Sunday, January 24, 2010

looking for a way in

This is one of my favorite questions from my "Dear Abby" column. This came in years did the last question..we let it die to be raised up more wiki.

I answered this years ago; I am sure I would say it differently now (As Bono said after speaking at the Prayer Breakfast, "The me of ten years ago can't imagine that I am here now.")...I might start with "centered sets", but here it is:


Question: How can I connect what I feel inside to be true about God with what I hear others saying is true, when they don't match up? Should I deny the understanding & relationship I've developed about God in favor of other concepts which are tightly held by friends & family members, but seem strange & untrue to me? Can I be a Christian by picking & choosing among the ideas that circulate within the various Christ-based religions, assembling something that feels believable 100%, or must I take the totality of the dogma of one sect believing many parts to be untrue? I'm looking for a way in. Any suggestions? Also, how can I deal with the concepts that seem false? Disregard them, or fake belief? Faking belief seems dishonest.

Answer: Wow! Great, thoughtful questions. Ultimately, we have to base everything on Scripture. Since I don't know what particular group or groups you have in mind, I don't know whether everything in their particular doctrine is solid and biblical or not. Either way, God's revealed Word (the Bible that is; be wary of any group offering another book as Scriptural or near-Scriptural) is the only ultimate litmus test for you or your family and friends. I would hesitate to say that one can "pick and choose" among the various branches of Christianity, constructing something which "feels 100% believable." There may well be some things in authentic Christianity that don't seem believable to some, but are in fact essential, such as the physical resurrection of Jesus. The Word says without this foundational belief our entire faith is in vain. However, if what we "find believable" squares with what Scripture emphasizes, that model will work.

Don't believe anything either because loved ones (or even I) believe it, or you tend to believe it , but believe it because, in the words the bumper sticker, "God said it; I believe it; That settles it."

In response to the question about needing to believe the dogma of one sect in totality, I doubt that that is necessary. For example, I see no problem belonging to tradition with a slightly different teaching on communion than your personal view, for example (as long as the tradition offers you latitude in this area).

I am glad you are "looking for a way in." I agree that faking belief seems dishonest. But there is a principle I think is biblical, honest and helpful. Some call it "act as if it were true." My suggestion would be to make a list of the basics of biblical Christianity (go straight to the New Testament, or a book like Paul Little's "Know What you Believe" , John Stott's "Basic Christianity, " or C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity," and whether or not you believe it all, live your life for ten days "as if it were true." I don't know anyone who has taken this challenge who has not eventually agreed that Christ and His Word (not necessarily a particular denomination or expression of Christianity) are "the real thing" and found their "way in" in a way that was honest and didn't violate their own conscience and integrity. Start with an honest prayer something like, "Lord Jesus, I'm not even sure what I believe or if I believe in You the way these books describe, but if You are there, come into my life, and for then next ten days, help me to live and pray as if You were Who You say You are, and I covenant to make an honest decision at the end of that time."

If there are indeed particular doctrines that do seem false,. and they are not core issues such as Jesus being God, The Bible being God's Word, and Christ as the way to the Father, I would say tentatively put them aside and pray for discernment. I am so thankful for your refreshing questions. And know God is in love with you, and wanting to reveal Himself in a new way. I think Truth is self-authenticating. Above all, pray that God the Holy Spirit would show you what is essential and of Him, regardless of what anyone, including I, say. Would you keep in touch?"

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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!