A Christian Dilemma: Hypocrisy Vs. Authenticity

How can we explain the contention between the believer who fails to exemplify his faith through word and action, and the unbeliever who looks down on faith as a fallacy of the age—judging the believer based on the very moral and spiritual grounds they claim to reject in the first place? I would like to take a closer look at this issue here.

IF NO ONE IS PERFECT, THEN WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

One of the most tragic arguments baffling the mind of the unbeliever is the idea that once a believer, a person is automatically perfect. The reason this is a fallacy is because no one belief makes a person perfect. Digging deeper still reveals the imperative argument demanding a definition for human “perfection.” Some might expect perfection to come in the form of character or moral pursuit—and if this is so, what does a perfect character with scrupulous moral pursuits look like?  

In my previous article, “Disbelief & Finding My Way Home: Part 2,” I explain what I believe Christianity is. To reiterate, here is how I define Christianity: 

putting my relationship with Jesus first and seeking Him when I forget to do that. Being a Christian means humbly pursuing Him and coming back to Him when I lose track of that pursuit. Christians are not perfect people who have decided to stop pursuing a life of denial, nor do we think we’re perfect because of our decision to accept Jesus; Christians are sinners who recognize their sin and acknowledge their need for a Messiah capable of and willing to extend mercy, grace, and love through sacrificing Himself in order to prevent us from experiencing the eternal judgment that we actually deserve.”

That said, I do not believe faith makes any person perfect; we’re all capable of and prone to flaws—before and after faith. A person’s faith, if anything, gives them more reason to predict their failure to ever become perfect by humbly admitting their need for a Messiah in Christ. Again, if anything, a Christian recognizes more so their need for a Messiah in Christ because of their imperfections. In other words, Christianity doesn’t perfect; it humbles. Where do people get this idea that Christ-followers believe they have everything figured out? From Christians who project their faith as the moral insignia of pride. Let me explain.

MORAL DOMINANCE & FIGHTING THE WRONG BATTLE

When a Christ-follower gets caught in the trap of believing faith-based morality is grounds for ostracism or for criticizing the unbeliever, the humility of their faith as been compromised for the pride in their choices. The tragedy is divulged in how a Christian disparaging atheism’s lack of belief is no more effective or correct than an unbeliever condemning Christianity’s open-mindedness. What needs to be noted here is the dichotomy revealing how the misplaced disparaging of the atheist’s lack of belief allows no room for humility or compassion in the censorious believer. Capitalizing on the belief that one is more right than another does nothing short of mistakenly prove to the unbeliever that what is most important to the Christian is their pride in their beliefs and how it trumps doubt, when in fact the fight is taking place on a different battlefield altogether: The believer is convinced proving their belief to be correct is more important than being a living example of how faith in Jesus as Lord changes one’s life from the inside—which has nothing at all to do with winning arguments, but renewing hearts

The abusive treatment of the believer towards the atheist is ultimately the grounds for which the unbeliever blindly claims faith is a transparent fallacy. Understandably, from this perception—the source of the believer’s faith seems grounded in judgment, condemnation, prideful morality, and the careless freedom to live in the name of a faith which seemingly has no impact on behavior, words, thoughts, or interactions. In other words, a faith which has no bearing on renewing a person’s intrinsic humanity or lifestyle.

THE PURPOSE OF CHRISTIAN METAPHORS 

There are a lot of metaphors used in Christianity. Why? There is a larger reality within grasp which does not present itself to the naked human eye—that which is tangible through the senses of faith itself. What does this mean? This means that the purpose of metaphors in Christianity is to examine that which we can barely fathom with our intellect or imagination, let alone our senses. Not to be misperceived as impossible to the imagination, Heaven itself is used both as a metaphor for the fantastical (where the very nature of painlessness and deathlessness coexist with permanent bliss and happiness) which can be sourced within our very soul through faith in Christ; as well as a literal place and location. Metaphors are not used to divide the truth of the Bible from reality, but to express how such extremities can only be gathered by taking a leap of faith out of our expectations and comfort zones and placing ourselves into the space of hope. Hope for something beyond words, beyond this reality; transcendence.

THE DILEMMA OF IDENTITY AND CHRISTIAN HYPOCRISY

Timothy Keller, in his book Making Sense Of God, writes:

Theologian Miroslav Volf summarizes four ways that we can set and bolster our self-worth by excluding others. We can literally kill or drive the Other out of our living space. A more subtle and common way is exclusion by assimilation. We can demand that they conform completely to our own patterns and standards, not allowing them to express any difference at all. “We will refrain from vomiting you out… if you let us swallow you up.” A third form of exclusion could be called “dominance.” We let you live among us and maintain your identity, but only if you assume an inferior race—not getting certain jobs, attaining particular levels of pay, or living in certain neighborhoods. The fourth kind of exclusion is abandonment. That is, we exclude the Other by disdaining and ignoring them, taking no thought for their needs. The reason we indulge in these attitudes and practices is that by denouncing and blaming the other it gives us “the illusion of sinlessness and strength.”

When a Christian denounces the unbeliever for their doubt instead of loving them in their unbelief, they make the mistake of identifying with the egocentrism of pride rather than the selfless character of Christ. When this happens, pride takes the position of one the four aforementioned reflections of self-worth. But when a believer’s self-worth is not rooted in Christ, it is automatically rooted in the neediness of the world. How then can we be reborn if we still cling to the world? We cannot. We either surrender ourselves by intrinsically and authentically picking up our cross and following Him (rebirth), or we end up abandoning our cross for someone else to bear and call them weak when they won’t even carry their own (claiming the “Christian” title without “walking the walk” of a relationship with Jesus). 

