I originally intended this post to be one semi-long and thought out post, but it’s becoming rapidly clear it would be better to serialize it, perhaps one part per day or every couple of days. As you read, I would encourage you to think and perhaps write about your thoughts. If you’d like to email them to me, I would love to hear them, and perhaps post them.
In the Beginning…
In religious dialogue, non-believers often ask me, “Why do you believe in God?” Often, they are asking the question, “How can you believe in *any* God?”, but at least a fair percentage of the time what they really mean is the independent but related question, “Why do you believe in *your* God?” Many times as Christians we get caught up in trying to promote Yahweh God to total atheists, rather than recognizing that the question of whether *a* God exists is independent of whether *our* God exists. The first question is debated to a Scottish verdict on both sides in many places, and I’ve thrown my two cents on the matter here and there, though I’m certainly not an expert in many of the issues involved.
In spite of this, I’ve never attempted to craft a cogent answer to what would seem to be one of the key questions to someone who believes in a higher power: “Which ‘God’ do you believe in, and why that particular one?”
First, I think it’s essential to acknowledge my bias as much as possible: I am a white, middle-class American, born in the Bible Belt to Christian parents. I grew up going to church every Sunday in a mainstream Christian denomination, so I was indoctrinated at an early age. I am an applied scientist by training, with hobbies in philosophy and history, a great admiration for eastern philosophy, and a habit of thinking more than I should. In college, I began to deconstruct many of the tenets of the faith I’d been raised with, forced in many ways to reexamine their validity in a new and changing world. I am no stranger to doubt, and earnestly hope that I will continue to struggle with my faith and what it means to believe in God for the rest of my life, knowing that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” In my journey, I have encountered hundreds of wonderful and loving people – Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics – each of whom has taught me something about life and about God, each of whom I have tremendous respect for. Often I wonder what my life would have been like and what my beliefs would be if I’d instead been born in Saudi Arabia, Sub-Saharan Africa, or New York City – would I still believe in the God I know and love today?
The only answer, of course, is to honestly say “I don’t know.” But in my journey of faith with its ups and downs, I have attempted to come to terms with why I believe in *this* God, instead of some other, and if there might perhaps be some “better” God to believe in. This is only a reflection of where I am in my walk now, but the exercise has been useful to me, and perhaps will encourage others (yes, even you) to examine your own life for *your* answers.
next: I believe in a God who matters…