Monday, 30 May 2011
[A very loose retelling of an NPR story in April 2011]
Last evening, I was listening to a Public Broadcasting station in which a young fellow was describing a showdown with his father. He had been raised in a very strict religiously conservative environment at home (read-‘Bible Thumpers’). Upon graduation from high school he had enrolled in a Bible-based college--perhaps a seminary. He became absorbed in the scholarly pursuit of understanding all of the ‘ins and outs’ of the Bible--its language, syntax, history, and variant readings along with the most up-to-date textual discoveries and modern thinking.
With each additional course that he took, his enthusiasm for and attitude toward the Bible as a divine book and the Christian faith plummeted. He became an angry snarling skeptic with a mission--to rescue anyone; friend, family or acquaintance who had been helplessly and haplessly ensnared in the cruel and insidious grip of what he knew was an ignorance-based faith. He had a reasonable and rational argument or answer for every tenet of the Christian faith. He could expose the most basic teachings of religious thought and every supposed miracle as fraudulent with the incontrovertible and undeniable facts. The Christian religion was such a farce--a system of thinking so totally arcane. It was a sham.
And so he was ready when he met his father for breakfast that morning--he was ready to reduce his father’s faith to the junk heap of irrelevance, fully intending to deliver him from a religion with no foundation in either fact or rational thought. All he needed was an ‘in’--a mere opening to do what he thought was a work of compassion and love. He was on a mission. He was there to rescue his father.
The conversation was amicable enough until the young man’s father mentioned a trip to the British Isles that he was contemplating for the purpose of helping "spread the Gospel to ‘those in need’ of it." Here was his chance and the young man pounced with great relish and enthusiasm. He tore into his father, castigating him for his holy self-righteous attitude and condescension. "Don’t you understand how arrogant and conceited you sound?!" The young man continued; "And do you think it proper that you should go over to some distant country to try to ‘save’ its people from some imaginary evil or pagan way of life with such an archaic and inane message?!" The young man’s eloquent logic was devastating against his father’s unlearned and baseless faith. His argumentation and reasoning were flawless, gushing from his mouth like an unstoppable torrent. There could be no reasonable defense against such an onslaught of words from his father. He had done a masterful job in crushing any anticipated retort. He knew he had boxed his father into a corner--a corner demanding total surrender of an ignorant faith or an admission to complete dishonesty in stubbornly clinging to a faith that they both knew at best was little more than a charade.
The young man’s father sighed deeply. "Tim," he said, "Your mother and I are extremely proud of you and we love you! Your tireless and relentless pursuit of knowledge and understanding in Biblical studies and related courses has been an amazing thing for us to watch. We know how hard you have worked and the tremendous sacrifice it has taken to come to the level of achievement you have attained. We are confident that very few people have surpassed the high mark of excellence we have seen in your life. I cannot answer your questions. I cannot offer you studious or highly technical answers to your objections. I cannot come up with sophisticated or well documented reasons for my faith."
His father continued; "All I know, Tim, is that before your arrival into our family, our lives were an unequivocal mess. It was a shambles--a ‘house of cards’ threatening total collapse. Your mother and I were ready to throw in the towel and I was at the end of my rope ready to ‘cash in my chips’. Were it not for the precious faith that was so graciously given to me and your mother, I have no clue where we would be today. I know we would not be together and I strongly suspect that if it were not for the comfort and strength that God has given me through that faith, I would not be here talking to you at this very moment. I wouldn’t be anywhere on the face of this earth! For you see in a word, Tim, it ‘saved’ me. Perhaps all of your reasoning and fine sounding arguments are ‘spot on’ correct and maybe my faith is little more than utter foolishness. But it is precious to me and it sustains me and has made me today what I am. I owe my life to it and I cannot and will not relinquish it."
For the first time in the course of their conversation, the young man was silent. There was no rejoinder, no comeback, no rebuttal--simply silence. What else was there for him to say? For in that moment he at last realized who had been the condescending one, the arrogant one, the presumptuous one--perhaps even the one in need of ‘rescue’. His urgent mission to rescue his father was no longer crucial. He now realized that it had already been accomplished--long before he had arrived on the scene.
"Where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn't God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb--preaching, of all things!--to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation. While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified . . . . To us who are personally called by God himself . . . , Christ is God's ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can't begin to compete with God's ‘weakness’."
-- I Corinthians 1:20-25 [MSG]
When have you doubted or questioned your faith? What has brought you back to faith? If you have yet to regain your faith, what is it that prevents you from doing so?