On His Terms

If God exists then everything is on His terms; if the God of the Bible exists, then the Biblical text are His terms.

Portions of the Bible are more clear than others, but none of it is unclear.

When I read the Bible there are portions I don’t want to hear because they demand something of me.

But the Gospel’s power is such that I have no alternative but to accept it in its entirety, because it’s founded on the most profound love and meaning in existence—it is the source of all love and meaning—they can be found nowhere else. Pushing the Bible aside is pushing true love and real hope aside.

Cry of the Skeptic – 3

“The question of the existence of God is the single most important question we face about the nature of reality.” - Sir John Polkinghorne (Particle Physicist, Cambridge University)

“What I believe in my heart, must make sense in my mind.” - Ravi Zacharias

Skepticism: The method of suspended judgment; an attitude of doubt. So, essentially the skeptic hasn’t made a final judgment yet . . . but knows deep down he must.

Agnosticism: (Greek: α- a-, without + γνώσις gnōsis, knowledge) is the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims — particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of deities, ghosts, or even ultimate reality — is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently impossible to prove or disprove. It is often put forth as a “middle ground” between theism and atheism. (Yes, I pulled this bit off of Wikipedia.)

The agnostic/skeptic feels he can’t make a clear determination of God’s existence with the evidence and state of reality as it’s currently understood and perceived.

Let’s take that definition a step further. For our purposes, an agnostic/skeptic is a thinking and seeking individual. An “honest, truth-seeking agnostic” will weigh issues equally, neither leaning too far one way or the other, before examining all sides of the issue. An honest skeptic realizes logic can work more than one way—human perceptions can vary greatly—and he will be equally skeptical and open, to examining all the issues before arriving at a decisive answer.

In addition, the agnostic knows there is, in reality, no middle/neutral ground. Either God exists or God doesn’t exist. There is no third choice. (The discussion of God being transcendent rather than personal is a separate issue.) And most of the ultimate questions in life—meaning, morality, love, rights, dignity, etc.—hinge on God’s existence.

So, let’s assume for this journey, that an agnostic is an open-minded thinker, who seeks to discover the deepest meaning of life, but hasn’t arrived at all the answers yet.

Why does the agnostic/skeptic suspend judgment? He wants to get to the underlying truth in all its clarity—he wants certainty.

God, Give me an open and sharp mind, an open and tender heart, and give me answers—I can’t suspend judgment forever.

Cry of the Skeptic – 2

“Devotions for Agnostics” sounds a bit odd. As a seeker, you are devoting time and energy to seeking the truth. So, this is, in a sense, a devotion.

You’re probably a somewhat unhappy skeptic. A happy skeptic doesn’t really want to know the truth–he’s comfortable sitting on a fence. You, on the other hand, are likely restless–you know there’s more to life–you know there are answers. You want to be a temporary skeptic; you want to know for sure, either way. You want to get off the fence…you care.

“Seek and you will find.” Matthew 7:7 Only seekers find. The door is only opened to the knockers.

“After all, if there is no God, then God is incalculably the greatest single creation of the human imagination.” - Anthony Kenny

Agnostic: Agnostics haven’t made up their minds yet—they’re waiting for something—still seeking. An agnostic is essentially a person who believes there isn’t enough knowledge and/or evidence available to conclude that God exists or doesn’t exist. (Gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge.)

An agnostic is basically undecided, kind of like a person in college who hasn’t declared a major yet. He plans to complete his college program, but needs to see what’s out there first.

Cry of the Skeptic – 1

“I can’t live here any longer. Nothing seems to work for me. I give up. I thought I’d mellow out & grow content with life by now, but I feel as restless and broken as I did when I was 19. Nothing works. God’s been AWOL all my life. All is darkness. I’m sorry, I’m so very sorry . . . it’s nobody’s fault. Hopefully, by the time you read this, I’ll finally be at peace. Goodbye.”

If you received this note from a friend, what feelings would rip through your heart?  If he took his own life, what would you tell his family?  What would you tell yourself?  If you had the chance to go back in time and speak with him, what words of hope would come out of your mouth and convince him to live?