CHRISTIAN FACADES AND PLURALISM

The choice we make (how seriously we take our faith) defines the example we are for the world. When a person claims to be a “Christian” while still clutching the ways of the world, the unbeliever witnesses hypocrisy and assumes this contradiction to be the face of all Christ-followers. While we do not carry the responsibility of every believer in this world, we do bear the witness of every unbeliever in this world. When we do not take seriously our own faith, we leave room for the unbeliever to view the Christian faith as fallible and indistinguishable from secularism. Pluralism itself is made to look foolishly redundant in the face of Christian hypocrisy as the multifarious religious views suddenly blur together into one conglomeration; a mirage of people pretending rather than rebirthing, clutching for dear life their mental volition instead of surrendering their hearts; closing their eyes rather than opening their minds, and believing in the self—which ultimately deteriorates the soul and crushes our most intrinsic need for selfless, unconditional human connection. 

CALLED FORWARD IN CHRIST

We are called to be sons and daughters of the living Christ. We can complicate the picture of what that looks like, or we can come to grips with the reality that it requires a heart full of humility. We cannot grow in Christ if we are climbing a ladder of egocentrism. Even in faith, the boastful soul does not become vanquished until we have received a heart of humility in God the Father. We receive this when we’ve had enough of ourselves. I found myself dead inside during my adolescence and desperately craved a purpose by the time I was 22. I found that purpose in Christ, but only after I realized I needed to let go of my self-made purpose, which ultimately was disguised in self-deprecation and the turmoil of this world.

Moving forward in faith means letting go of the self to make room for Christ, and in so doing, His thoughts become more of our own. We lose nothing—we gain everything. We gain a new perspective, healthier relationships, more fulfilling desires, and a deeper sense of purpose than we could have imagined was possible. Moving forward in faith—to be taken over by such an abundance of surrender, we completely lose ourselves to the call of Christ to run beyond our self-preserved path of narcissistic hedonism, ahead into the light of recognizing our need—not for the world’s attention or validation, but God’s promises to make us new, to make us right, and to fulfill us completely

TAKEN OVER BY FAITH

If we truly have been changed, what does that look like? Compassion, grace, mercy, love, peace, empathy, boldness, faithfulness, gratefulness, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, and selflessness. Altruism merely becomes the floorboards of the character we are called into through Jesus. In so shining our light back to Him, we do not mistake what our faith translates into, but we express to the world how belief in Christ needs to be: All-consuming, all-renewing, and fully satiating. When we understand the love of God, we don’t miss our old selves, we beg for more of His heart to flood our own—and this, truly, is the sweetest form of desperation in this life we will ever come face-to-face with.

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this article with the people around you. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. May God remind us all that the picture of Christianity looks like Jesus. Be blessed, readers!!

Opaque

Darling Downs Diaries

Disbelief & Finding My Way Home: Part 2

A CHURCH FOUNDED ON JESUS’S LOVE

When my Christian friend from college met me at a Starbucks the week after we had attended a church in Orlando together, he asked me if I wanted a relationship with Jesus. I was hesitant because I didn’t completely understand what faith in Jesus meant. But, what I had gathered from visiting the church together was how different Christianity was from the Catholicism I had been raised around. The difference was significant enough to make me feel immediately welcomed; this church was a place I didn’t feel resistant to. The church we visited played invigorating Christian music and a pastor who was more passionate about speaking of the love of Jesus and His power to transform lives, and nothing about shame or guilt. This immediately grabbed my attention, considering what I had experienced the previous 10 years.

THE REAL JESUS

Growing up, my family had not prayed for anything other than our food before dinner, sometimes not even then. Our prayers, however, were not directed at Christ, but God—and I never really knew who the God was I was praying to. He was the one we prayed to, sure, but there was nothing personal about Him. That was the main difference between the anonymous God that I grew up not taking seriously and this Jesus Christ of the Bible… I had never understood Him, nor had I cared to. Now that Jesus’s true nature was being revealed to me through this new church and my Christian friend, I was beginning to see not a religion with rules and rituals, but a man with morals, humility, feelings, intentions, thoughts, experiences, integrity—and Lordship. But it wasn’t so much the Lordship of Christ that drew me in at the beginning as much as His humanity.

“Yes,” I told my friend. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, but I wasn’t signing any contracts or giving away my social security number. I was going to discover more of who Jesus was, and go from there.

WITNESSING JESUS’S IMPACT

Nothing happened right away. Faith came in gradual steps and moments; conversations, Bible studies, questions and answers, prayer, and time spent getting to know the stories of the Bible with more context. I had never even known there were “translations” of the Bible and that certain translations made the Bible easier to follow without changing the meaning or significance of a single story inside. That intrigued me. When my Christian friend (and my roommate at the time) helped me find a Bible translation which was easier for me to read (It was the NIV at the time), he also helped explain what I was reading based on Bible studies he’d had with spiritual mentors of his own. His stories were insightful and sometimes playful and funny. I could see my friend had developed a healthy relationship with Jesus, and so his genuine mix of humility and confidence were striking. My thoughts became, “Is this what it’s like to know Jesus?” The anger of my previous 10 years was beginning to subside, and a deeper-rooted understanding was taking its place. I was beginning to realize that the message about the Bible that I thought I knew as an atheist was either based on distortions I had gathered along the way, or they were assumptions I’d made based on the limited scope of an understanding of the stories I had read with people focused more on guilt, shame, and repentance than on love, mercy, forgiveness, and healing.

