Originally, this post was a lot of words. With our society’s attention span measured in tweets, I’ve decided to split this post into three. 😉
Yesterday, I had a 2+ hour long conversation with a friend regarding Christianity and atheism. I learned a little of his faith journey from growing up in a Christian household to going to Bible college, becoming a youth pastor, exploring many different denominations, and finally concluding that atheism made the most sense to him. I shared a little of what helped me personally to understand some of the more frustrating questions of an equally loving and holy God. In the end, though we agreed to disagree, we found common ground, walked there for a while, and were not afraid to civilly discuss contentious questions of faith and reason. I thank God for such honest conversations with people who believe differently than me!
In the spirit of not shying away from the difficult and of seeing hope in the confusing aspects of faith, I want to expound on something my friend said that really stuck out to me. At one point, the conversation turned to the topic of sanctification, and the Holy Spirit’s work in the Christian’s life. Understandably, my friend expressed the inconsistency of how Christians are called to and supposedly are able through God’s power to lead a radically changed life vs. the fact that throughout history and even today Christians are some of the most judgmental, hateful, and downright mean people on this planet. He explained that he felt the unchanged life of the majority of Christians throughout history is one evidence of its falsehood. And then he said something very true and very sad:
In spite of Jesus, Christians continue to do and justify awful things.
I cannot and will not deny that fact. However, I don’t believe this fact diminishes who God is any more than an encounter with some bad doctors who misdiagnose me causes me to believe that all doctors are ignorant, or that the medical schools these doctors went to were bunk (though certainly some of them are). The bad doctors certainly enhance my skepticism and give rise to doubts. But I also realize that a person can conceivably ignore or diminish what they have been taught. The student does not always do what his teacher says.
I’m not completely satisfied with my answer, so I decided to see what the Scriptures say about the Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s life, the presence of sin, the Christian’s ability to choose, and the high potential for hypocrisy.
Does the Bible explain the inconsistency or does it provide further evidence that Christianity is like a medical school with no credentials that is mostly just useful in producing expert hypocrites and dogmatists?
To be continued…