Friday, August 17, 2007

Is Jesus My Imaginary Friend?

Because I read so many blogs about faith and religion, I often come across discussions about the best way to prove one's faith, debating knowledge and theological points of view. To be honest, I usually find these discussions to be very clinical, and the picture of God being portrayed too narrow and rigid. Although I am very logical, I don't relate with God through my intellect.

I don't have much interest in trying to prove my faith to others, even unbelievers. Yes, I know I'm going to have to turn in my good evangelical badge. The typical guilt trip is that if I love the other person enough, I would be driven to pound them over the head with the gospel until they get it, lest they die in a car accident tonight and their blood is eternally on my hands. Geesh, that's a lot of responsibility to carry.

This is a comment I made at Sonja's blog on her post Losing My Religion:

"Why do I still have faith? I have faith in the person of God and His love. I know the One who whispers to my heart and somehow communicates with the depths of my soul, and I trust Him.

I don’t believe that I could hang onto an empty set of beliefs and arguments without experiencing knowing God. At the end of the day, many questions may remain, but I don’t question that He is real and that He loves me."

Our testimony is not our conversion story, our testimony is our understanding of who God is, testifying of how we have personally known God, who He is to us. Can I prove that I know God? My only proof is experiential, although to me it is more real than our current reality.

I question if we can really convince someone about God simply from the proof of Scriptures. Scripture can open someone's heart to receive understanding about God, but it seems to me, that in order to have a real faith, someone must experience meeting the person of God and knowing Him.

I'm not saying that Scripture is unimportant, but I believe we must first have a revelation of the person of God. That is a work of the Spirit, not the intellect. From there, having come to know God, we then build our understanding of scripture and theology. I believe the greatest revelation, understanding, and knowledge we will ever have is of the truth of God's love.

At the Forgotten Ways blog, Alan says, "The original meaning of the Hebrew verb ‘”to recognise, to know,” in distinction from Western languages, belongs not to the sphere of reflection but to that of personal contact." He then provides this quote:

"The decisive event for ‘knowing’ in Biblical Hebrew is not that one looks at an object, but that one comes into touch with it. This basic difference is developed in the realm of a relation of the soul to other beings, where the fact of mutuality changes everything. At the centre is not a perceiving of one another, but a contact of being – intercourse.. This theme of ‘knowing’ intercourse rises to a remarkable and incomparable height in the relation of God to those He has chosen." (Martin Buber, Good and Evil)

Let me close with this amazing short video of Brennan Manning (ht to Jonathan Brink).

"I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are, not as you should be." - Jesus


lyn said...

Great post Grace. I've been having similar discussions with my husband tonight prior to reading here. A lot of this has been brought on as I've been reading a fantastic book called The Faith Club in which a Christian, Jew and Muslim discuss their religions and faith (excellent book btw!). As I wrote on John Smulos blog recently, God has done enough in my life for me to know that he is God, in the bad times I sometimes feel abandoned, but when they are through I see that he was there. I can't prove him, but I know that my life has changed drastically since coming to know him, I feel him and sense him. It's a personal thing, my experience of God will be different to yours and other peoples, although in other ways the experience will be similar.

Andrew said...

I tend to agree. I have spent time with so many Christians who feel a need to prove the Bible to non-followers. As if the other would be OBLIGATED to follow Christ if we can just prove to them that the bible is "true".

e. said...

I've been reflecting a bit lately on how we tend to make opposites of experiencing God and depending on what Bible says. The one thing is "subjective" the other "objective". I don't think the twos need to oppsite one another.

I hear many who are sceptical about building to much faith on experiences arguing that they need something objective to hold on to when they don't feel anything. When God feels long away. And therefore they should build faith on the Bible.

But to me, Mary is a great example in Luke 2, when it's said that she treasured all she had experienced.

I think it's good, not in opposition to each other, to both treasure the epxeriences and the scriptures that builds my faith. And when the feelings arent that strong I can goo back to both of them.

(english is not my primary language so excuse me if some words are not the best...hope its understandable.)

Inheritor of Heaven said...

I very much like what you said here: "I'm not saying that Scripture is unimportant, but I believe we must first have a revelation of the person of God. That is a work of the Spirit, not the intellect. From there, having come to know God, we then build our understanding of scripture and theology. I believe the greatest revelation, understanding, and knowledge we will ever have is of the truth of God's love."
We love because he first loved us. We have faith in his faithfulness. Even faith itself is a gift because no one can say Jesus Christ is Lord but by the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:3).
From your first Forgotten Ways quote, I think the "to recognise, to know" is possible only because someone has revealed himself.

Nice title too btw.

grace said...

Thanks for sharing those thoughts. It is a very personal thing, and our knowing and sensing cannot be imposed on someone else. They will have their own experience.

While the proof may be in the Bible, I think the most real proof is in the encounter with God Himself. For that reason, I share my experience of who God is, not as an argument, and I pray for the Spirit to be at work in the lives who don't yet know Him.

Very well said! You are right. There really are both aspects. I believe the Scriptures continue to reveal God to us, and He is who we put our faith in. I like the example of Mary treasuring her experiences. Personally, when God feels far off, I continue to trust in the God I have known and I remember His character and faithfulness through both my experiences and His Word.

I'm glad you added this comment. It brings an important balance to what I posted.

I love that He reveals Himself to us and that He gives us the faith to know Him and love Him.
There is so much more that could be said about our ability to accept and experience His love.

Robbymac said...

I've always loved Anselm's phrase of "Faith seeking understanding".

And I agree with previous commenters here who have pointed out that separating "subjective" and "objective" is really a false dichotomy. My history teacher in high school had read the Bible cover-to-cover SIX TIMES, and could quote an amazing amount of Scripture from memory, but he was New Age before New Age even had that label. He was VERY objective, and Biblically literate, but no revelation of the reality of Jesus.

daisymarie said...

wow. right between the eyes and straight to the heart.

grace said...

Great example. I don't know if it is possible to have a sustaining faith built solely on a scriptural understanding of God. However, I believe that a understanding of scripture could open the door to a revelation of the reality of Jesus.

I hope that's a "good" straight to the heart. ;)

andym said...

I really identify with that lack of interest in proving your faith, and I wonder if you see it as an INTJ characteristic? I find the field of evangelism (especially in the evangelical sense of the word) quite hard to get my head around. Its not that I don't care, its that I don't care (if that makes any sense) - I don't carry the burden I'm meant to carry to make me shout this out to everyone around me...
Connecting a few of your posts together, it just made me wonder if it is a difficulty(?!) that us INTJ's may share??

grace said...

That is an interesting point. I think there is an aspect of INTJ that simply has a quiet confidence in what they know without a need to prove it to others. I think this would lead to a tendency toward living their faith rather than arguing their faith, yet they would willingly explain their faith if questioned.
I added you to my list of INTJs.

Barbara said...


I’m sitting here at work reading your blog because I am on “phone duty”. It’s a bit ironic that I work for a very evangelical ministry because like you – I gave up my “badge” years ago. What you say about introducing someone to God through the Bible is so true. It’s like telling someone about a movie you saw that impacted your life, they can see your enthusiasm and even want to share in it, but they have to watch the movie themselves to really experience it. I can’t wait to watch the Brennan Manning video later. He’s one of my favorites. I’m so glad your blog is here, its speaking to me in all sorts of ways today!