Never Lose Sight

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Monday, the day after Christmas I had an unexpected experience. I was at Summerville High School running around the track and walking up and down the bleachers getting in a light aerobic workout. Was feeling slightly guilty, (on par with driving 60 mph in a 55 mph zone) from being so sedentary for a few days and eating my share of Christmas treats. After 30 minutes of walking and jogging I headed back from the car with some chest pains. I attributed it to the cold air, something I have experienced before.

I drove home, but the pains would not go away, and after 20 minutes my daughters Bethany and Rebecca drove me to the Sonora. After a quick blood draw, it was confirmed I was having, or had, a heart attack. Several hours later I had an ambulance ride down to Doctors Hospital in Modesto.

I spent the night in the cardiac care unit and the next morning had an angiogram, (a procedure that injects dye into the heart blood vessels and detects clogged arteries). They found two clogged and inserted two stainless steel stents clearing the pathway, (angioplasty).

I have to say the procedure produced great anxiety within me. The fear was palatable, and despite my fervent prayers for peace, I had none. Many years ago, my father had a similar procedure done which triggered a massive stroke from which he never fully recovered. I had signed the paper work prior and they had to spell it out: this procedure can trigger, (odds are 1 in 5000), a stroke or heart attack. That was my greatest fear, that or a much more serious heart attack. I also wrestled with thoughts of dying on the table and if I knew for sure where I was going. Was I good with God? Would I be welcome, or hear the words in Matthew 7:23? I was shaking in my proverbial boots and was so overcome with fear I threw up just before the procedure started. Obviously, not the strong man picture I would like to paint of myself.

I know many family and friends were praying for me, and I know my name was added to more than one prayer chain. I so much wanted to experience peace I have felt from the Lord in times of great stress and pressure, but I felt nothing. As far as I could tell, I was making pleas and appeals to the wall 15 feet away. What did I do? What could I do? I chose to believe that God has my best interest at heart and I would choose Him.

After another night in the cardiac care unit, the next morning they repeated the procedure and found another clogged artery adding a third stent.

Thursday morning I was discharged and headed home.

Considering I have worked out most of my life, never smoked, rarely drank, don’t do drugs, and ate healthy for the most part, (admittedly have a weakness for ice cream) my 205lb 6’2” frame was in pretty good shape. Just goes to show that genetics plays a large part into our health, despite our efforts to be fit.

So I am on the mend with restrictions on my salt intake, fatty red meat, butter, mayonnaise, bacon, sausage, donuts,pizza, etc.; all the foods that make life worth living.

During my recovery, I had time to read a book my sister in-law gave me for Christmas, titled Finding God in the Waves, by Mike McHargue. Mike McHargue is also known as Science Mike on the Internet. He hosts and co-hosts some popular podcasts.

The Amazon intro to his book starts like this. “What do you do when God dies? It’s a question facing millions today, as science reveals a Universe that’s self-creating, as American culture departs from Christian social norms, and the idea of God begins to seem implausible at best and barbaric at worst.” 1

Some may dismiss apologetics, but I am so thankful for my studies in the past few years. Without reasons for my faith, and having read a book like Mike McHargue that seriously undermines orthodox Christianity, and just having experienced a ‘without God moment’ I am not sure how my faith would have fared. Walter Martin, author of Kingdom of the Cults, has pointed out when we fail to give good answers to questions, we then become another reason for a Christian to walk away from their faith. 1Peter 3:15 makes our responsibility clear.

Mike had some difficult times as a young man and ended walking away from his faith. His return really is not what I would call Christianity, but I had plenty of time to mull over the reasons why some leave their faith as I contemplated my own crisis.

After reading the book, which was his life story about his faith, Christianity as a boy and young man, but then turned atheist and then back to a follower of Jesus, I asked myself if he is promoting Christianity, or if he was really a follower of Jesus? Then answer was definitively no.

This was confirmed to me when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Unbelievable with Justin Brierley. Justin actually interviewed Mike McHargue  on his show just a few weeks ago, while sitting across from an atheist named Ben Watts. Admittedly, during the interview, Mike said his views would be considered heretical. If you were to read his book, you would find that Mike does not believe in the resurrection nor the inerrancy of scripture. He believes the New Testament was written centuries after the death of Christ, and even questions if the book of Matthew was written by anyone named Matthew. He believes it is healthy to ‘pretend’ God is real, and prayer is beneficial to those that pray, but not for those who are receiving the prayer.

If you are looking for a book that will deepen your faith, this is not it. If you are familiar with the historicity of Christ, the evidence behind the New Testament, cosmology, teleology, moral, and ontological arguments for the existence of God, this will be an interesting read.

