I intend to use this blog to chronicle my adventures abroad. I suspect that often those adventures will be travel related, and so you can expect those entries to be very story driven or descriptive. Yet at the same time, I also want to use this space to catalogue my thought life. Seeing as I will be studying in one of the best academic institutions in the world, I know that my thoughts and beliefs will be changing and evolving with the new information that I absorb. In addition to learning a undeterminable amount of new facts, I will undoubtably also be learning about my faith and myself. Since this past summer in particular has proved fertile ground for heavy introspection and exploration, I expect that the next semester will be no different.
Because I have had numerous thought-trains over the summer (far too many and too personal to relate here), I wanted to take some time and provide a bit of where I am starting from in the most important area of my life: my faith. Particularly as I have entered college, Christianity has become a true passion of mine, not only living like Christ but also discovering true theology. While my enthusiasm and intensity has waxed and waned over the years, it nevertheless has remained an integral part of my life. At the beginning of the summer, however, I think I had drifted to a point where I was a functional agnostic. Interestingly enough, it was my relentless search for truth that drove me there.
It started with a series of events in my life that caused me to question my presuppositions about God, which then lead to questioning the Holy Scriptures (because that is where those presuppositions had their origin), which in turn caused me to question what could actually be known or proven about God. I began to question, and those questions gave birth to more questions, and that gave birth to crippling doubt. Please know that I think questions and doubt are actually good things, but in my instance, I had no foundation to return to or rest on. Everything was up for questioning and I did not know how to proceed. How can you begin to build without anything to even stand on?
The one anchor that held me to Christianity, the one thing that I never questioned, was that the Christian way of life (as set forth in the Scriptures and other Christian writing) is the absolute best way to live. See, this could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. I could look at consequences, understand origins, and see all the proof out in front of me. Almost all the other aspects of Christianity could not be proved, and that did not sit well with me. I was (and am) on a quest for truth, and truth is best if it is clear, rational, and provable. So if you tell me that there is no human influence in all of Scripture, that seems so hard to grasp: so unlikely. Then when I tell you that, then the response is just to have faith and understand that God is above our understanding. I heard that response enough times to begin to wonder if it was just a pat answer to shove things that are complicated or don’t make sense under the rug. I wasn’t satisfied with faith. I needed more. At some point it all began to feel like a crutch. Christianity was something created by people in order to put order and justice into a world that seemed out of control. I did believe God existed, but how were we to know anything reliable about His character?
As the summer progressed, and conversations were had, I slipped further and further into my crippling doubt. I tried to read the gospels for knowledge, but I couldn’t even get one chapter in without having so many questions and complications that I could take nothing away from it besides more questions. I contacted my priest in the midst of this, and took the time to lay out all the primary questions I was having, but even if those were to be answered, I doubt it would have solved my problems. I had no foundation, nowhere to begin. Everything was liable to be questioned, and since Christianity is rank with a lack of empirical proof, I was getting nowhere.
No one could provide me with any reasonable answers to the questions that I had because Christianity is not based on this sort of provable truth that I so desperately desired. So much has to be accepted on faith, and while I knew faith was an element, I was not ready to rest on it. It seemed like everyone around me was resting too heavily on it, so I attempted to see what could be determined as true without it. If you are a Christian, you are probably thinking right now of how foolish I was, and perhaps you are even bringing verses about faith to mind, but you have to understand that the Scriptures telling me to have faith (at this point in my life) was not something I was interested in. Imagine if Christianity actually were false, what easier way is there to brush aside the difficult and counter-intuitive parts of this religion? Faith felt like a shying away from the hard questions, and I wanted to confront them head on.
In the end, my questions didn’t get answered. God didn’t reveal himself to me in an unmistakable way (though I prayed for it). I didn’t trade in my doubts for unwavering faith. But I did come crawling back to the cross. I was spiritually destitute, getting nowhere and no end in sight to my own uncertainty. In the midst of that, however, God did provide: a long vacation in beautiful national parks in Canada, the wisdom of my priest, and the words of Thomas Treherne (recommended through a friend). After all of that, I was back in my room, laying in bed, and I realized that if I continued to question it all, I would never return to the faith. It would cripple me forever. So as I lay there, I decided to commit. I was going to throw myself at Christianity, and give myself over to Christ and then see what happened. Standing on the outside trying to find the stepping stones in was not working, so I decided to try and come back into the arms of the Father and let him receive me. I had not squandered my inheritance on lascivious living, but I nevertheless felt the homecoming.
I began to pray again, everyday. I began to consider what it means to sit in the questions and the uncertainty, and for that to be the reality that we live in. I created a piece of liturgical art on one of my walls (a Chi-Rho with a drawing of the elements of the Eucharist). Finally, I purchased a Benedictine crucifix to wear to remind me to pray, and to remind me of my commitment. If we give out jewelry to mark out life-long commitment to a spouse, then I certainly desire to wear something to mark my commitment to Christ. Therefore -right now- I am in stasis. I am no longer spiraling down; I am slowing ascending, by the grace of God.
I still have questions. I still have doubts. I still have so many things that I don’t understand. I have things about Christianity that I don’t like. Yet I am within the fold of the Shepherd. Nothing in my life is more important to me than my faith, and so there will always be an relenting search for truth in it, for everything is at stake. I think I may take future entires to outline some of my questions, and thoughts on them (don’t expect answers) but that will depend. I do have a foundation now. It is the few things that I don’t question. They are the core that I can stand on, and from that position, question everything else.