I plan to do a series of blog posts on why I am a Christian during this Christmas season. The question may seem silly or irrelevant to some, but I have found in my interactions with non-Christian friends and neighbors that it is indeed an important question. I recall a blog post reading three years ago by a former Christian hymn writer about embracing his new-found atheism during Christmas. In addition, I’ve read Bertrand Russel’s famous book Why I Am Not a Christian and Cornelius Van Til’s Why I Believe in God.
Instead of giving a mere rational or pragmatic basis for my belief in Christianity, I will pursue the notion of believing in the resurrected Jesus through the categories of truth, goodness and beauty. In doing several years of ministry and working with people (religious and irreligious alike), I’ve realized that people don’t embrace or reject beliefs about God, Jesus, or religion due to mere rational inquiry or pragmatism. In actuality, people embrace and reject entire worldviews and perspectives for rational, emotional, psychological, and sociological reasons. Our thinking matters, but so does the culture in which we are embedded (as Van Til notes). Many don’t realize how relationships and community influence our beliefs. It is much easier to become a Christian if one enjoys Christian community, but it is also easier to be an agnostic if one grew up in a stringent, anti-intellectual fundamentalist faith and then found a more inclusive community that promotes a ‘free thought’ philosophy.
Before I write three additional posts on why I am persuaded by the truth, goodness, and beauty of Jesus, I should give a brief biography of the development of my beliefs.
I grew up in a traditional family. Two parents, one older sister. My mom would take my sister and me to church, but my dad hardly attended. So, I didn’t grow up in a Christian home per se. I always believed in some being called ‘God’, and I knew stories about Jesus, but I wasn’t a Christian (I actually dreaded church). My parents never forced religion upon me, and I could have easily grown up secular or as a nominally religious person and not felt any social pressure to ‘conform’.
However, I did become a Christian in the summer of 1999 while in middle school. I can’t tell you why this change happened or if there was some logical progression in my thinking. My conversion was emotional. I cried my eyes out at a Christian youth retreat and asked Jesus to save me from my sin and to be my Lord. I guess this is typical for most conversions.
In high school I would begin to read books in theology, philosophy, and culture. I became such a ‘high cultured intellectual’ that I disregarded my high school studies. I was an above average student and I attained som academic scholarships, but I focused on my heavier reading. My goal was to get a Ph.D and teach at the university level.
I enrolled at Erskine College in 2004, a liberal arts school in South Carolina. I double majored in Religion and Philosophy. Spending four years learning and researching world religions, the Bible, branches of philosophy, irreligion, etc. was a rich time for me. It allowed me to tackle head on whether Christianity was really true. There is nothing like immersing oneself into religious and irreligious texts and trying to make sense of it all. I would dialogue frequently with Christians and non-Christians over intellectual matters.
My faith in Christ grew largely due to the campus ministry by the college Chaplain. My love and adoration for Jesus and the church grew, as did my intellectual appreciation for Christianity. While no one is psychologically objective (though we can be rationally objective), I found Christianity more convincing than the other religious or irreligious alternatives. Indeed, my college years were a period of fides ut intelligam.
After college, I enrolled in seminary to train for pastoral ministry. My three years in Charlotte allowed me deeper study of the Bible and theology, but I also took an interest in postmodern philosophy and tough subjects such as the problem of evil. I wrote a twenty page term paper my senior year in college in an independent study on the problem of evil. In my final year of seminary I wrote a twenty five page paper which expanded my original thesis. I presented a refined theodicy that, I still believe, resolves problems of evidential and horrendous evil in light of God’s existence. (Even if my thesis is wrong, at least I contributed a new argument in analytical philosophy on the problem of evil.)
Since seminary (and getting married), I have moved to Rock Hill, SC to help with a church plant. One of my desires in church planting is that I love non-Christians and I love dialoguing with them about faith, reason, morality, culture, and Jesus. My favorite hobby is to grab coffee (or beer) with someone to converse about these issues. I don’t seek to proselytize in the traditional sense. Rather, I long for community where people from different faiths and perspectives embrace a true pluralism and tolerance. Meaning, we may acknowledge and discuss/debate our beliefs while still loving and serving the good of our city. (And in this vision of true community, we have the right to convert and to be converted!)
So, join in this diablog on why it may be true, good, and beautiful to embrace the Christ in Christmas. Please post comments on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter so that we may kick around these ideas. And if you are near Rock Hill, let’s get together for coffee (or beer).