Friday, December 06, 2002
Sometimes I feel like I'm just so far from Heaven. I know the truth of loving God and loving my neighbor as well as anyone else, but there are so many times that I don't that I despair of ever doing the right thing. I don't doubt that by simply trusting to God's guidance, I can be a useful tool and a trumpet of the Lord. However, I simply can't, won't, or don't. I do believe that I AM (among many other names) is the one and only true God, and that it is he who created and sustains everything that is, was, and shall be. I have a decent understanding of many areas of theology and apologetics, and frequently debate these with those who oppose Christianity. The trouble is that my faith (beyond what I stated above) is primarily academic and based on what I've reasoned out, rather than "felt with every fiber of my being." I believe in Christianity as a theory, rather than a law. It promotes good, doesn't contradict what I know about God, and is historically plausible. The trouble is that I live in constant fear that in my examining everything I can to verify the truth of this, I'll stumble across something that will prove it all false and that I'll be left with nothing. I consider my beliefs and actions ceaselessly, making sure that I'm consistent and, more importantly, that what I think and do lines up with God's will. I refuse to accept the easy denunciations of God and religion based on feelings of unhappiness ("If there was a God, he wouldn't let me be sad..."). There are many claims of inaccuracies in the Bible, and upon examining these claims, I have yet to find any of actual significance (the worst I've found are things like a list of, say, twelve villages when the passage says that there are thirteen). I'm not afraid of those attacks, since I know that they're useless. What I fear is something of catastrophic proportions that would shatter everything. I mean things on a Neo-taking-the-red-pill level.
The area where I would say that my theology is most deficient is in regards to Christ. Academically, I know that Jesus Christ's teachings were God's words. I know that Jesus fulfilled the OT prophecies of the coming Messiah. I know that, though innocent, he was crucified, died, and was then resurrected on Easter. However, the significance of all this eludes me. On my path from atheism/agnosticism to Christianity, I spent a lot of time considering myself an Arian, and I'm not entirely sure that I've left that behind. As with many other things, I know the truth and what actions I need to take as a result, but it's actually doing them that is the trouble. It's as though I can see all the numbered dots, but just can't convince myself to draw the lines.
The thing is, I'm stubborn. While not especially competitive by nature, I'm fiercely protective. While I don't think that I believe as I should, I know that I'm wrong, and that those who do believe are right. I have defended and will continue to defend those beliefs, even though I don't (as yet) share them. If it meant destroying myself and going to Hell so that those who believe may continue to do so without being assaulted by the evil of the jealousy and covetousness of the unbelievers who see them, I like to think that I would. I'm sure you've seen the formerly-evil character in films whose main contribution is something like "I know I haven't earned Valhalla, but I'll hold them off as long as possible for you." I sometimes flatter myself to identify with him.
A problem I have is deciding to what extent realism and idealism should govern me. Pure idealism would say that I resign from school (I've downloaded illegal MP3s before, which is stealing and thus a violation of the Honor Code) and work as best I can to support myself and help others. Pure realism would say that the most important thing is to get a Master's degree (or higher) and connections among the powerful, and use that power and influence to help other people. If I had ten dollars, should I give it to a hungry child right now, or should I invest it be able to feed hundreds of hungry children in a few years?
In the Bible, especially the Beatitudes in Matthew, the ideal is constantly advocated. However, in Matthew 10:16, we are told to be "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." I don't know how to reconcile these, but I'm trying.