Confused and lost with faith

Discussion in 'New Members' started by Robjones333, Sep 10, 2019 at 6:33 AM.

  1. Robjones333

    Robjones333 New Member

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    Hello all,

    First of all thank you for taking the time to read this thread and offer any help, it is greatly appreciated.

    So a quick history, I'm currently 29 years old. Up until the age of 27 I was as fundamental an atheist as one could be. I had no time for religion or religious people, it was all just fairy tales for people who were far less intelligent than I!

    But at the birth of my first child, I had a complete paradigm shift in my thinking. I could no longer buy into the materialistic worldview. The love and the preciousness of my daughter opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of reality.

    I am now convinced that there is more to the world than what we see day-to-day. I have spent endless hours researching religions and have found Christianity is by far the most plausible and well attested of the world religions. People like William Lane Craig and John Lennox have convinced me of this.

    So to my point, I have found myself going through periods of deep conviction and fascination with the faith but then within a short period completely falling away from it. I can't seem to commit and find myself vacillating from one extreme to another.

    I also have a few questions that I struggle with, which I have listed below. I hope that some answers could help me with my wavering.

    1. Is there only one way to God? I struggle with this because it seems awfully unfair to condemn someone who has grown up in a religion and culture where their opportunity to investigate Christianity is very limited.

    2. Suffering/evil. I can understand natural suffering, such as earthquakes etc, as necessary for the universe to function in the way it does. And suffering caused by human evil I understand as free will is the primary value. But natural 'evil' I really struggle with. Why do woman have miscarriages? Why do some children get bone cancer? Why do people get dementia and not recognise the face of their own child? I can't see the requirement for this to happen in our world.

    3. Biblical inerrancy. Is this a value held by the majority of Christians? I believe the Bible is the Word of God, but written in the words of man. So by definition it is tainted by the cultural environment of the writers. And I believe a lot of the Bible is beautiful poems and allegory, the literally approach to it is what a lot of new atheists attack and I believe this is an underhanded attack to discredit the whole faith.

    4. How do I 'feel' the faith? I have a lot of intellectual arguments and I believe this aspect of Christianity is hard to defeat. But I struggle to feel the faith, God or Jesus. I have more of a head belief than a heart belief. Is this due to my spiritual immaturity from 27 years of suppression? How do I go about changing this.


    Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to read this. Any help you could offer would be amazing.

    Rob
     
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  2. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Hey Rob,
    Happy to find you here. I have a similar story, having been a militant atheist until my late 20s (in my late 30s now). My road to the faith was very much through the head and not the heart. Apologetics, philosophy, William Lane Craig, Dinesh d’Souza, that was my *thing* for years and years. Even now I don’t know if I’m fully changed to the heart. I’ll probably forever stay at least partially head, having been raised up with a skeptical mindset and needing to verify everything I believe.

    That almost certainly has to do with the fact that you do not have a regular church attendance that you drag yourself out of bed for, grumbling, every Sunday. That was the big life changer for me. I found a gorgeous traditional Anglican parish, safe for me and my family. I had to drive an hour each way to get there. I forced myself out of bed every Sunday for many years. Sometimes I wondered what I was doing there; why God wanted me have less sleep, did he really want me to put on this shirt, jacket and tie, drive who knows where. Didn’t he hear me regardless of where I was? Etc. That’s all in the past now. :)

    There are two ways to answer it. Most commonly, it’s the concept of the ‘invincible ignorance’. Those who had no chance to learn are not as culpable as those who did but turned away. This is the ‘modern’ answer.

    The other, older answer from the Church Fathers is much more stark, and revolves around the concept of the ‘massa damnata’, the masses of the damned, how the majority of people in any point of history will be damned anyway. They said that even most of the Christian Bishops (even in their era), would be damned.