Usually, Justin has on a Christian and an Atheist who, more often than not, discuss their different beliefs on a particular topic; but what was most telling to me came at the end of the interview when the Oxford atheist Ben Watts said he would recommend Mike McHargue’s book to his Christian friends “to help soften their fundamental views”. When an atheist would recommend a book written by a Christian, for the purpose of changing their Christian friends’ views on Christianity, that should tell you something.

To understand why I question if Mike is a Christian, you have to look at the basic tenets needed for someone to call themselves Christian.

What does that mean, follower of Jesus? What does it mean when someone says they are a Christian? No doubt we have a wide variety of definitions of Christianity, and some can be quite confusing. Ask Mormons if they are Christians and they will not hesitate to say yes, but then ask them if Christians are Mormons, and the response will be met with hesitation and uncertainty, because the equal sign does not flow both ways. What sense does that make? Understand the Mormons desire to be called Christians is more for social acceptance than anything to do with matching theological teachings or orthodoxy. So when you ask if Christians are Mormons, they know the answer is no.

Kevin Lewis gave a lecture at Biola University on Christianity and cults. During the lecture he discussed primary, secondary and tertiary, (3rd level) doctrines. Tertiary beliefs would be ideas or statements that a church could disagree on, but still have a harmonious body. For example, young earth vs old earth, timing of rapture and methods of spiritual warfare. Unlike tertiary beliefs, secondary beliefs are usually necessary for a unified body in Christ. A few would be types of baptism, cessation of gifts, form of the church government, etc. Finally, in the lecture he listed what he felt were the essential Christian doctrines.

• Trinity
• Deity of Christ
• His incarnation
• Vicarious atonement
• Salvation by grace through faith
• Bodily resurrection
• Authority of the scripture 2

If there is a wide variety of views on the above list, you will never have any kind of unified congregation. Anyone who denies some or all of the primary tenants of Christianity may still call themselves Christian, but I would have to ask at what point does a Christian stop being a Christian and become something else? The line you cross may be faded, but with just a little effort on your part it will become clear again. Undoubtedly, there is a line because Scripture is clear that some will enter the kingdom and others will not.

Drew Dyck has studied and interviewed hundreds of ex-Christians. He pointed out in his book, Generation Ex-Christian, that is it not our job to point out their misguided ways and sinful living choices, but to shine the light on Christ and let Him do the work. He wrote, “The same principle applies to second-tier theological issues. Infant baptism verses believers’ baptism, Calvinism verses Arminianism, women in ministry,…discussion of these issues between believers is entirely appropriate. But when talking to leavers, (those who have walked away from Christianity), steer away from these contentious topics. You don’t want to litter the path with any extra obstacles to faith. Why should they be force to buy into your particular brand of Christianity in order to rejoin God’s family?”3

There is a popular Christian song by Chris Tomlin titled ‘Jesus’ on his album titled Never Lose Sight, (Youtube video).

It is one of my favorite songs and the lyrics capture so much of what a Christian thinks or believes of Jesus. The following verses capture the heart of the song, and the heart of Christians who look forward to the day they are standing with their Lord and Savior, Jesus. Take a moment and listen to the song in the above Youtube link.

There is a truth older than the ages
There is a promise of things yet to come
There is one, born for our salvation
Jesus
There is a light that overwhelms the darkness
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us
Jesus, Jesus
Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the lamb
He carries my healing in his hands
Jesus

My heart goes out to Mike since he has lost sight of his faith and has replaced it with something unrecognizable. I can understand why some lose their faith. If faith is based on feelings and experience, what do Christians do when the feelings and emotions disappear, or when prayer is unanswered, or answered in a way that makes no sense to the believer?

My slight discomfort and fear pales compared to the suffering of some, but more importantly I continue to recognize what is necessary for me to remain in my faith: trust. Not the blind trust that some may suggest, but a trust that has not only been experienced and felt in my heart, but a trust built on evidence and verification.

In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnamen points out that Churches have handed over “the realm of knowledge to academics and institutions of higher education.”4 This is a shame because as soon as young adults enter college, they are assaulted with ideas and reasons counter to Christianity. Many have never been asked, if God is Love why is there evil and suffering? Or since evolution is true how is it we need God? Couple the difficult questions with exciting experiences outside of church and a general lack of experiencing God, and you have clear path away from their faith.

