way.

    For me, it’s what is NOT in the Bible. As an example, if one goes with the Acts 1.3 line where Jesus appeared to the Apostles over a period of forty days (or less if this is not an absolute number), I would expect the focus of the conversations to have been “extra deep” (all sorts of questions come to mind). Instead what results is a question like “are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel at this time?”

    Even the gospels house a lot of trivia like (two different human) genealogies etc. In Acts Paul travels to Jerusalem to discuss with eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus (Peter) and Jesus’ brother (James) about really important things like meat offered to idols. Really?

    Maybe I’m weird for expecting something more profound in the NT after encountering a resurrected creator of the universe.

  • Ruth

    I haven’t even read these yet but I am so happy to see these comments. After 50 years of being a Christian, I was appalled to find myself having doubts. I finally accepted the fact that it made no sense for me to try and “hide” these thoughts as if God couldn’t know what was going on in my head. Finally I have come to the place where I have just said, “Hang on to me God” while I explore these issues and sometimes my daily prayer is just “Convince me again, Lord”.

  • glen

    It definitely all comes down to inerrancy for me. That ship sailed awhile ago for me, and it was scholars within the church, not outside it, who ultimately convinced me.

    Once I came to accept that much of the bible’s science and history is culturally conditioned, I can’t shake the question: why not its theology, too? Some well-meaning friends contend that, though the bible may not be completely, literally accurate in matters of science and history, it is still 100% reliable in matters pertaining to faith and salvation. I can see the attraction of this line of thinking, but it seems to me to be an arbitrary line – one that would be utterly foreign to the writers of scripture, and without a logical basis apart from convenience. True, the fact that Genesis or Joshua may not be accurate history as we understand it does not invalidate the resurrection. But it does prevent me from accepting it just “because the bible says so.” As someone whose faith was extremely apologetics-driven, the loss of confidence in those ironclad answers really opened the door to questioning everything. That’s what I’ve been doing for 7 years. There’s no end in sight, but I’m still asking the questions. To do otherwise would be to give up entirely.

  • James

    I have lived my entire life (now 65 years) within what I consider to be the orb of God’s great love. But I get anxious when theological cracks appear in the outer dome or inner framework. My first impulse is to apply plaster and re-fit timber in order to restore structural integrity. Sometimes I’m able to sit still and let God look after his own. My biggest fear is that one day it will all fold like a house of cards. So I break open the box, sharpen the saw and start the cycle again. Maybe the orb needs to crash and come together in another shape. That’s also scary!

  • Eric Weiss

    “heroin”

    No “e” on the end (unless you’re talking about buying a brave woman on a street corner). :)

    • peteenns

      Maybe I am….who’s to say? (Thanks for the typo alert :-) )

  • Canadian gamer

    I myself am a former Christian, but it’s my mother I want to write about. She is very much a devout Christian and as anyone else, she has her doubts.

    What I know she struggles with is the bewildering cruelty of the Old Testament. Kings kill the offspring of their predecessors, prophets slaughter the followers of other Gods, even dignified folk like Moses send their allies to kill family and friends alike in divinely-mandated frenzies. You can’t sugarcoat this: the Old Testament contains much that is, quite frankly, beyond immoral. When my mom talks about the massacres in the OT, she says it shakes her but that she must keep believing, for the whole thing must be true. I don’t know how others cope with that, beyond the New Alliance doctrine. Perhaps is it not much of an issue, I don’t know.

    My mother has a hard time conciling that with the idea of a benevolent God and the message of the New Testament. It won’t make her leave the faith, mind you, but I can see it takes its toll at times.

    Another thing I know she has to cope with is that deep inside (she doesn’t talk bout it), she must believe my brother and I are going to hell. Indeed, if you sincerely believe hell exists, how would you not be afraid for your loved ones if they don’t believe in God? This has got to be a very disquieting feeling.

    I apologize for my seeming to introduce controversy, this really is the last thing I want. The two things I listed are not what caused me to stop believing, something I left out altogether. But I have seen my mother struggle with them, and I imagine others will have, too.

  • Bev Gordon

    Always enjoy your posts, Pete. Sometimes I even understand them! Mine will not be on the level of intellectual discourse normally found here but in all the stories of people walking away from faith in God there is a story that comes to mind that gives me great pause. Most Canadian Evangelicals my age will be familiar with the name Charles Templeton. He was well known as being formative in the early stages of Youth For Christ, he and Billy Graham did evangelism together, and he pastored a large Nazarene church in Toronto. In the late 50′s after studying at Princeton and struggling with belief he declared himself an agnostic. For the rest of his life as a broadcaster, journalist and author, he was outspoken in his rejection of the Christian faith, publishing his book “Farewell to God” in the 1990′s.
    What what is extremely interesting to me about his story are his last days on earth. Lee Strobel documents his interactions with Templeton in one of his books. Templeton was suffering from dementia and was often agitated and difficult to settle. He had, however a Phillipino care-giver who was a Christian. When he was most agitated she would sing to him. The one song that would comfort and calm him was “Jesus Loves Me”. I wonder, with Strobel, if once Templeton’s rational mind was gone, he came back to the place of childlike faith where he could actually experience in his affective being the comforting arms of Jesus whom he had once loved.