MORALITY AND LUST

Like I mentioned in Part 1, I turned to lust when all else failed to soothe my pain. When I learned about Jesus and His integrity, as well as His teachings, I came to realize that the way I was desiring women was very misplaced. Not so much that I viewed them as sexual objects, but I viewed women as though they were the solution to my problems; my emotional problems. With Jesus, I learned faith is the solution to a dead life. When I applied what this meant to my life, many things changed. One of the changes was that I recognized the way God loved women through Jesus, and that there was a call to love women the way Jesus loved the church (community of believers). This image of love was inviting, and clearly more healthy than my approach had been. It was a beautiful picture of what love should look like, and it was a reality I wanted to embrace as my own. That meant changing my thinking, my motives, and my perspective of pain and solutions.

This helped me, tremendously, to appreciate and admire women more than need them. While God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” (Genesis 2:18) He did not add that man is incomplete without a woman. To me, that meant that God wanted us to have companionship, but He wasn’t suggesting that man needed a woman in order to be complete. Again, all of this changed my view of women—whereas before they were the solution to my pain, now they were people who I respected, admired, and wanted to see more with the eyes of God.

HEALING FATHER WOUNDS

When I first brought up my new faith to my dad, he too had found Christianity from another church in Michigan. I was shocked and pleased, because for the first time in my entire life, we related to something meaningful and intrinsic. Also, for the longest time, my dad and I didn’t really speak for more than once every few months. But that changed to once every couple of weeks during my slow transition into becoming Christian. I wanted to know that my dad had Jesus, and I wanted to develop an emotionally deep relationship with him in ways we had missed out on during my adolescence. Over the course of almost 8 years, we have come a long way, and we are much closer now than we ever were before I left Michigan to go to college.

A SON’S LOVE FOR HIS MOTHER

While growing up, I had looked up to my mom like a god because she was authoritarian, strict, and always seemingly knowledgeable. When I found Christ, I realized how powerless my mom had always been. Her emotional outbursts also became crystal clear to me; she hadn’t been upset because of me, but because of separate issues from far before I ever came along. When I grasped this truth, a weight was lifted off my shoulders, and instead of continuing to feel sorry for myself, I prayed that God would lift the weight off of her shoulders as well. My faith has also enabled me to see my mom in a healthier way, loving her where she is in every aspect of her life, rather than feeling tormented by our differences.

I’ve prayed, so many times, for Him to show Himself to her in a way that would soften her heart and help her to see, feel, and intimately experience His love for her in a way she couldn’t miss. Up to this day, I continue to pray. She has a stubborn heart, and I love her, truly and deeply for it. I continue imagining how much glory to God she would give if she aimed that stubbornness in the direction of passionately evangelizing about the love of Christ in her life.

THE BLESSING OF INNER-TRANSFORMATION

After learning that Jesus was a wise, personal, loving, intelligent, spiritual, knowledgeable man with incredible insight and presence, I had to know more. What I can tell you is the more I’ve discovered, the more I can’t help but want more.

Ultimately, the pain I experienced that led me to my bathtub so many years ago has been replaced with a hope I can finally explain. I know Jesus is real because I’ve spoken with Him, experienced Him, and I continue to pursue my faith in Him because I understand now that He was working in me all along. I truly believe His love was pouring into my heart when I tried to kill myself and that that was what drew me from the water; that His hand scooping me out was His response to my screams for a reason not to die. I believe He didn’t want to lose me then, and that He doesn’t want to lose me now. I truly believe the divorce was His way of asking me to take faith seriously and to find Him in a way that would ensure I wasn’t “following the crowd,” but rather, choosing Him on my own accord.

Sometimes we find ourselves asking Him, “Couldn’t you have done that a little less drastically?” But, really, who are we to question God’s motives? If He can align all that is needed to maintain the universe from imploding or exploding, does He not also have the strength and foresight to know what we need and how we need it in order to mold us into our best selves? Would we really claim that we know any better?

THE NATURE OF CHRISTIANITY

Being a Christian doesn’t mean a person is perfect, and it doesn’t mean that a person knows everything. To me, being a Christian means putting my relationship with Jesus first and seeking Him when I forget to do that. Being a Christian means humbly pursuing Him and coming back to Him when I lose track of that pursuit. Christians are not perfect people who have decided to stop pursuing a life of denial, nor do we think we’re perfect because of our decision to accept Jesus; Christians are sinners who recognize their sin and acknowledge their need for a Messiah capable of and willing to extend mercy, grace, and love through sacrificing Himself in order to prevent us from experiencing the eternal judgment that we actually deserve.

THE POWER OF MERCY

This may be new for some of you, so please feel free to leave your thoughts in comments below if you have a different perspective which you would like to share. The way I view this is, we are all sinners—that is, we would all fall short of our purpose in Christ if we did not have Jesus’s mercy, and therefore no one would deserve anything but the consequence for their actions. However, because of Jesus’ mercy on us, His mercy says, “You’ve sinned, and it requires a debt (a consequence). But because I love you, I’ve taken your punishment upon myself and paid, with my life, the debt which you originally owed me. Now, you don’t have to worry about paying me back. Go and love others, living in the joy of knowing that you are debt-free.” That, to me, is mercy.

