Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Obeying God's Law

 I will keep the law given by God, sanctioned by man.  I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now.  Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be.  If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?  They have a worth, so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane, quite insane, with my veins running fire and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs.  Preconceived opinions, forgone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by; there I plant my foot.
-Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre)

This excerpt from Jane Eyre struck me when I first read it.  Like all others, I have felt the pressures of temptation, and like all others, I have fallen to temptation.  When life is calm and easy, I am willing and even excited to obey God's commands, but the story is quite different when I am faced with trouble.  In our times of weakness, it can be difficult to follow that which God has told us to do, whether it be following through with a commitment, not doing something you know is wrong, or trusting Him when struggling with pain or fear.  However, God did not create laws for those times when it is easy to follow them; He created laws for the times when it is difficult, painful, or even scary to follow them.  He created laws for times when we are being tempted to refrain from doing something you know is your duty, participate in an action, behavior, or thought you know is wrong, or trust in yourself or in the world instead of putting your faith in God.  As humans, we are prone to error, and God knows it.  For this reason, He offers us His strength in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).  God always provides a way out of temptation, but because of our sinful nature, we can't reach high enough to pull ourselves out of the hole.  Thankfully, He is always there, offering His hand and ready to pull us out--all we have to do is accept it.

Hebrews 11:1

HEBREWS 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  Over the Internet as well as face to face, I have been asked to prove the existence of God.  The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently conducted a survey showing one in five Americans claim not to believe in God, which is the highest percentage our nation has ever seen, having grown by 25% in the past five years.  More and more people in America and around the world are turning to evolution and science as the cause and reason for our world.

About a year and a half ago, I became interested in the topic of God's existence.  I already believed there was a God, but I had never seen or heard of any proof, so I decided to make it my mission to prove His existence.  Surprisingly enough, I was able to find a significant amount of information to support God's existence, and I began sharing it with people through the Religion and Spirituality page on Yahoo Answers, through a writing website, and through atheist friends of mine.  But much to my surprise, people still refused to believe my evidence, and I could not understand why.  I began relying too much on my evidence and found myself in a constant need to prove evolution wrong.

One day, I was reading in my Bible, and I came across a verse that addressed belief and faith.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember the exact verse I read, but it went along with the ideas expressed through Hebrews 11:1.  I came to the realization that faith and evidence are two completely different concepts.  Evidence is a tool Man uses to understand and explain natural phenomena, whereas faith is believing in something whether or not there is scientific evidence to support it.  For example, I'm sure you believe you have a brain inside your skull, but have you ever actually seen your brain?  You might have seen someone else's brain, but how is that evidence that you have one?  A doctor might tell you that you have a brain, and they could even show you pictures, but he could just as easily be lying and using false or edited pictures.  Likewise, have you ever seen space?  How do you know there really are stars and planets beyond our Earth?  When you look into the sky, you see stars, but how do you know they are really billions of miles away and not just twinkling lights within our atmosphere?  For those of us who have never been into space, which I believe is most of us, we are taking the word of the astronauts who have been to space.  We are believing them based on faith, not necessarily on evidence.  We cannot see God with our eyes, but we can learn about Him by listening to those through whom He has chosen to speak as well as through the Bible, which is somewhat like the Christian textbook, just as a science textbook might explain your brain or space.

In the end, evidence can always be disproven.  People prove and disprove evolution everyday.  People prove and disprove God everyday.  But no one can disprove faith because it is not based on evidence.  Evidence is man-made, but faith is God-made

Mere Christianity

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (yes, another C.S. Lewis book!).  I was originally told to read the book for summer reading (for school), and I though no more of the book than I thought of my other summer reading requirements; however, it took no more than the first few pages for me to become absorbed in the book.  As I have explained to my friends, I truly believe if everyone in the world read only the first two chapters of Mere Christianity, the world would be a better place.

The book is broken down into four "books" (1. Right and Wrong as a Clue to he Meaning of the Universe; 2. What Christians believe; 3. Christian Behavior; 4. Beyond Personality: or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity).  Lewis writes as though he were speaking directly to the reader, and he writes in a way that would appeal to both Christians and non-Christians who are either exploring Christianity or opposed to Christianity.  He doesn't write as if the persuade the reader but rather to express what he, personally, believes, and he often includes in many of the later chapters that if a specific idea or analogy doesn't help the reader, or is too confusing, to trash it and use whatever does help or makes sense.  One thing I was able to appreciate is the humility with which he wrote.  He didn't express his beliefs as if everything he said was right or as if he was smarter or better than anyone else.  On multiple occasions, he referred to his own sins and said that if anyone noticed any mistakes in his explanations to forgive and correct him because he did not claim to be above anyone else in knowledge.

The book explains many of Christianity's most trying questions and sets people on a path to answering those questions.  It is written in an almost scientific way, diving into deep explanations on how things work.  An atheist once asked me to prove the existence of God, and when I gave him what little evidence I had, he told me it wasn't thorough.  He told me in order to prove God's existence, I would have to start not with God ("If God is real, such-and-such would be true, and it is") but rather start with that which we can physically observe and somehow find God that way ("Because such-and-such is true, God is real").  Though I do not believe anyone should believe in God because of the scientific evidence for Him, I do understand why the atheist wanted evidence and why he wanted in the way he specified.  Most people who have a very logical way of thinking (specifically "math/science people") need things to be explained in a scientific or mathematical sense in order to fully understand it.  I am by no means a math/science person, so explaining this to the atheist (I am calling him "the atheist" not to single him out but because I do not want to use his name so publically), who was a math/science person, was difficult for me.  However, in Mere Christianity, Lewis explains he evidence of God, the beliefs of Christians, how to begin your relationship with Christ, and theology in an orderly and detailed way that appeals to both math/science people and artsy/scatter-brained people (like me) alike.

I am not going to provide a summary for the book for a two reasons.  First, there is so much information in the book that in the time you could read my summary, you might as well have read the book.  Second, Lewis words everything so clearly that I wouldn't be able to reword it and still give it justice (I would have to quote basically the entire book).  Once school starts back up, my teacher may assign an essay much like that I wrote for The Abolition of Man, and if so, I will post that here as well.