by Don Hartness
I’m a fool.
It’s what you’re thinking. You may not say it to my face, you may not write it in response, and maybe you’re not thinking of this specific word “fool”, as you may prefer adjectives such as “gullible”, “ignorant”, “uneducated”, “mislead”, “stupid”, “unenlightened”, or otherwise. Regardless of your label, it’s what you’re thinking.
It’s okay. You can say it.
You have plenty of evidence too. You point to the contradictions in the Bible, the polarity between a loving God and a suffering world, the cruelty of an eternal punishment, the historical inaccuracy of certain scripture, the endless fracturing of interpretation, and the hypocrisy of many of those who claim to believe. All of this is just a sample.
Reason cries for an answer to your questions and accusations, as science continues to produce an alternate view to seemingly ancient fables. Apologetic authors make weak excuses, archeologists dig, and theologians scramble, as religion becomes a relic.
Your arguments and evidence are not without effect.
I realize that what I believe is madness. I believe in the virgin birth of a messiah named Jesus. I believe this man was God, in human form. I believe that his death was necessary, even though I can’t explain why. I believe I converse with him in something called my “spirit”. I believe that God has a direct hand in human affairs, even though nobody can see this “imaginary friend” as you would put it.
I believe these things, even in spite of the suffering of myself and others, that laughs in the face of what I believe. Oh yes, I’m a fool. So, if I recognize my foolishness for what it is, why do I choose to remain a fool?
A blindness illustrated
I was a fool to begin with. A promising life frittered away at an early age in hedonistic pursuits that almost killed me, I cried out in the pit of my despair, foolishly believing that something as ephemeral as “God” would hear me.
I believe because my faith saved my life.
It was not a rational decision: a drowning man does not contemplate the structural integrity of the life-preserver before grabbing and holding on. Nevertheless, my mind does not exist in a vacuum. With my second-chance, I sought answers to many of the questions you now ask. What I discovered is that wisdom and knowledge consist, not in finding the right answers, but in asking the right questions.
I believe because faith taught me to ask better questions.
As the years wore on, I watched friends and family suffer in this life. I was taught to pray for these people, so I did. Some were cured of their afflictions. Some were not. Still others were cured from afflictions which I had not prayed.
I believe because prayer is always answered.
I began to listen to the whisper I heard within me. That whisper told me to go left when the world said right, “no” when the world said “yes”, “yes” when the world said “no”, and to discern between an inner voice versus a preacher’s words.
I believe because that whisper never led me wrong.
That inner voice spoke to me about me. I believed I was a good person: I didn’t murder or steal, I rarely lied, and I treated others kindly, while doing my best to do right by everyone. However, through orchestrated circumstance, that inner voice revealed to me that all of my “good works” were nothing more than a combination of programming and cowardice. As me was revealed to me, I confessed who I was, and was cured of the darkness within me.
I believe because I received the true me.
All of this happened because I am a fool.
A fool’s path
I know none of this proves anything. I know you would dismiss the above as luck, selective perception, coincidence, a conscience shared by all, and introspection, all while demanding real “proof”.
Let me share two observations from the path I have walked. First, nobody will ever have the “proof” you seek. If anybody tells you otherwise, that person is a liar. There is a whisper of proof, from the sublimity of nature, to the breath in your lungs, that there is a God, but this is all you get. Even if you found the answers, there would be more questions behind those answers, with still more questions behind those. Your hunger will never be satisfied.
The second observation involves you. “Why doesn’t God just make it all plain?” The reason is because you don’t have the capacity to understand plainly. Our condition as human beings was often described as blindness by Jesus. Blind men and women all over the world demand to become doctors so they can perform surgery on their own eyes.
The God I experience is not about providing proof for his children, according to their rules, while in His sandbox. He seems much too concerned with healing the wounds caused by a fallen world and blind children.
But what do I know? After all, I’m just a fool.