We can extend mercy to others on behalf of the mercy we receive from God through Jesus, but mercy requires forgiveness, grace, and love—and we do not have this power without God first extending it to us. I believe this is one of the fundamental differences between Christianity and any other faith. This is another massive part of the reason Christianity drew me in and continues to do so today.

A NEW JOY AND HOPE

I still fall and make mistakes constantly. But I believe what is important, both for me and any person willing to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, is that we can seek refuge in Him (Psalm 119:114) who has already experienced our consequence for us. We need to ask for His strength to move us to action, and to continually replenish our souls with hope and joy. To me, this is no longer cliché, because I’ve experienced what having faith in Jesus feels like in my mind, soul, and body. 

If you have not experienced this, I hope and pray that by reading my testimony, you will feel encouraged to open yourself to Jesus and experiencing the fullness that comes with living in relationship with Him. Truly, faith in Jesus changes everything from the inside out: Our perspective of pain, our view of purpose in life, the meaning of everything large and small, and not needing to have all the answers.

MADE NEW IN CHRIST

After all that I’ve been through, Jesus words, “I am making all things new,” makes so much sense to me now. He made me new, starting at a soul level by giving me a purpose (writing). He made my relationship with my father new by connecting us through our faith; he made my relationship with my mom new by clarifying that only He is God—and by placing the desire in my heart for her to know His love the way I have come to know it. He even renewed my desire for love by providing the healthiest way to view women through His own eyes. I cannot imagine my life now without Jesus having intervened when He did. I was ready to die, but now I’m ready to live. So, without a doubt:

Trust Him, listen to him, love him, choose Him, and continually pray (speak) to Him. He will never forsake you.

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with what you read in this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. May God meet you where you are and affirm you in ways you never imagined before. In Jesus name!

Heal

Disbelief & Finding My Way Home: Part 1

THE WHOLE STORY

I would like to fully explain why I converted from atheism to Christianity. I have shared bits and pieces of my conversion story in previous articles, but I want to tie it all together in this two-part series. Here, I hope to clarify for people who may relate to my testimony just how powerful God truly is. Needless to say, Part 1 will be darker/heavier because of context that this took place before I understood what to make of my past, emotionally and spiritually. Part 2 will complete the story and bring us to the present where I can now see God working in my faith, and I will share more on that with you as well. 

By writing this, I hope to bring clarity, hope, and direction to others who are in the position of searching for life’s answers without knowing which way to turn.

THE BETRAYAL OF TRUST THROUGH TRAUMA

My parents’ divorce left me reeling, drowning in questions and denial. Growing up, I’d grown extremely fond of the security of familiarity, of placing all of my trust in my family’s presence, the memories we made, and the traditions that made being a part of family so special. For example, we were told to wait upstairs on Christmas morning until our dad turned on the foyer Christmas tree lights in order to come downstairs and see the mountain of presents in the living room. They would dim the lights, and we would never think anything of my parents’ droopy eyes as they had been up an hour earlier preparing the eye-popping display.

In another example, my family was active—we would go outside and play ball after dinner as the sun went down. We did this frequently, and it fed me the passion for exercise, activity, adventure, and fun.

When my parents divorced, the very cheerful, optimistic, positive part of me became very serious, quiet, reserved, and exclusive. My thoughts burrowed inward, trying to grasp with profundity the depth of my own pain.

My dad would urge me to keep going to church, since we were raised Catholic—but I refused to attend over the course of two church invitations. The notion of any kind of God was not only unappealing, it was detestable. How could a God allow this suffering to take place? I was sure there was no God because no God would allow me or anyone to experience this excruciating emotional pain and familial division. But that was only the beginning of the pain.

SUICIDE AND PURPOSELESSNESS

When my questions following the divorce became unbearable and everything I’d believed seemed to be wrong, I felt myself imploding intolerably. This new reality where my mom slept in another house and everything was drastically different was utterly nightmarish and terrifying to me, emotionally. The rules had changed and life had become more about survival. Nothing I had believed about life seemed real anymore. I couldn’t find myself embracing this new reality with my family torn apart and unfamiliarity at every corner, and I also couldn’t wrest the old reality back from its grave. This realization birthed the deepest, darkest feeling I ever thought was possible: I wanted to kill myself.

For 11 years, this wasn’t even a thought. Suicide was not even a vocabulary word that I was capable of conjuring. But suddenly, out of absolute nothingness, death became a possibility; a desire. I’ll never forget, because wanting death was the most degrading feeling. I’ve learned there is nothing darker than wanting death, and that death’s invitation is consuming.

MENTAL BREAKDOWN

I was in my teens, 13-15, lying on the floor of my room with the door closed, crying until I could barely breathe through my nose. All I could think of was how nothing was the same anymore; there were no remnants left of my past reality, everything was over and there was no going back.

My mind tried to get creative about how to end my life, and I took myself to my bathtub. On more than one occasion, when the water pressure began choking me, my mind was screaming to find a reason to live to avoid the pain of air emptying from my lungs. My chest was growing tighter and I had to decide if I was going to die this way. I started seeing stars and I could hear my own heartbeat; time was drawing close and I didn’t want to let in—I wanted to die. Alone, my family outside somewhere, clueless to my intentions, I was merely moments away from breathing my last, when I came out of the water. I breathed, looked at the walls of the tub, and begged myself for justification as to why I had chosen against death. I didn’t have a good reason: I was afraid of the pain of losing air—my lungs screaming for me to save myself was horrifying. Living in a house full of people who didn’t know me or my pain was also horrifying. There was no escape. The misery drew anguish and bitterness.

