24
Aug
08

I Just Don’t Know

So, yesterday’s post by Miz Pink, “I Can See Clearly Now,” got me to thinking about something. In the effort to win souls over to God, it’s really about inspiring the folks who are in non-Christian faiths and those who are agnostic to seek Jesus. It’s not about reaching atheists. Not that atheists cannot come to a point in life where they consider the possibility of God (or gods). They can. But let’s face it: You don’t go straight from atheism to theism. You have to at least progress to agnostic first.

I mean, it’s pretty impossible to go from “I don’t believe” to “I believe” without at least having a few-minutes-long debate in your head that goes something like: “Well, maybe.”

With people of non-Christian faiths, those people tend to come to Christianity because they see something in a Christian person that makes them seriously take pause (in a good way) or because they see some essential truth in the Gospel that is missing from their own faith or because they have come to a point where their own faith is ringing very false but Christianity doesn’t. It seems somehow fairly straightforward because the person already has a grounding in faith. It’s just a matter of realizing the faith was being misdirected.

It gets very complex with agnostic folks, though. And I came to the realization recently that many of the anti-religion folks who have challenged my beliefs online aren’t atheists. I have often thought of them as such, and some of them really are, but most I think are actually agnostic. They dislike Christianity or any other religion because while they can conceive that there might be a spiritual world, they maintain that with so many different faiths, there is no way to know which path is right, and maybe all of them are.

I could go into any number of reasons why it is clear to me that Christianity is the right path and why other faiths exist, but that would get this post to be way too long, get me off my point and generally just irritate some folks. I don’t want to do all of those things in one post, really.

So, back to my angle on agnosticism. I think there are really three main types of agnostics, and two of them pose particular challenges. And I don’t mean challenges in converting them, because that isn’t the job of a Christian. Only the individual, though connection to God through Jesus, can cause a conversion. It isn’t even the job of a Christian to start the process; only to help show by various means that it is a valid process to begin or to at least consider. No, the “problem” with some of the agnostic personalities is that they (a) create barriers to God reaching them and (b) they tend to encourage arguments between the agnostic and Christians that he or she may encounter.

The Seeking Agnostic

This is the kind of agnostic that a Christian is most likely to be able to inspire or support on a path toward becoming born again. The seeking agnostic doesn’t know what the answers are, but he or she desperately wants to know. Such people can be in a very dangerous position, depending on how badly they want answers, because they may seek answers through very charismatic but fringe churches in the Christian sphere, they might be drawn into dangerous cults, or they may get caught up in a faith that isn’t going to get them to where they need to be “on the other side.”

The Apathetic Agnostic

This kind of agnostic doesn’t know and doesn’t really care if they figure it out. These folks often figure that if there is a God or multiple gods, then we are almost all going to get a “pass” because no decent mega-powerful spiritual being could possibly hold our ignorance against us. They are wrong, because they miss the point that any spiritual being who cares about our eternal souls and doesn’t make him or herself obvious clearly wants us to seek connection. I’ve talked about this before, but probably most directly in my “End of the Line?” post. To put it in a nutshell, my personal belief is that God will give a lot more credit to those who try to figure things out, even if they end up on the wrong path, than to those who try to coast through life like there isn’t anything to worry about after life ends. I would go so far as to say that there are some people out there who think of themselves as agnostic but might actually be born again. That’s a complex topic, and probably one for another day, but I think it is possible. But that would be the seeking agnostic, probably not the apathetic agnostic, anyway.

The Almost-Atheist

These are the folks who are probably more likely even than an atheist to try to intellectually smack around believers of all sorts by telling them it is ridiculous to claim that anyone knows the true path to God, assuming that there is actually any God. I think that most hard-core atheists, the ones who truly don’t even try to accept the idea that a spiritual world might exist, really don’t give a shit what believers think. It may concern them on a gut level, but a real atheist who has any intelligence won’t try to convince a faithful person to give up his or her god. Lord know I don’t try to convince atheists or agnostics to believe in God or Jesus, only to treat me as a person with a brain and to try to have some smidgen of empathy for me about why I choose to believe.

The almost-atheist is probably the most likely person on the planet to tell a Christian or any other religiously oriented person that it’s time to give up superstition, stop “rattling the bones and feathers” and join the 21st century world. And part of that, I think, is because they are bothered on some level that they don’t know for sure, and that people are out there acting like they do.

