I talk enough to have been asked by a relative if I had ever heard of anyone talking themselves to death, but I did not know what to say to this nice lady. What did I say? I don’t recall exactly, but something like: “Then you have something, but you do not have Biblical faith.”
Faith is not believing a thing despite the evidence.
Faith is a gift from God that seeks understanding. If you think you have seen “God” and received “faith” but understanding does not follow, then you have found the wrong god. Spiritual experience is as easy to misunderstand as any personal experience.
Too many Christian novels and movies may have helped create this confusion. One can have faith based on general evidence in a specific situation where things look grim. When facing the grotesqueries of daily life in the twenty-first century, there are situations that make no sense to me.
“Why did that happen to her?”
I do not know.
I do have prior evidence and good experience in the general goodness of God. I can rest in God and seek understanding. After all, if there is decent reason to believe a good God exists, then the fact that in a very complicated, interconnected cosmos, the reasons for everything are not obvious to me, little me, is not very surprising. A man sees God, hears God speak, and walks with God. As with any person, we can come to know the character of the person we see, hear, and experience. This experience helps in times when my small understanding faces a big cosmos.
This is reasonable trust and not irrationality.
- If one does not find the evidence that supports Christianity convincing, how would one choose to believe Christianity is true anyway?
At least you cannot, if by “convincing,” you mean you do not find the evidence at all convincing or that there is not enough evidence about the most important ideas.
Why this quibble? Because, in general, I agree that we should follow the evidence, but this is never in any part of life as easy as the slogan makes it sound.
Christianity has many beliefs, some more important than others. The less important depend on the important. Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead. Jesus is God. Those are very important ideas, but most will depend on an experience of the living Jesus, the living Word of God. If Jesus is not there when we call out to Him, then all the arguments in the world are not very useful.
I do not, however, first believe in Jesus based on historical evidence or arguments. I believe in Jesus, because when I cried out to Him, He was there. Based on this good experience, I think I asked (as I grew older): “Is this right? Have I understood things correctly?” In fact, at one point for reasons of my own, I tried to talk myself out of Christianity, but reason kept me there.
My experience was real, Christianity worked as an explanation for it. There were good enough reasons, not to talk me into something, but to support my experience against being deluded or crazy!
Notice this does not always work: wishing (as I have said in the last question) is not enough.
I always told my children that if they went to Narnia to please tell me. I would presume they were telling the truth and not that they were liars. My plan was then to investigate their claims as quickly as possible . . . but sadly, this did not happen. Much as I wish that someone would go to Narnia, I have never met a person that has been or even has claimed to have been.
I cannot believe in “actual” Narnia.**
You should not choose to believe a thing for which there is inadequate evidence. On the other hand, if I met a person, fell in love with her, and then she were to vanish, I might risk a great deal, do a great deal, and defy a lot of odds to find her. That does not seem irrational, but human. Love demands some risk.
As a result, if you have met Jesus, and learned to love Him, and find intellectual problems with parts of Christianity (and you will!), then you have a good motivation to look for answers. This is not irrational, but conserving a good experience. Why not? Why start with the assumption that every time there is a problem the worst possible outcome (it was all a fraud!) is most likely?
My own experience is that when I fall in love, it is almost surely with something.*** When that something or someone gets lost, I look. Love demand this and it is a joy to follow.
The mistake people make about philosophers is in assuming we want to argue you into something. We do not. Philosophy, at least as I was taught to do it, is clarifying our ideas, examining them, testing them, and then doing the best we can. If you find a truth, a philosopher tries to live it.
Obviously, in future questions we will talk about that external evidence, but it is important to see its role. My experience with the person Jesus strikes me as no more “internal” than my experience of you M*. In all cases, I experience through my mind and could always be deluded about the external world. In fact, I am more sure that Jesus exists than you exist M*! (I have only emails . . . and as many a Nigerian businessman has shown . . . emails are not much evidence.)
Yet note, I believe in order to understand . . . and my belief in you M* so far fits my experience, does not harm, and is quite jolly.
If I am wrong, what a pity! And if they were to find the body of Jesus, and best evidence exposed the ancient fraud, I would seek, not atheism, but a better explanation of Christianity for the reality of God in my life. I can only report to you that I have met Jesus, so far I find the external evidence to my internal experience adequate, and leave the rest to God.
Meanwhile, we both can follow the Logos wherever He leads!
*M is a non-Christian that sent me 55 questions early this year. He has asked that I not reveal his or her name. I will write as if “he” is a male, but this is for convenience. I do not know if I will get to all his questions. Here are questions 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 17, 23, 26, 27, 28, 34, 35, 37 , 47, 54 , and 55.
**Thoughts on fictional worlds here.
***See Plato in Symposium.