No, there is no God. A God wouldn’t allow this suffering. God would be evil to allow this. These were my thoughts and I got out of the tub to continue living, although without certainty; wondering how else I could end my life.

PARALYZED RELATIONSHIPS

My relationship to my mom was strained after the divorce. As soon as she left home to move to another house, I had to begin learning to pack bags for sleepovers. Every week I would pack necessities to take back and forth. There was more than one problem with this. The first was that right after the divorce, the presence of my mom was very different than from before the divorce; her new presence was something I did not like, nor did I want to be around. Because of her attitude and behavior, I did not want to see her often, and I felt guilty for not wanting to see her. After all, she was my mom. Not only did this seem contradictory, but it was causing me mountains of stress, guilt, anxiety, and racing thoughts. I would constantly analyze everything that was said and how it was said to pick up on anything I could in order to placate the disagreements we had. Mom had picked up on my lack of desire to spend more time with her and became angry and hurt. Her anger made me withdraw even further, and I quickly learned that our new relationship dynamic was terrifyingly different from the way it was growing up. This change haunted me—what was to become of my mom and me?

More confusing was the way my dad seemed so uninvolved with me. Our relationship seemed to have retreated, which lasted about a decade. Throughout all of my adolescence, I didn’t talk to my dad very much. In every sense of the word, my relationships with both of my parents were paralyzed. We weren’t moving forward, no one seemed to want to move back, and we were not on the same page. The horrors of the divorce crippled us and made everything that once was so beautiful into something unrecognizable, dilapidated, obsolete, disappointing. My heart was throbbing with fear, but there was no closure.

KORN/CLOSURE/VALIDATION

When I was 16, I found my first Korn album, “The Untouchables.” Upon playing the first song, “Here To Stay,” I was hooked. Never again would I find a band as interesting and addictive as Korn; their lyrical expression of rage, pain, depression, and self-mutilation were spot on with that of my own thoughts. I quickly learned that I not only related to Korn, but that they spoke into my experiences. Korn became my musical “Gospel,” in that I would listen to them for hours on end, embracing their anger, resistance, and ability to fight pain with rage and hate as my own. I soon believed that anger and hatred were ways to find strength in my darkness of despair and trauma. My desire for death was still present, but Korn was like a strong dose of morphine; they would speak into my darkest place and tell me my feelings were valid.

LAST RESORT

Along the way of finding myself tortured by the questions challenging my sanity, I found myself drawing closer to girls. Their attention gave me energy and I desired to impress them and earn their loyalty; their relationship. I ended up bringing my search for purpose to my girlfriend my senior year of high school; someone who I would learn later on could never have fulfilled that part of me. No girl ever could have, but I didn’t know where else to search for closure from all the pain. I didn’t know where else to search for purpose. I was living for me, and hating every second of it.

FINAL ULTIMATUM

After all those years of heavily contemplating my life and its brokenness, topped off by resorting to lust and infatuation—I decided to pursue film studies in Florida when I was 21 to make something of my life while I continued my search for something beyond the pain. By moving to Florida to study film, I was intending to also leave behind all of my memories in Michigan. Like a placebo pill however, my mind wanted to make believe leaving Michigan would numb the pain (my past). But, after many years of being away, I’d learned that the kind of pain I experienced wasn’t solved by geography, but by the spirit. My spirit had been plagued by anger, bitterness, selfishness, and resistance to any sort of aid—and in turn, my mentality, maturity, and belief system were closed-minded and shallow. More on this will be elaborated upon in Part 2.

JUST THE BEGINNING

What is important to note here and now is that this isn’t the end of my story. This is just the first step in the path. All of this, as it were, marked by darkness, bitterness, and despair–this is not the end of anyone’s story. This is the reason for Part 1 and 2; I need you, as the reader, to fully grasp this picture as its own image, because when you understand the rest of the story, you will come to see where the transformation is, where God’s hand was, and how it’s a matter of taking a leap of faith to see what even our physical eyes cannot. In Part 2, I will explain all of this so that you can see for yourself that our pain and our questions have answers and solutions, even if it doesn’t seem like it yet. I can tell you right now that despite my pain, God is still good!!

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me at my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. I’ll do my best to respond as promptly as possible. May God bless you today!

Jolt

Movie Review: The Case For Christ

Based on the book written by Lee Strobel, “The Case For Christ” pensively digs into Lee’s elaborate journey and bold attempt to disprove the legitimacy of the gospel claims that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Along the way, he faces the reality of witnessing his wife seemingly transformed by her newfound faith—and, ultimately, he discovers a truth beyond his wildest expectations. 

“The Case for Christ” is long overdue, and was incredibly refreshing to see on the big screen.

THE DEPTH OF SKEPTICISM

One of my personally favorite aspects of “The Case For Christ” was the relevant and very real skepticism. As a previous atheist myself, this entire film was extremely relatable as it pervasively and heavily questioned the roots and foundation of Christianity: Did Jesus raise from the dead? How can we know? Did Jesus even actually die

What tops off the heaviness in the film like icing on the cake is that it answers every last question with such refreshing perspectives and scientifically founded research by the world’s most renowned scientists, skeptics, and writers (obviously portrayed by actors here). No stone is left unturned—even in the sense that the pinnacle of all questions for the skeptic, “How much evidence is enough?” is given the time and space to breathe.

NOT TAKING SIDES

I appreciated this film’s ability to take belief in Christ as seriously as it took atheism, giving both points of view equal weight without trying to take sides. This approach allows the viewer to watch, observe, contemplate, and ultimately face the very difficult question: “What do you believe?”