If you are involved in your church with youth, ask them those hard questions so it is not the first time they have heard them. Wrestle with them together in the Jr. High and High school groups, then go a step further and have them invite some friends from school who are unbelievers to come ask questions. Let the sparks fly and don’t expect to have all the answers, but demonstrate you have a concern for truth. Be transparent and tell them you don’t have an answer, but if you come back next week I will have one for you. 

Kinnamen also says, “…we make little effort to help disciples connect the dots between their vocation – whether in medicine, journalism, city planning, music, sales, computer programing, or any other – and their faith.”5 Christians must not only experience God, but have a knowledge of Him in life, and their areas of interest. Many churches tend to focus on experiencing God during the service, often they have a large congregation of twenty and thirty somethings, and the worship becomes the focus.

Drew Dyck listed another study on deconversion, “the most frequently mentioned role of Christians in deconversion was in amplifying existing doubt. How did Christians manage to amplify existing doubt? The study found that deconverts reported sharing their doubts with a Christian friend or family member only to receive trite, unhelpful answers. The outcome was predictable.” 6

Drew also interviewed Mark Mittelberg who wrote the book, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, and Mittelberg said, “A lot of young people look at their parents and say, ‘You don’t know why you believe this stuff. You don’t have any answers.'”7

I am reminded of the old saying that describes faith, feeling, and fact. The three of them were walking on a narrow wall with Faith in the lead, followed by Feeling, and finally Fact. Faith kept looking back to see how Feeling was doing, suddenly Faith and Feeling lost their balance. Fact reached out and steadied both till they all could continue on their journey.

 

Sources:
1. McHargue, Mike. Finding God In The Waves, Convergent, 2016. pp. Book Cover.
2. Lewis, Kevin. “Responding to the Cults.” Christian Apologetics Certificate Program. Biola University, La Mirada. n.d. Lecture.
3. Dyck, Drew. “Speaking to Modern Leavers.” Generation Ex-Christian, Moody Publishers, 2010, pp. 97
4. Kinnaman, David. “Shallow” You Lost Me. Baker Books, 2011. pp. 127
5. Ibid.
6. Dyck, Drew. “Speaking to Modern Leavers.” Generation Ex-Christian, Moody Publishers, 2010, pp. 101
7. Ibid.

 

 

Creative Commons License
Never Lose Sight by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Faith VS Knowledge?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Which is more important, faith or knowledge?

Watch this video before you read my post.
http://youtu.be/U6UCzgeguN8
It is only one minute long which is less time than you would take to smoke a cigarette, use the bathroom, or brush your teeth; at least I hope it is less time than you would take to brush your teeth. The video is a cut taken from an interview of Richard Dawkins discussing faith and other topics.

There were several things I was tempted to discuss, but felt the last comment, (and the very first), about faith and Christians was the most important. His final comment was that “…religious faith is based on no evidence at all.”

How many of you have heard the comment, “You just have to have faith.” Faith in what? Faith in something that might happen, or we hope will transpire? Atheists, and even many Christians, view faith and knowledge as not opposites exactly, but different ends of the same rope – as if faith and knowledge are pulling against each other, much like a tug-of-war. The more knowledge you have, the less faith you have. Many think that faith is believing in things you can’t know. If you have all knowledge, (the whole length of rope), then you have no length left for faith. On the flip side, the less knowledge you have, the more room you have for faith. The more faith a Christian has, the more they can do for the Kingdom of God.

If this were true, then it would be better for Christians to avoid learning about the truth and validity of scripture, and tell each other “You just have to have faith.” How can that possibly make any sense? Obviously, it does not if you stop to think about it. The opposite of faith is unbelief and Christians are not called to that, but too many Christians view faith and blind faith as the same thing. The opposite of knowledge is not faith but ignorance, and we are not called to be ignorant. Knowledge and faith go hand in hand, much like pulling a rope and coiling it at your feet.

Tomorrow I am taking my youngest daughter to Shriners Hospital in Sacramento for them to look at her scoliosis. I have faith that the doctors there will be professional, knowledgeable, and have some experience in dealing with scoliosis. My faith in Shriners is not from personal experience, but based on the experience of others who have been there, have shared their experience on the Internet, reports in newspapers or magazines, or simply by word of mouth. I have been hearing about Shriners most of my adult life, and though my faith in the media for unbiased coverage has diminished over the years, I have faith that our visit to Shriners Hospital in Sacramento will be a positive one.

I also have faith that my car will make it to Sacramento and back without any problems. My faith in my car comes from personal experience. I use it just about every day. I have been driving it from home to work for over a year and it has run well. I also know it has just come out of the shop and is running even better than it was a couple weeks ago. The faith I have comes from personal, first hand experience. I have faith that my car will operate as it has been, and tomorrow we will have a drive without any mishaps.