    Add to this the concept of election: God arranges the world to save those whom he will save. Say you’re the guy in 400s AD India whom God will want to save; he will send you a missionary from Syria, that guy who wonders why he suddenly compelled to pack up and evangelize India. He gets to India, fails to convert more than a handful, and the Hindu authorities torture and kill him. He may even think of himself as a failure, but God will know that he sent him to save the one Indian, so in the grand calculus of the world, what needed to happen, did happen.


    The more I think about it, the more I see this as a takeover of the modern world by a Buddhist theology of pain being an evil. In the moral vacuum left by receding Christianity, people had to fill that with something, so they’ve filled it with bits and pieces of other religions. A bit of yoga to stretch (yoga means “liturgy” in Hindu). A bit of pain=evil from Buddhism. Etc.

    If you really think about it, there is nothing evil about pain or suffering. All the things you listed are merely artifacts of the natural world, or God’s election and foreordination. Say that miscarried child. Maybe God knew that child would curse and reject him when he grew up. Or maybe he knew the child would be a saint, so he took him back to himself in the womb.

    The only actual proper evil in the world is moral evil. Everything else is as you said, a natural evil like tornadoes or miscarriages; namely it’s not an evil at all.

    Inerrancy is a modern concept, and problematic because many parts of the Scriptures are not intended as a scientific manual. My favorite example is “trees clapping to God with their hands” in the Psalms, which emphatically was not intended as literally true. So did it violate inerrancy? No because inerrancy is not a valid concept. The traditional concept is that all of Scripture is God’s Word, namely that he inspired all of it himself. Any cultural taint from the human writers was intended by Him, to carry his intended meaning. The whole book was intended by Him, exactly as it is.

    Liturgy.
    And 3-4 years.

    The liturgy has this amazing way of giving you what to say, even if you aren't all there in saying it. That's why the best evangelism historically was always done through the liturgy, and not through revivals or ecstatic jumping up and down.

    How do you civilize the brutal and violent Germanic barbarians? You give them a liturgy, defended with head-based arguments. And you make them read it, over and over again. A thousand years later, bam, you get Bach, and Mozart.
     
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  3. Rexlion

    Rexlion Active Member

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    Rob, welcome. Good to have you here. :thumbsup: I'm glad that seeing the miracle of life opened your eyes in wonderment, and gave you pause to ponder how such an amazing thing can occur and where new life comes from.

    My path was different. I was taken to church from a very early age, but it meant nothing to me until one Easter morning at age 7 I realized what Easter really meant: that Jesus loved me so much, He gave up His mortal life for me. I felt so grateful, I cried happy tears.

    But then, in my teen years, all the cultural junk and modernist thinking made me seriously doubt whether God were real. I read some of the Bible and kept going to church, but it didn't help. Then one afternoon I was reading a book by Malachi Martin called Hostage to the Devil. Martin was a former Jesuit priest who had worked in the Vatican library, and he wrote this book detailing some of the exorcisms recorded there. The demons caused levitations of bodies, threw objects across the room at the priest, and in one instance told the priest the secret sexual sin he'd committed years earlier. It hit me: Satan and the demons are real! Then: if they're real, God must be real, too! For the demons were cast out and the possessed set free by the power of God. So I told God I was sorry for my past mistakes and I asked Him quite simply to "keep me safe"... I asked Him to come live inside me so there'd be no room for the demons to possess me. Although I didn't expect to feel anything at all because of that prayer, I was completely shocked when I felt the Awesome Presence of the Holy Spirit inside me. I felt clean on the inside! He talked to me, sort of in thought-pictures, and I could talk to Him! It was a precious event that I treasured (without fully comprehending) for several years before I received enough Bible knowledge and sound teaching to help me understand just what that was. Until then, I thought I was some kind of freak! I mean, I didn't know anyone else whom God actually communicated with; I'd always thought previously that He was some distant, mean, forbidding entity.

    My son is in his late 30s now, and until he told me a couple of years ago, I never knew that he had a similar experience with God at a very young age. He'd never talked about it. He loves God and is a very solid believer.