While the film’s finale does have an answer for the main character (since this film is based on a true story and the events have already unfolded), it still leaves room for the viewer to decide for themselves what makes more sense, and which direction they would rather take the questions and answers. What is admirable about such a Christian film like this, and what is truly powerful in the end, is how this film’s message is not “Believe! Faith the right answer!” Rather, it is, “These are the facts, the evidence, and the answers to these questions. Now, what do you make of it?” In other words, by no means does this film try to claim that one way is right and the other wrong. There is simply, “If you don’t agree, how do you explain it, then?” For me, as an audience member, that gave the film stats for being confident enough not to need to be trying to prove itself.

A CHRISTIAN FILM THAT DOESN’T FEEL FORCED

Every conversation in this movie has a strong, welcoming sense of realism to it. There are the atheists and the believers, but Jon Gunn places careful weight into each scene of dialogue, balancing a story based on true events and grounding the conversations inspired by a man’s journey through controversy and doubt, surrounded by facts pointing in an unexpected direction and the egocentric tenacity to be right before being open-minded.

There have been several films that have tried to include the message of Jesus but awkwardly end up portraying evangelism as forced and overplayed. Sometimes the “evangelism scenes” have been so obvious as to be cringeworthy as the viewer sinks in his or her seat trying to escape the awkwardness of a camera centered on an actor’s face clearly reading dialogue that didn’t come from their mouthes first. In “The Case For Christ,” these issues are refreshingly replaced with genuine emotion and authentic angst. Here, believers do not produce cringeworthy moments. These scenes, back-to-back, are so natural as to be inviting. Each scene seems to point to the next without trying to hold your hand or convince you of anything. The script speaks for itself, and it does so flawlessly.

Once more I will add how atheism in this film is given the space to speak skepticism and scrutiny into the most scandalized and controversial story in human history—and, important to note, this is not done by making the unbeliever to be the “bad guy,” but simply as another curious character in the story.

Lee faces challenges of his own as his friends oppose his rigidity while he journeys to discover answers to the most difficult and straining Christian questions. What is so riveting about witnessing these questions unfold into deeper, more challenging questions and equally satisfying discoveries throughout the movie is how we are invited to intimately take part in these difficult conversations—drawn in by their relatability and firm grounding. Reason being, we would be asking the same questions if we had never honestly or intentionally pursued the answers of such a heavily influenced faith before, and we would be just as skeptical if we started off without any answers. Mike Vogel portrays this doubt and skepticism so naturally that it is a heart-wrenching, mind-bending experience to follow him through his story, realizing there’s no way around the facts; this helps the viewer both empathize with his frustration, while simultaneously and incorrigibly feeling inspired by the results. 

THE BEST LOVE STORY

The love story here is unlike any other we’ve seen before. An atheistic couple becomes traumatized when their daughter almost chokes to death before their eyes, and when a random Samaritan comes to their aid, their lives change forever. Lee’s wife (portrayed beautifully by Erika Christensen) is the first to feel the effects of the miracle and cannot let go of what has embraced her heart through the unthinkable. Her spirit is moved and transformed, and soon enough she is seeing everything differently through the eyes of a faith she never thought she would have given a second thought to. 

What’s beautiful is the way this transformation plays into her marriage with Lee, and their daughter. Throughout the movie, this marriage relationship is the framework for the story. As Lee chases the answers to the controversy of a resurrected Messiah to prove once and for all how hokey it is—his marriage is directly impacted by both his tenacity to be right, and his wife’s oppositional desire to draw him into the love that she has discovered by faith in the transcendent God of the Bible she reads. Experiencing their scenes together as their story unfolds is extremely moving, inspiring, heart-breaking, full of substance, and absent of any wasted time. Their marriage is portrayed with the realistically problematic characteristics of a couple experiencing the stress of disagreement and change, and simultaneously the desire to not lose one another no matter the cost. Truly, as a born-again Christian myself, watching this relationship on-screen brought tears to my eyes more than once as I carefully considered the reality behind every line spoken, every motive and every hope of each character, delicately and passionately moved for both of them to grow closer and not farther apart. 

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS MOVIE

Whether or not you are a Christ-follower matters not with regards to whether you should see this movie or not. By the time this movie ended and the credits rolled, I felt very grateful for the experience because I didn’t feel as though I was favored by the movie for being a Christian, and I didn’t get the impression that atheists were targeted or shoved into the corner and given some kind of speech or pep talk. This film speaks candidly, informatively, open-mindedly, and factually with evidence that has been retrieved regarding the resurrection, and the best part of this movie is the delivery: There is no preaching here. Yes, there are multiple scenes which take place in a church building, but these scenes are used in context. Rather than being “those scenes with the preacher,” these scenes are used for the purpose of motivation; we come to understand the lead characters on deeper level by seeing them interact with different environments as they try to discover more about this “Jesus” they have been introduced to through others.

I love how human this movie is, so down to Earth. There is nothing about this film that tries to be more than it is organically. This film is open-minded and simultaneously well-informed—so much so that the only debate is between the viewer and him/herself. 

