Six Reasons Why I Don’t Really Fit in Anywhere.
I’m in a season of life where I am a Christian, but I am not quite sure why I am a Christian. I don’t mean why in the sense of not knowing the causal chain that led me to faith. That much is clear. I rather mean that I am looking for intellectual reasons for being a Christian. So it’s really something of an apologetic concern.
So I usually just end up re-phrasing the question in a number of different ways: Is Christian theology really knowledge? Do we really have any reason to believe in the Trinity? What is the truth value of non-Christian religions? On what grounds should I accept the resurrection of Jesus? The list could go on, but it’s all the same question really.
So today, rather than focus on what I don’t believe, I thought I’d spell out what I do believe. This is not a creedal statement but really a statement of my theological presuppositions. These are the points by which I measure whether a theological answer seems compelling or not.
1. Supernaturalism. Now many have argued that the very term is too much of a capitulation to the Enlightment project with a false distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’. Maybe I would prefer the term ‘spiritualism,’ but that has very different connotations than I am going for. But the point is that I believe there is more going on than we can see. There really spiritual forces and beings working behind the scenes. Miracles are possible. I resist the notion that it is only “our miracles” that are true but “their miracles” are mere superstition (as Hume berated Christians for doing). I reject the idea that all supernaturalism degenerates into superstition (though it is certainly a danger). So anything that rests on the naturalistic presupposition that “all we can see is all there is” is not at all compelling to me.
2. Theism. Whatever else is true about God, I take it as a given that God exists. The teleological argument carries a lot of weight, but ultimately it is the cosmological argument that carries the day for me. It is totally implausible that there should be an infinite regression of causes, so I take it that there must be some non-contingent cause behind everything. The fact that life and personality exists in a world where it seems like it shouldn’t suggests that this non-contingent cause is personal. The fact that I have seemed to experience such a being only strengthens this presupposition. So any non-theistic (or even any non-monotheistic) proposals will always seem unsatisfactory.
3. Pietism. It would seem that God is more concerned with how we behave than what we believe. Thus I tend to put more weight on experience than on ‘reason’, though I am similarly skeptical of the evidential value of experience to confirm our theological positions. People seem to experience God on the basis of faith and piety, not on the basis of proper theology.
4. Non-contradiction. I shouldn’t have to list this as a presupposition. It is self-evident that any statement which results in a contradiction is necessarily false. But Buddhist philosophers, apophatic theologians, and numerous others have tried to argue that God is not bound by the law of non-contradictions. Such things are utterly absurd. For example, God cannot be both eternally, limitlessly good AND not eternally, limitlessly good.
5. Anti-fideism. If anything in our theological system requires a ‘leap of faith,’ then it is not a valid system. If I think a person is trustworthy, then that means that I have evidence that I can trust the person. In the same way, it is not somehow more virtuous to believe in God or a particular theological system with no evidence, or worse yet, against the evidence. Moreover, if we ever resort to “you just have to take this on faith,” then we should offer the same courtesy to Islam or Mormonism, both of which seem to rest on the same principle.
6. Anti-idolatry. I think it is bad to worship things, people, or other entities that are not God. It distorts our humanity and is odious to God. So I cannot simply embrace a pragmatic view of spirituality that “if it works for you, do it.” If my pietist leanings push me towards theological liberalism, it is my concern about idolatry that keeps me from embracing it.
Taking all these together, I am a Christian because I have found God through the Christian faith. I do not think this validates my theology, though. I am a charismatic theist by conviction but a Christian only by default. Add to this the fact that sociologically I am most easily identified with conservative evangelicalism (and even fundamentalism to an extent), I feel like a big ball of contradictions. But given my fourth presupposition, I have an obligation to sort through this all. And that, my friends, is the point of this blog.
So when I end up saying things that don’t fit with whatever stereotype you may have labeled me, it is most likely one of these presuppositions behind it.