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Why It's Important

The Relevance of Spirituality

Noted theologian Charles C. Ryrie writes

“Consciously or unconsciously, everyone operates on the basis of some presupposition. The atheist who says there is no God has to believe that basic presupposition.” He goes on to say, “We learn nothing about the Trinity or Christ from nature or from the human mind. And we cannot be certain that what we learn from the Bible about the Triune God is accurate unless we believe that our source itself is accurate. Thus the belief in the truthfulness of the Bible is the basic presupposition [to a belief in Christ].”

In order to accept the Christian faith, you first have to accept, on some level, the authority of the Bible. It really is that simple. Absent the foundation of the Word of God, there's just no way to go. No way to place trust in some historical figure. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24). The same could be said for intellectuals. People who think, who question, who study— these people have the hardest time of all finding, maintaining and increasing faith in their lives. However, when they do find it— when people who scrutinize and qualify and question finally succumb to a true worship experience— that faith is often richer and deeper and more fervent and productive than is typical among even the holiest of rollers.

Faith is a lot like riding a bicycle. Intellect fights with your instinct when you're trying to learn to ride a two-wheeler for the first time. It's even worse for a unicycle, which I rode for awhile. The notion of balance is more visceral than intellectual, as intellect tells us without some counterbalance to the two-wheels (such as training wheels), we're likely to pitch over. And, if we pitch over, the concrete will be hard. Similarly, I can't teach anybody how to have faith. You just try. And you pitch over and bust your head on the concrete. But you dust yourself off and you keep looking, you keep trying.

Intellectuals are looking for a complete and inerrant record: Spirituality For Dummies, A Complete Owner's Manual for The Human Experience. That's not the Bible. There are (typically right wing) Christian sects who believe not only in the inerrancy of the Bible, but the literacy (i.e. taking every word at literal value) of the Bible. These groups typically express themselves in repressive and dogmatic ways, using the doctrine of paradox to gloss over contradictions in Biblical texts. A paradox is a profound truth that embraces contradictions that can neither be reconciled nor dismissed, so they have to be held in tension.

The Bible is full of mysteries, none of which makes the Bible any less authoritatively God's Holy and inspired Word. Ryrie describes the Bible as the orderly and progressive self-revelation of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 describes “All scripture is given by inspiration of God...” For me, that implies authority without an injunctive demand for inerrancy. The Bible is filled with examples of men who accomplished great things by inspiration of God, but who were nonetheless flawed and made mistakes. This web page is being created certainly by inspiration of God, and I've absolutely no doubt there are errors and inaccuracies here that I'll be correcting for weeks.

Which is a lot of blathering on to say this:

For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. 

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man commeth unto the Father, but by me.

These are words I have chosen to believe. These are truths I have chosen to embrace. Not blindly, or by rote or virtue of family tradition, but by examination, trial and perseverance. At times in spite of my intellect and against my nature, I find meaning, comfort, purpose and fulfillment in the scriptures, which I believe to be God's Holy Word, and by which I am empowered to reach beyond my earthbound state and commune with something on a higher plane of awareness and existence. I choose to call that God, and I choose to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. We can argue the complexities of the scriptures, the politics of the church, and the great many contradictions of religion for weeks on end: Faith, in the final analysis, is a choice. A choice to become something greater than what you already are, and to recognize the greatness within yourself.

The absence of some expression of spirituality implies a bleak existence, our entire lives summed up as a collection of breaths and heartbeats. In the great war of intellect versus instinct, my intellect refuses to embrace a theory that we're all here by some cosmic accident. The designs are too grand, the circuitry too specific, the process too logical, for us all to have been thrown together by some random act. And, even if I did believe in the randomness of it all, my intellect still demands the randomness have some origin. And, if there is an origin, that, whatever that is and however you have decided to see it is, by definition, God.

I believe it's important for us to decide Who God is and pursue some manner of connection. Without it, we're half of what we could be. I suppose the youth leader could have simply said that. The point is, you have to start somewhere. If you're looking for the Microsoft Bible, with every command line in place and every plot hole filled, this faith deal just isn't going to work for you.

“Lord, I don't believe in you, and I feel ridiculous sitting here, talking to myself.” That's the first prayer any non-believer should pray. The first thing anyone thinking about God, in any form, should realize is God Is Not Stupid. God knows who you are, what you're feeling, what you're dealing with. God knows, right this moment, if you're snickering at Him (or me), or if you're on the precipice of some real decision about what to do with yourself. And, honestly, if it wasn't important, I doubt you'd be reading this.

Christopher J. Priest
7 September 2003

Next: On Being Born Again

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