PARENTAL ADVISORY

This film is rated PG, and just about all of the rating lends itself to the subject matter and thematic material associated with it. The rating is not so much referring to any viscerally inappropriate content. There are some hand-drawn images of the crucifixion and examples of various aspects of the flogging, and while they are not gratuitous, they do imply, unambiguously, what happened to Jesus in the last 12 hours of his life. Be discerning of whether or not your child can or should handle viewing images of crucifixion-related events–even if they are not portrayed with actors and gruesome effects/makeup. These images are, of course, brief enough that you could cover your child’s eyes and not have them miss several minutes worth of the film. There is also a scene of domestic drama late in the film which, for its own right, is certainly something to be mindful of for children who are sensitive to altercation. But, to be clear, there is no graphic violence, nor any obscene language. Lastly, there is a hospital visit scene in which a prisoner’s face is shown after a beating, and it may be slightly unsettling for young children. Again, please use your own discernment with regards to your child’s sensitivity. Other than these details, the film does not contain anything so inappropriate that a child would need to be shielded.

Overall, I give “The Case For Christ” a 5/5. There is story, character development, great writing, and fantastic delivery on all fronts. This film will challenge, inspire, and inquire that you question further anything you don’t understand. The film motivates us not to leave anything unfinished. Lee Strobel went to the end of his rope trying to prove the resurrection was a hoax, and ultimately, he was shocked to discover a different set of answers. That doesn’t mean you will as well, but it does mean that when we search for the answers, and if the answers themselves don’t seem strong enough, we can ask ourselves, “How much evidence is enough?” Even an atheist must take a leap of faith to believe there is nothing to believe. 

CONNECT WITH ME

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. 

Did anyone else enjoy watching this film? Feel free to leave those thoughts below as well. God bless you!!

Unravel

The Rationality Of God’s Existence

I grew up all too closely to the terms “gullible” and “naive,” when my people at school would speak disparagingly in my direction. Even my siblings seemed to tower over me at times with what seemed to be such an experience beyond that of my own. In hindsight, I understand now that I hadn’t lived my own life in such a challenging environment where my character and soul could find its greatest match. As an adult, however, I have come to see what matters in life by living far beyond that of my comfort zones and familiarity; not just on the subjective scale of what matters most to me, but from watching the news from others’ (if political) perspective of importance, from witnessing the political and spiritual altercations of social media (users denigrating others for their beliefs rather than trying to understand the source of another’s perspective), gleaning from research-based books regarding the psychology of the mind and spirit from a global standpoint; reading the Word of God, living in several places over the last eight years, and experiencing friendship after friendship—gaining an understanding of humanity through the way people live and think over the course of many years, discovering the soul behind their decisions, actions, and belief systems. One of the many things I have learned through these experiences has taught me what procures gullibility, what reinstates naivety, and what has the power to motivate us beyond them both.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE

What I want to do is take the concepts of gullibility and naivety and help clarify to others what it means to be gullible and naive with regards to faith in Jesus. The reason why I want to write this is because I believe there is an association made in error towards those of faith; that faith itself is a naive approach to life, and that gullibility is the approach of a person who might consider something like faith. My hope is that when we are finished, we will have a new, or hopefully refreshed perspective on what we believe makes a person naive or gullible with regards to the value which they place in faith.

THE DETRIMENTS OF PRESUMPTION

Being easily persuaded to believe something is synonymous with the unwillingness to slow down enough to understand the belief behind the persuasion. That is gullibility. Gullibility is not synonymous with stupidity, but with the laziness in choosing not to understand the source merit of a promise, accepting instead a false promise on the basis of its own uncredited merit. 

Gullibility is the consummation of an unmerited promise with the unknown. When we are gullible, we take our presumptions to a level where we expect our beliefs to explain the complexities by which the entire world operates. For instance, we may expect certain people to be nice, others to be trustworthy, and yet others to be dangerous and hostile. While there are many ways we construct these lists in our minds, the core problem is centered on the way we are presuming our beliefs based on limited information and expecting the digestion and retention of that limited information to form a complete picture. Gullibility is like preparing a gourmet meal made of cheese, bread, and crackers, and surprised when it refuses to satisfy our craving for flavor.

GOD’S EXISTENCE: TWO VIEWS THAT EXPLAIN ITS RATIONALITY

The secular argument against Christianity hits a scabrous dry wall when it claims believers cannot prove the Biblical God’s existence as a rational belief. I have two points I would like to propose in this article which contend with the secular view that God’s existence is irrational. My first point can be made in Timothy Keller’s book, Making Sense Of God, where he writes six compelling reasons why, rationally speaking, it makes more sense to believe God exists than to believe He doesn’t.

#1 – THE UNOBVIOUS

The six ways which he lists (although he admits there are more) are cosmic wonder (something cannot come from nothing, so where did everything come from that has come to exist?), perceived design (“In terms of probability, the chances that all of the dials ((speed of light, gravitational constant, and strength of the strong and weak nuclear forces)) would be turned to sustain life-permitting settings all at once are about 10 to the 100th power”), moral realism (most everyone can agree that there are certain deeds that are simply “wrong,” no matter how ones feels about it. But without God, this sense of moral obligation has no basis), consciousness (the fact that we are “conscious, idea-making” individuals points more rationally to a conscious, idea-making God—rather than the empty notion that our consciousness is “no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules”), beauty and reason (our aesthetic senses tell us there is a difference between the hormonal response to a woman’s voluptuous shape, and our awe in capturing a beautiful landscape; although they both derive from our admiration of beauty, only one can be traced back as an evolutionary advantage used in ancient times for survival ((man’s attraction to the female body as a sign of the woman’s fertility, and reproduction was a means for survival)), the other cannot—making it a more viable explanation that beauty is a God-given gift unassociated with anything survival-related. Our sense of reason cannot break this down because there is no scientific breakthrough or explanation for it, but belief in a personal God of reason certainly can).