    Some people might not like this next thing, but I'll say it anyway. Christianity is not about religion. It's not about being good, or going to church on Sundays, or observing rituals. Christianity is about an intimate relationship between you and God. Going to church and reading the Bible will help a person learn important truths about God and about how a Christian should live. The liturgy and Bible reading reveal facts about Christ's sacrifice for us, God's love for us, and His desire to live in and through us. But they lead us toward an inward acceptance, an inward faith, a deep-down trust in God. At the point when that begins, as small (like a mustard seed) as that faith may be at first, the person has a "friend that sticks closer than a brother," the Holy Spirit, living inside his spirit. He's sort of like a really wise and gentle roommate, offering guidance and support. Real Christianity is about God in you and you in God. It's about wanting to hitch up with the Almighty Creator of the universe and spend the rest of your existence together (time on this earth is just a smidgen of that). It's about realizing how awesome His love is for you, and either feeling or deciding that you will always love Him in return. (Feelings are wonderful and good, but true agape unconditional love is a decision, like when I decided and vowed to love my wife 'til death do us part.... and then keeping that vow.)

    If you haven't done this next thing yet, you might think about doing it. Simply talk to God. Say something like, "God, if you're really real, please make yourself real to me. Give me wisdom to see who You are, and fill me with your love." If you cultivate the line of communication with God, He will draw near to you.

    Now, about your question as to why people get sick and die: it's because Adam and Eve sinned. They chose to disbelieve God's order to not eat from the tree and to instead believe the lie of Satan. They didn't understand that they were choosing to reject God's perfect will for mankind of living in a perfect place with no suffering, sickness, or physical death. But that's the upshot of what they chose. So now we all live in a fallen, imperfect world. From the moment we are born, our bodies begin the process of deterioration that leads to death. The fallen environment hastens that death for many, because we are exposed to bacteria and viruses and fungi, we eat foods that both help and harm us simultaneously, we suffer the sun's rays which have both good and bad effects, we are subject to the effects of our unique individual genetic combinations, etc. Were it not for sin, all humans would live forever in perfect health in God's Presence (as He was in the Garden with Adam & Eve). I would also add that if every Christian were obedient and Spirit-led both in behavior and in praying for others, there would be far less suffering and pain in this world; but we all are imperfect and tend to be selfish and self-willed and to miss God's best despite our intentions (Paul wrote that his spirit was willing but his flesh was weak). How many people stay sick and die young because the ones who were supposed to pray for them didn't do so? That's one more factor.

    I hope this is of some help to you. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019 at 10:51 PM
  4. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    The Church of England is not Calvinist in its theology, this means in effect that it does not have hard and fast ideas on the damnation of anyone, of whatever religion or none but leaves that knowledge with God himself who knows the intent of the heart. (This makes the CofE more 'universalist' with a small 'u' than most other denominations.)

    The CofE however believes that the Gospel is not restricted in any sense to any particular race class or gender category of people, and also that the judgement will be based upon God's knowledge of our deeds, not necessarily our faith, be it Christian or any other. The only way to be assured of our standing in the Judgement will be to place our hope of Salvation in Christ alone and commit ourselves to his teaching, discipline and mercy. The beginning of this 'way of life', is in baptism, either as an infant, if one or more of our parents are 'believing' faithful followers of Jesus Christ or as an adult upon confession of our sins, repentance and submission to baptism in obedience to Christ's command. Infants and adults are also expected to willingly come forward when reaching an age of accountability, to take upon themselves full responsability of discipleship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, in Confirmation, the 'laying on of hands', in which faith in Christ and the Holy Spirit is confirmed and endorsed.

    None of us should sensibly see any 'requirement' for such things. It may be though that such things are inevitable in the only kind of world that would work in this mortal existence that we experience in this universe, which for all we know, may be the only possible material universe that there could ever be. Thus such phenomena become merely natural effects and consequences of a material existence, rather than punishments or rewards visited upon us by an apparently capricious and uncaring God. If Christ incarnate had to suffer exactly the same risks as every other human being that has ever entered this universe, it is certainly true that he left this life with exactly the same question on his lips as you have expressed. 'My God, my God, WHY'? To my mind that is what made him so validly and undeniably human and thus truly 'one of us' though without sin.