    I understand there are lots of difficult and unexplainable issues regarding our faith. I am not afraid of the questions even though I am “agnostic” on lots of the issues. For me it is all about Jesus. Lord, Liar or Lunatic? For me he is Lord. He died and rose from the dead. I cannot imagine what unanswerable question would cause me to walk away from the immensity of that sacrific.
    Bev

  • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

    I really appreciate this list and this post, Peter. To some degree I experience all five of these challenges, though #1 is one I feel I’ve been able to resolve without being forced to abandon my faith … in fact while strengthening it. The #3 and #4 on this list are my own #1 and #2. I’m actually blogging my way through a whole series on why I believe despite my frustrations, so I guess this is an issue that burns for a lot of us. The other one that bugs me, related to #3, is “why do my prayers seem to hit brick walls?”

    The one thing I would offer for people to think about re: Biblical inerrancy, is to realize that what the Bible says is one thing, and what people SAY the Bible says is quite another. This is true both for the doctrine OF the Bible, and for doctrines (supposedly or really) FROM the Bible.

  • allyn

    Here’s my frustrations:

    When I was 18, I got involved with a church that used the Bible to “prove” that I was not a Christian. After reading through the verses they provided, I came to the conclusion they were right. The next five years in that church left me feeling guilty, frustrated, and feeling like I could never please God.

    Everything they taught could be based on Scripture.

    I left that congregation and went to another congregation that had been under the same umbrella but was pulling away from those teachings. They wound up breaking into independent house churches. My experience in the house churches was very much “you can believe what you want”, but it turned out to have some of the same problems as the group we had left — mainly, if you didn’t agree with the “opinion leaders”, you were setting yourself up for some serious criticism.

    Again, everything they taught could be based on Scripture.

    In fact, every denomination within Christiandom can point to Scriptures that “proves” that they are right. And many denominations can point to Scriptures that “prove” that everyone else is wrong.

    So, how do you determine what the Bible teaches when people disagree on the same Scriptures and the “proof” they give is almost infallible?

    • Broox

      I think I can sympathize. I grew up in a certain Christian denomination, learning many teachings that seemed to make sense. However, one of the most enlightening periods in my Christian walk was when some older, somewhat cynical guy friends challenged me to read the Bible for myself – straight-through, not following anyone’s pre-written Bible study or reading plan; simply opening it up each day (or some relatively regular, intentional schedule – just that I needed to be serious about doing it) praying ‘Lord, please just show me what YOU want me to get out of this’ and then start reading from the beginning (I actually started from the NT beginning and then when back to the OT beginning). When something stuck in my mind that I didn’t understand, I prayed about it and decided to trust that either it’s not important in my life right now, or God will reveal it if it is, and I kept reading (and maybe what was important at the time was that I _didn’t_ have the answer and could therefore genuinely empathize with someone else about that). Through the process, I came across various things in the Bible that re-affirmed what I had been taught, a few sections that showed a few things I had been taught were not all that soundly based in scripture, and a great many new and personally interesting revelations. I realized the Bible is really meant to be taken as a whole and that it can help give a very full perspective if taken that way.

      Grace, peace & adventures in discovering the Bible for yourself and not according to anyone else’s agenda.

  • Broox

    I too have struggled to some degree with all of these. Over time, as I think more, learn more – particularly about context of the Biblical words and the context of following the heart of Christ in my own everyday life – and consider things as a whole, I often come to see the supposed conflict or uncertainty is not as stark and significant as it once first appeared. Often times, I end up realizing that the value of knowing or being certain of some thing has been over-stated and me knowing it or fully understanding it was never a promise God made to me; rather, my desire to know that thing was more rooted in my own feelings rather than in any practical _need_ — in other words, the knowing & resolution of the theoretical conflict was irrelevant to what I _already_ knew for _my_ actions to be in alignment with the heart of Christ – and when I truely do not know what action is most in alignment with the heart of God, then it is to trust, choose an action, and carry it out in faith…because the alternative is more lonely, more meaningless, and more self-indulging cynicism than one can bear.

    I should probably note that I have an engineering mindset and tend to see things as complex systems that work together – even though I may not fully understand the details of a certain part. My world-view rooted in Christianity seems to adequately explain the things I see around me and guide me in making what constructive influence I can, for the better – and to that end, I am often called to act, regardless of my feelings of uncertainty.

    Someone once said “Let your life rule your feelings, not your feelings rule your life.” That has stuck with me when I feel some uncertainty would lead to be like a small boat tossed about on the waves.

    While I feel I’ve reached adequate resolution with the first 5 main challenges listed, one area a currently struggle for better resolution is in the seemingly conflicting area of spiritual warfare/demonic influence/healing of those not in their ‘right’ mind, and what we know in the sciences about mental development disorders and illnesses and all the ways the brain & body can be improperly developed. I long to see people healed and in their ‘right’ minds as illustrated in some of Jesus’ Biblical encounters. Of course, as I continue to consider this, I sometimes have glimpses that this is not such a big conflict as it initially seems and that it’s not so relevant to my trying to keep walking with the heart of Christ.

    Grace, peace & adventures!

  • Matt Thornton

    For me, the issue is mainly #5. We, as a species, simply don’t know enough about the world around us to speak credibly in absolute or definitive terms. About anything. None of us knows how the universe began, independently of any beliefs we may have. We don’t understand the physics of love, or the geography of guilt. We barely know what’s in our own hearts, and much less about what might be in any other.

    Some of the best (most effective) science is newtonian mechanics, but that breaks down when you look closely. In the face of so much complexity, so many unknowns, the physical impossiblity of having more than the smallest glimpse of reality in the course of a lifetime (an infinite number of things to know, a finite time to learn) … I just can’t take certainty seriously, and find myself distrusting those who traffic in it.

    Many have said it, but faith is about living with uncertainty, not about explaining it away. Personally, I often fall into the trap of forgetting that simple point, for myself and for others.

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