These examples of faith are the much the same examples that Richard Dawkins gave when he was mentioned physics, and that physicists understand that branch of science better than he does. Dawkins has faith in them, (based on their knowledge and experience), so when he references physicists, he believes they know what they’re talking about. Then at the end of the clip, if you watched it, he stated that religious faith is not based on evidence.

What did Moses say to God when he was told to go give Pharaoh a message? “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Obviously Moses was worried, and for good reason. What was the Lord’s reply? “Time for a leap of faith, Moses.” or “Tell them they just have to have faith.” or “Explain to them they must exercise blind faith.” Quite the contrary, he provided Moses and all involved with evidence, starting with the staff turning into a snake, and ending with an angel of death.

Christians ought not to fall into that same trap and define faith as what makes up the difference when we don’t have enough knowledge. Faith is knowledge. Faith is experience. Faith is trusting in what you know, and have experienced to be true. In Hebrews 11:1 Paul says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Greg Koukl says, “The Biblical word for faith, pistis, doesn’t mean wishing. It means active trust. And trust cannot be conjured up or manufactured. It must be earned. You can’t exercise the kind of faith the Bible has in mind unless you’re reasonably sure that some particular things are true.” 1

Atheists like Dawkins imply their faith is based on evidence, but the faith of the religious is faith based without knowledge or evidence. Terms like “blind faith” or “a leap of faith” just add credence to the atheists when used in a way that implies faith covers what we don’t know. Science does not have a monopoly on knowledge and evidence, and to imply Christianity only has faith that is based on ignorance is absurd.

Norman Geisler and Frank Turek list ten reasons we can trust the New Testament authors. Geisler and Turek wrote in their book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, “We have seen very powerful evidence that the major New Testament documents were written by eyewitnesses and their contemporaries within 15 to 40 years of the death of Jesus. Add to that the confirmation of non-Christian sources and archaeology, and we know beyond a reasonable doubt that the New Testament is based on historical fact. But how do we know the authors did not exaggerate or embellish what they say they saw? There are at least ten reasons we can be confident that the New Testament writers did not play fast and loose with the facts.” 2

1. They included embarrassing details about themselves.
2. They included embarrassing details about Jesus.
3. They included demanding sayings of Jesus.
4. They carefully distinguished Jesus’ words from their own.
5. They included resurrection events that would not have been invented.
6. They included more than thirty historically confirmed people in their writings.
7. The New Testament writers included divergent details.
8. The New Testament writers challenged readers to check the facts.
9. The New Testament writers give unembellished accounts.
10. The New Testament writers abandoned long held sacred beliefs and practices, adopted new ones and did not deny their testimony under the threat of persecution or death.

These reasons and many others have raised their faith in the New Testament and the witnesses who have shared their testimony. We can trust the New Testament writers told the truth because of the ‘pistis’, or active trust, we have for the disciples evidenced by historical research.

My faith has increased significantly in the past year as I have studied apologetics. Learning about the historical credentials of Christ and how history supports his life and teachings bolstered my faith. Learning about the different arguments of design and the odds of this earth developing from random processes has magnified my faith. Learning about the short-comings of Darwinian evolution, and that it has serious problems to overcome has increased my faith. Learning about the first cause, (cosmological argument), understanding you can’t get something from nothing, and that time must have a beginning, has inflated my faith. Finally, exploring the powerful moral and philosophical arguments, which I knew little about two years ago, about has multiplied my faith.

Much like a court case, the case for Christianity has significant circumstantial evidence, that, when viewed as a whole, is overwhelmingly powerful for the deity of Christ. No other religion has the evidence available to build our faith as Christianity does. G.K. Chesterton, author of Orthodoxy wrote, “If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, ‘For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity.’ I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in the enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts.” 3

Faith and knowledge are not opposite ends of the same rope, where if you have more knowledge you have less faith. Faith and knowledge start at the same end, and as your knowledge in Christ increases, so does your faith in Christ, which gives you more rope to pull in. The more rope you have coiled at your feet, the more you have to share with others to pull them toward a Christian world view.

Matthew 17:20 says, “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In Hebrews 11:6 Paul writes, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Saint Francis of Assisi – Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith.

 

1. Koukl, Greg. Faith Is Not Wishing. Signal Hill: Stand To Reason, 2011. Print.
2. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.
3. Chesterton, Gilbert. Orthodoxy. Simon & Brown, 1908. Print

Pin It on Pinterest