    Biblical 'inerrancy' is an 18th century North American 'pious' innovation. It was unknown in the church for the first 365 years of its existence. Our 'Faith' is in The Gospel and in the promises of Jesus Christ, not in any presumed 'inerrancy' of either bible or church. The CofE however is confident that the bible contains everything necessary to enable the establishing of sound doctrine, the ability to identify error and to train us in righteousness. In that sense it is 'useful' and authoritative. It also believes that the church has the ability to correctly interpret the truths contained within the bible. Truths that have sometimes been ignored or suppressed by some sections of the historical church, much to its detriment.

    There is nothing that you can do whatever. Regeneration is entirely a Gift of God. Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened.

    Have you knelt in prayer and unreservedly committed yourself entirely into Christ's hands, trusting Him alone to plead your case with The Father. Have you placed yourself willingly at His disposal to learn from Him as Lord, Master and Saviour, and become his willing agent in a world that He want's to 'Save, not Judge'? If you do do this, He has done everything needed for your salvation. It comes your job then to be ready to give account for the hope that will be in you.

    My advice is to do this, after duly considering the consequences. Then get up off your knees and start your 'New Life' in Christ, and don't look back once you have put your hand to the plough.

    Get to know ChrIst well by reading the Gospels a lot. Expect personal guidance from the most unexpected sources, both secular and religious, but it will always be able to be confirmed by scripture.
    .
     
  5. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Active Member

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    Could you link me to a source on that my friend?
     
  6. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    This is the closest I could find on a short notice:

    From:
    https://whatsthematterwithyoga.wordpress.com/devotion-in-motion/

    “Iyengar’s Light on Yoga (1966), the landmark book that popularized yoga in the West ... casts the pose system as divine action instrumental to and implemental of Hindu spiritual goals, including communion with the “Universal Spirit” and fixity on the “Formless”. Below is an excerpt from his introduction in which he explains the significance of the pose system”


    ————

    From: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/testing-prayer/201908/why-christian-yoga

    The term “yoga,” from the Sanskrit root yuj, is a cognate of the English “yoke” ... meditative disciplines for withdrawing one’s senses from the world to yoke with Brahman—the all-pervading divine reality behind everything in the universe.”

    “Jois was confident that anyone who practices Ashtanga postures will come to “experience God inside . . . . whether they want it or not.”

    “Ashtanga always begins with “Sun Salutations” (Sūrya Namaskāra)—bowing in “prayer to the sun god,” Surya. This is because “the postures of yoga have each a presiding deity, and there are 72,000 such deities in total. Before paying homage to the deities individually, a student of yoga must first begin with salutations to Surya who, according to belief, contains the rest of the pantheon.”

    In Sun Salutations, one brings both hands together in añjali mudrā (prayer gesture) above the head. Practice may begin and end with añjali mudrā in front of the heart while bowing the head and saying “Namaste”—often translated “the Divine in me bows to the Divine in you.”

    Ashtanga always ends with Padmāsana (Lotus) and Savāsana (“taking rest” in Corpse), postures conducive to meditation, worship, and “enlightenment.” In Lotus, one forms jñāna mudrā (wisdom gesture) by making circles with the thumbs and forefingers. This symbolizes the subordination of the individual spirit (Ātman) by the Universal Spirit (Brahman).”

    “Even Wheaton College, the premier evangelical institution of higher learning, teaches yoga (including Sun Salutations)—not just as an exercise, but as a spiritual supplement to more conventional Christian disciplines.”

    Survey research shows that longer-term yoga practitioners are less likely to identify as “Christian” and more likely to identify as “spiritual but not religious” or “Buddhist.” For instance, Kristin grew up Catholic in Indiana and tried yoga for the physical “stretches.” She now prefers Ashtanga’s “eight limbs” to Christianity’s “Ten Commandments.”
     
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