the search for self…

One of the primary issues we face and must deal with in moving [on in our journey of faith] is our insatiable hunger to continue searching for self. It appears so good, so wholesome, so useful we may not even notice it as a lure away from God. There is a necessity to search for self at earlier stages. In this transition, however, we are being asked to be selfless and let go of the search for self, except as it is continually revealed to us by God in the stuff of our lives. It feels like we are asked to give up such a good thing. Yet it is only if we can do this paradoxical thing, give up the search for self to find ourselves in God, that we can find peace.

– Hagberg and Guelich, The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith, p.108-9

“The Incomprehensibility Fallacy”

The atheist asks the Christian how God can exist as three persons – Father, Son and Spirit.

The Christian replies that he doesn’t fully understand the answer to this, pointing out that an infinite being such as God cannot be fully grasped by a human, finite, mundane intelligence.

The atheist is unsatisfied, and says that the Christian is committing a copout. “How, after all, can you expect me to believe in your God when you don’t even understand him? I point out logical incoherencies in your God, and all you can say is you can’t expect to understand the infinite.”

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This is a fictional anecdotal example what I’m going to call the incomprehensibility fallacy – who it is that commits the fallacy hasn’t been named.

I think it is often said by Christians that we simply don’t understand, and thus can’t give you an answer, and that this is because God is totally other-worldly, immaterial and infinite. And it is often said by atheists that this is a copout.

But consider this. There are many, many things I don’t understand about Australia’s legal system. But I’m quite convinced that it exists – and justly so (the evidence is reasonably overwhelming). To say that the fact that I don’t understand the Australian legal system is a good reason to think that it doesn’t exist is pretty unreasonable. You might even call it a sort of “incomprehensibility fallacy”. There are all sorts of things whose existence I am convinced of, and that I don’t understand and do not even expect to understand: my own circulatory system, the discipline of economics, the universe at large, atoms, and of course, women.

The question is not: “can you give an exhaustive and comprehensive theory about this object and all its qualities?”

The question is: “do you have sufficient evidence to be able to say with confidence that this object (with at least x number of essential qualities) exists, whatever other qualities it may possess?”

***

Of course we don’t understand everything about God. But I do believe we have enough evidence to be able to say confidently that he exists, and to understand certain characteristics that he has: that he is good, that he loves all people, that he created the universe, that he is all powerful, and a few other things.

We also know that he became human in the person of Jesus, died, and rose again. Some of the consequences of this are very hard to grasp, though. If God is eternal, and he existed on Earth for a time as a man, then it is necessary that God was at once both in Heaven and on Earth. It is from here that all the deductions have to begin, to bring us towards the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity is a very confusing and often seemingly incoherent concept. But it is a metaphysical difficulty that is necessitated by irrefutable empirical facts. The fact that we cannot understand it does not license us to throw it away entirely, because it is not the theory’s tidiness and comprehensibility that causes us to believe it; it is the theory’s grounding in indispensable premises.

Before you can become a good leader, you must be a good follower.

A good leader will be someone who has the humility to align themselves with the purposes of their leaders throughout their season of discipleship, someone who has the patience to withhold their desire for authority until their time comes to assume it, and the faith to trust that God will never lose control.

They do not obey their leaders because their leaders are competent; they obey them because they understand the seasonality of life, that for everything there is a time – a time to lead and a time to follow.

These people are leading their peers in the way they respect, obey, honour, and even trust their leaders.

And these people are empowering their leaders to lead with freedom and strength. When a leader knows they have the trust and support of their team, they are liberated to take their team in the direction that they think is best for the team, uninhibited by uncooperation. They become one body with one purpose, and in their unity they are able to achieve it, whatever it is.

When followers don’t support leaders, nothing is achieved.

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If you find yourself attempting to override the judgement of someone in authority over you with your superior wisdom, ideas and methods, you are not yet leadership material.

“Yes, and I will rejoice,

for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death.”

– the Apostle Paul writing to the Philippians during his imprisonment at Rome.

I honestly can’t stand it when Christian apologists say “it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a Christian”.

You’re just affirming and perpetuating this common misconception of faith as “the capacity to believe without evidence”. That has never been what faith is.

If nothing else, the Bible says faith is a good thing. So if atheism requires more faith than you can muster, then you should aspire to grow in faith until you can be an atheist.

*

No. This conception of faith won’t do.

Life is at once a marathon and a sprint.

A marathon because we have to be prepared for the long term; we must always look to the future, not looking to just satisfy our immediate circumstantial cravings.

But a sprint because it is a fleeting breath in comparison to the expansiveness of eternity. It is a race in which every moment matters, and every moment can affect eternity.

We cannot afford to deviate from the path; we can’t afford to lose sight of the finish line.