And that’s cool, too. To each their own. There are plenty of people I have encountered in all three camps, both in real life and through the Internet, and I don’t like them any less as human beings. Just thought I’d share some of my insights (or maybe they’re my own biased misconceptions) since Miz Pink inadvertently got me to thinking about all this.

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7 Responses to “I Just Don’t Know”


  1. August 24, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    “I would go so far as to say that there are some people out there who think of themselves as agnostic but might actually be born again.”

    Huh. I’ll be waitin’ on that post (I happen to agree with you)

    “any spiritual being who cares about our eternal souls and doesn’t make him or herself obvious clearly wants us to seek connection.”

    Isn’t there something in scripture that says no one seeks God? I don’t know where I get the idea, but I’ve been thinking God does the work to draw us to him.

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    August 24, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    You might be right, but I seem to recall one or more passages that “none ARE seeking” which always seemed to suggest to me more of a general malaise about trying to look for God rather than a human inability to do so.

    However, I agree that overall, we humans don’t seek much for the spiritual on our own, though, and God presents us with opportunities/chances/people/etc. and then it’s up to us whether we take the metaphorical hand that is offered to us.

  3. August 25, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    i believe everyone is given a measure of faith and that what we do with that faith determines the amount we keep or end up with. if we seek God , He reveals Himself to us. The more we seek, the more He reveals. that’s just what I have been taught and what I believe. i agree that God presents and what we do with it is up to us…kind of what i just said, yes, no?? am i making any sense??? lol

  4. August 25, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Deacon Blue, let me respectfully ask the following question: How do we reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New?

    The OT God is shown to be jealous, and vengeful. The NT God is said to be Love, and we see the manifestation of that Love in the life of Jesus.

    Yet, we’re also told that this God of Love will allow billions of His children, now living and have lived, to perish because they didn’t accept God’s Son as their savior.

    Certainly, many of theses lost souls, now and before, believe in God, and their only sin is that they didn’t accept Jesus, be they Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, or, in some instances, members of some other Christian sect.

    I know all the Biblical arguments, and the religious arguments for this condemnation to Hell, and eternal punishment.

    But this is why I feel so many of the agnostics you so well described find it hard to be a part of the Christian fold. They cannot reconcile a God of Love with a God that allows a fire and brimstone punishment of His children that do not accept His Son.

    As our understanding of God has evolved from an OT God to a NT God, but one who still allows eternal condemnation, could it be that a post-NT God would not even allow condemnation?

    For my part, I could not condemn those souls, and I don’t think you could, and, at our level of understanding, we’re not even pure Love.

    And the voice that spoke to Eliphaz the Temanite becomes my plaintive plea: “Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?”

    Namaste

  5. August 25, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    ooooh Whooo, Domino. I’m glad you didn’t ask me that!

  6. 6 Deacon Blue
    August 26, 2008 at 11:48 am

    LOL, Chris, you right, Domino hit me with a big one there.

    Well, I think that neither a single blog post nor a comment here can do justice, but I will at least touch on some of your points.

    I agree that the OT vs. NT God throws a lot of people off kilter. Did for me, too, until I read the Bible front to back both in prayer and with a desire to try to understand what God is up to. Not to get all the answers but just to understand the jist.

    And what occurred to me is that the Old Testament and New Testament God aren’t different. God didn’t change. God has always loved us and always wanted us to be in a state of grace and be saved, and he has always wanted us to choose to love him.

    What is different is that the OT is before Christ and the NT is after Christ, and many people outside of Christianity (hell, many of them INSIDE it, too) fail to appreciate what a difference that makes.

    Thanks to Adam, people were screwed. In order for God to move people and events in the direction of fixing things (since a simple “God snapped his fingers and fixed things” would have been meaningless and simply conceded victory to Satan in a sense), humans had to go through a long spell of being effed-up until Jesus came. Once Jesus restored the balance and provided us with a sure path to salvation, it was easier for God’s love to show through rather than his wrath.

    I like to think of the proto-Hebrews and Hebrews and Jews of Jesus’ day much like a first child. Parents expect much of a first child and often heap tons of responsbility on that child that they might not on later children.

