I think some people I assume I am a Christian for job security. Perhaps I’ve even felt that in the past. Today I know that nothing could be further from the truth. I became a Christian because I had a powerful experience with God when He set me free from long-held patterns of sinful thinking. I remain a Christian because I have carefully thought about the truth of what I believe and the truth of the experiences I have had.
Even though I know that there are some things that will, no matter how carefully reasoned, simply remain a mystery, I also know that I need more than just a spiritual experience to truly believe in something. Jesus says in the Gospel of John that true worshippers must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. In other words, with both the mind and the heart.
When I was 20 I gave my life fully to Christ as best as I was able. But it was my heart that had been submitted, it would be some time before my mind followed suit.
When I gave my life to Christ in October 2000, I did it because I was plagued with doubts about my salvation and since that time I literally haven’t doubted that I will one day live forever in heaven. However, I have doubted many aspects of theology and who God claims to be. I was not equipped to answer the intellectual challenges to my faith when I submitted my heart, which left me vulnerable to the skeptics I began to encounter in ministry and life.
In January of 2009 after reading a book that a friend had given me, I finally mustered my courage and went to see my boss, Pastor Ray. The book had stirred up intellectual questions about whether God was an invention of human minds, perhaps a copied pattern from ancient cultures, and I didn’t have a clue where to start searching for answers. I felt foolish, honestly. Here was a pastor of 8 years who didn’t even know how to think carefully about the outrageous claims of the Bible.
I went to Pastor Ray’s office and requested a book that would explain to me how we can say that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. He graciously gave me an hour of his time and I got the sense that he was worried for me. The next day, my suspicions were confirmed! Pastor Ray was worried about me! He emailed me from the prayer room, which meant that he was praying for me.
He issued a challenge to me. I could not accept what he said as true nor could I simply accept what my friend had suggested as true, to do so would be intellectual laziness. I would need to do the hard work of searching for the answers my mind craved. And so I did.
That year I started a “Research Journal” into which I inputted my big questions and the answers I found in books and other research. Within two years I had amassed over 450 pages of study notes on every imaginable topic related to God, faith, and reality. I developed a curriculum for our youth ministry based on what I had learned and that eventually became two adult courses (“Defending Our Faith,” and “Confident Christianity” both which are available to watch online here.)
Here are several principles I learned that have convinced me to remain a Christian.
- There is a big difference between wonder and skepticism. The skeptic goes to a question assuming there is some amiss; he is a pessimist. The wonderer searches for answers because of her deep fascination and curiosity with the world. She expects that answers exist!
- There is an answer for every question. I mean that. I may not like the answer. The answer may even be “You won’t understand this until heaven,” but there is always an answer and it is always logical and intellectually acceptable.
- There are five more questions for every answer. (And some of them get really stupid. Don’t let stupid questions derail your faith.)
- You must go on a truth quest for yourself. Just like the faith of another person can’t save you, to simply say that “Pastor Thom found answers and that’s good enough for me!” is naïve and leaves you vulnerable. You must do the hard work of searching for the answers to life’s big questions.
- Asking the right question is critical. There is no point debating whether the Bible is reliable if you don’t believe in the supernatural Author of the Bible. The right order of questions goes something like this:
- Can we know the truth?
- Is there a god?
- Which god is it?
- Did God reveal Himself (and is the revelation reliable)?
- Will I submit to that Truth?
- Christianity is supremely reliable and consistent with reality. In fact, it is the best explanation of why things are the way they are and the best prescription for what ails the human race.
And that is why I remain a Christian. I had an experience with the Holy Spirit (and continue to have experiences with Him) when I was 20 which convinced me to submit my heart, and subsequently, I have amassed intellectual evidence to back up my experience.
And this is the key parenting piece… my kids know my story! They know that their dad has had real struggles with faith and that he has discovered legitimate answers to his questions. That gives them a lot of confidence in their own faith journey.
Last week I suggested two apps that can help parents help their children grow confidently in their faith – you can read that blog here. There are two books that I would also highly recommend for all parents to pick up and read. The first is Natasha Crain’s book Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, and J. Warner Wallace’s book Cold-Case Christianity. He also had a fabulous adaptation for kids.
If you want some tips about talking to your kids about faith check out my Parent Workshop, Raising Confident Christian Kids. It’s online here.
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