In my blog, I’ll address the biggest questions people have about life: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Why is there suffering? Does God exist? Where do we go when we die?

People today are crying out for answers to life’s deepest questions, but most don’t know how or whom to ask—there’s not a guru next door to chat with.

“Doubt is not the absence of faith, it’s the absence of certainty.” - Anonymous

Being a skeptic is not a crime. Neither is being an optimist. Most people are a bit of both. The skeptic’s journey has been my journey.  His questions are my questions.

Have you had a deep, dark doubt that I haven’t had?  I think not. Or felt an anger at God for things He did or didn’t do, that I haven’t felt? No, you haven’t.  I think like you do—feel like you do. It’s not me vs. you . . . or even us vs. them . . . there is only us  . . . and our great search for truth and meaning in life.  Let’s dig together.

Michael Stamp   5/20/14

Why Does God Hide?

“Doubt is not the absence of faith,
it’s the absence of certainty.”
- Anonymous

I sat in church between my brothers, staring at the altar—at the bread and wine under the pure white veils—Christ’s body and blood. A restless teen, one part of me was scared He was real, while another part of me thought, “How do we know this God-Jesus stuff isn’t just a giant pile of crap? How do we know it’s not wishful thinking gone awry over the centuries—a crafted blend of fact and fiction?”

I wanted proof—I wanted certainty.

My faith seemed to increase as I grew as a child and then it collapsed once all the world’s sticky questions began to fill my high school brain. The church didn’t seem to have solid answers good enough to field the countless questions, so the scales of reason tipped towards the “I-don’t-really-know” side of the equation.

When I initially left for college, I stopped going to church altogether because I wanted to leave my childhood behind and discover the world on my own. You may have had a similar experience or are in the midst of one.

I couldn’t honestly accept God the way He was portrayed in church. Things didn’t make sense. They didn’t add up. And to any thinking person, they must add up.

Why a riot in one part of the world and harmony in another? Chaos and war in that country, peace in this one? A man living a hundred years, a baby dying in its crib, not even living a hundred hours.

Good and evil oddly mixed together deep inside people. A person doing good one moment and bad the next.

Believing in God didn’t fit. Sunday’s faith seemed apart from weekday life, in its own world: part history, part a childish belief in goodness and part make-believe.

The God of the Bible seemed to be hidden from me—not acting in my life the way He was supposed to, and this caused me to question everything. I also went through a dark period of time when I felt so hurt and frustrated that I even hated God. He seemed so distant and neutral. Hidden…aloof. If he did exist, I wanted nothing to do with Him.

The central issue kept surfacing over and over: Is God’s existence reasonable? Is it realistic? If He does exist, does He care? Does believing in the God of the Bible make sense at all levels? Is it logical and scientific? Historic? Is it philosophically sound? All aspects of life must add-up and mesh together as one, cohesive understanding of the world. If they don’t, then life really has no true and deep meaning—and if God doesn’t fit into all aspects of life, then His very being is unreasonable.

I sought to find answers and hunted for years reading a plethora of books on religion, mysticism, history and philosophy.

I found that answers do exist.

Since I come at things as a questioner and a doubter, most people will—I hope—be able to relate and follow my line of reason. Why should a skeptic read these essays? Because I’m a skeptic, too—always searching for answers—wrestling with the same troubling issues for years on end. Because all my life I’ve had the same doubts and asked the same questions as you do about God and life’s meaning.

Counter to a lot of Christian thinking, it’s evident God dearly wants us to question. He created us to use our minds and critically question the entire world around us. He delights when we hunt, seek and dig deep—because He’s there at every level. Let’s carefully look at logic, science, history, as well as morality and meaning, and arrive at answers to the most crucial questions about life.

What is the reason, behind the reason, behind the reason?
I dedicate this blog to those who struggle and question . . .to the skeptic.

Hey God:
Why do you let bad things happen? Why all the suffering?
Sometimes evil, greed and apathy appear to rule our world,
and you don’t seem to care!
Why do you let people spout foolishness and make money in your name?
Why don’t you stop them?
While you’re at it, why don’t you stop all the bad, feed all the hungry and heal every disease?

If you made me, don’t I deserve an answer?