    The Jews were blessed to be the Chosen People of God, but it was also a huge burden. To those who are assigned the path of helping to restore everything, much is expected. In some ways, they had it easier, being able to more directly see God in action in the world. But they also had it harder, as He has to put them in their place often when they went astray. God was harsh both as a way of showing the world that the Jews had “the big God” behind them and not some imaginary deity or demons passing themselves off as gods. God was harsh to the Jews because they knew the score and hard-headledly turned away from Him, often right after He saved them.

    So, easier and harder.

    Now, in the post-crucifixion times, we have it easier and harder too.

    We don’t get direct wrath of God, but we also don’t get the more crystal clear evidence of his existence. Responsibillity is put on us to make a choice, based on faith, and that is a hard thing. So, we don’t get as many spankings but ultimately we ARE expected to do our best, and we often don’t. And when we make certain choices, we reap certain penalties, either by denying God when he could help us or taking a path that God isn’t going to support or rejecting Jesus’ sacifice for us.

    Don’t know that any of that really answered the question, Domino, but it’s a start, I suppose.

  7. August 27, 2008 at 3:28 am

    I have been warned Deacon Blue about being contentious with my fellow bloggers. Yet, here’s a couple of quotes from the scriptures that I would like for you to consider, and offer them with love and respect:

    First (the longest of the two)

    53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
    54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
    55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
    56 [[[Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.]]]
    57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
    58 [[[Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.]]]

    And this one:

    8 [[[Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.]]]

    The Christ, it seems, predated the birth of Jesus, and was as operative during Abraham’s time as He is today.

    Given the always-nature of the Christ, clearly suggested here in the “Before Abraham was, I am,” we still see a world of souls slipping farther away from God, and doomed to eternal punishment for not knowing the Son.

    Yet, Abraham was said to have seen his Day.

    You said:
    “God didn’t change. God has always loved us and always wanted us to be in a state of grace and be saved, and he has always wanted us to choose to love him.”

    You’re right, God didn’t change, but our understanding of Him certainly has.

    Consider:

    2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord:
    3 [[[And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty]]], but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.

    Biblically, a name represents the character of a thing. We still see this tradition in many cultures, including that of Native Americans.

    He appeared unto Abraham, Issac, Jacob as “God Almighty,” not because it was his only attribute (the whole of Him), but because this is how He was perceived.

    The “name JEHOVAH” indicated a shift in understanding of God’s nature. And that was a good thing.

    It further suggests that God will be unto us as we perceive Him to be–God Almighty, Jehovah, or Love.

    As we speak, the nature of God is yet shifting again, because our understanding of Him is shifting.

    God certainly loves us, but I’m not sure if He wants “us to choose to love him.” That would make Him a needy God, rather than a God of sufficiency. He is, after all, the ALL in All. Whether we choose to love Him or not, is left up to us, and I don’t think He has a preference.

    A preference would indicate a need. God has no needs.

    You said:
    “We don’t get direct wrath of God, but we also don’t get the more crystal clear evidence of his existence. Responsibility is put on us to make a choice, based on faith, and that is a hard thing.”

    This is the issue I have with the church. “Crystal clear evidence” is available, and we shouldn’t be taking God’s existence on “faith” alone. We don’t’ have to.

    God’s no more reluctant to reveal Himself today than 2000 years ago. But our limited understanding of Him keeps Him at a distance, rather than bringing Him closer than hands and feet.

    Someone said once that “Heaven should be taken by storm.” I agree. We should boldly approach God in the way that Moses did. We’re timid in our approach to God. Expect Him to reveal Himself in ways that are “crystal clear,” and He will. Expect Him to provide in ways that are more than “making ends meet,” and He will.

    Let me surprise you with a statement: We’re told that we shouldn’t use God. Balderdash! Use Him to bring more blessings into your life; use Him to show the world His wonderful Glory; use Him to heal your body and your mind; use Him to heal the bodies and minds of others; use Him to bring peace and prosperity to your world; use Him!

    God wishes to be used.

    You write a beautiful explanation in your attempt to reconcile the two Gods, and make them one. Yet, I continue to hear Jesus’ words, quoting an earlier scripture: “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord….”

    But in our limited understanding we have given Him any number of attributes, and have assigned to Him the cross-species character of a Sphinx, “with the face and breasts of a woman, the body of a lion, and wings”.

    It’s enough that God is Love, and Love alone.

    Namaste


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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