#2 –  TESTIMONY

My second point regards the power of personal testimony. My testimony, as well as everyone who has been born again—has a story. Each story has a tragedy and a rebirth. The tragedy appears to be death itself to the person while they are still living the life of disbelief, viewing pain as a curse from the universe and tragedy as a reason to declare as obsolete the idea of a loving God. Trauma coerces the unbelieving heart, causing it to be subjected to the detriments of presumption; imagining if there is a God, the only God that must exist is evil because He allows evil to happen to “good people.” But who defines what is good or bad?

The response to this comes in the form of Timothy Keller’s point on moral reasoning (a phenomenal chapter in Making Sense Of God), which states that if people believe there are certain moral absolutes–certain deeds which are strictly “good” or “bad” regardless of people’s feelings about the aforementioned deeds—that we are bereft of an argument claiming there is no God from which our moral sense derives from to claim a person is either good or bad. If we cannot route our sense of morality back to ancient times for the purpose of survival, nor associate the origin of morality to the theory of evolution (neither of which could adequately explain the way humans view morality, let alone moral absolutes today), then we are without a reason to claim that our sense of morality isn’t in itself a compelling reason to believe in the existence of a personal, moral God by which to define whether a person is good or bad.

HOW THE RATIONALITY OF GOD’S EXISTENCE EXPLAINS OUR PURPOSE

Many times, unbelievers (like myself, many years ago) fall prey to the detriment of presumption without understanding their reason for blaming or denying certain ideologies and their foundations. Without first explicating theology or the origins of such dichotomous concepts such as morality, our presumptions that our disbelief is rooted in anything firm or auspicious cannot lead to a life where what we do, how we think, or what we believe has any transformational impact on the way we live our lives. And why would we need anything to act as a transformational impact? Because each and every person desires purpose for their lives, whether they can acknowledge it, recognize it, perceive it or not—and the only way we can explain our intrinsic need for purpose is to understand where we come from so that we can understand more clearly where we’re going—which in itself is the substance of the journey we are on called life, where we constantly ask ourselves why we are still here.

So you can see, the main difference between a believer and an unbeliever when altercating over God’s existence is that the unbeliever demands empirical proof, while the believer understands that the only way for an unbeliever to find the rational explanation he is searching for is to surrender their unknowns to faith, acknowledging that the questions without answers are actually answerable with the belief in a personal, loving, moral, omnipresent God who created us to be in relationship with Him above all else.

TESTIMONY PAINTS A PICTURE RATIONALITY WANTS TO BELIEVE

Through testimony, the transformation that occurs within a person is unmatched with any other experience because the transformation triggers so deep within a person that their entire character is made new; the way they speak is inspired with new words of hope and faith, their thoughts are reformed with optimism and joy; their actions are made new with the decision to love others in noticeable, impactful ways because they are first loved by a personal God named Jesus who died in their place and rose again. This kind of testimony is unmatched, and rationality cannot explain it; but it wants to believe that this transformation is possible because to be able to understand it is to transform how rationality itself functions altogether. If rationality could understand the way transformation on a soul-level works, it would not contradict faith because it would understand that the basis for faith does not require ratiocination, but simply an open mind, a receptive heart, and a willing soul.

NAIVETY CANNOT EXPLAIN MARTYRDOM

To claim a Christian is naive for believing in Jesus as Lord is in itself irrational because to claim that the transformation of an atheist into a Christian is naive is to say that their transformation is an illusion, or that they’re really just faking it. Can we really claim someone would be so naive as to die for their faith? When we consider how many Christians are killed for their faith in Christ, we must argue that these people are not naive, but rather that they are committed, loyal, and faithful to a belief something beyond that of rationality and logic. They are not committed to numbers, formulas, rituals, or religion, and they aren’t committed to the idea that everything exists “just because,” no, they claim that their loving God died for them in the flesh and that His resurrection is their saving grace from a life spent believing that their every deed done in His name goes unnoticed and without any meaning.

Naivety declares that a person lacks wisdom, experience, or judgment, and yet, as we have seen from both Timothy Keller’s argument in his rational thesis for God’s existence—as well as personal testimony of any and all Christians—naivety cannot explain someone whose life has been transformed so deeply within that their entire experience is made new in both perspective (mindset) and in lifestyle (action).

THE REFLECTION OF GULLIBILITY

To claim believers are gullible is a weak argument targeted for those who never read the Word, never attend a Bible study, who do not enter a church building and spend time worshipping with community, and who preach the gospel but who live hypocritical lives full of adultery, substance abuse, vulgarity, laziness, narcissism, and ostentatious pride. People who claim they know Jesus but are quick to judge others have yet to see the log in their own eye, as much as they have yet to fully receive and accept the love and forgiveness from Christ in their hearts.

A FAITH THAT ANSWERS THE QUESTIONS OF RATIONALITY AND RESCINDS NAIVETY

Gullibility is a believer who agrees with the words being spoken but doesn’t understand their purpose; who consequently isn’t transformed, and therefore cannot put on display how Jesus has impacted him on an intrinsic level. Gullibility is a man (or woman) who hears the Word of God but who only hears its words, rather than receiving the promise it declares. The Word of God is meant to inspire us, to teach us, to challenge us, and to transform us—and when it doesn’t, what’s happened is that the reader has rejected the free gift of life promised through Jesus, given us by God Himself. The Bible is the story of the redemption of humanity through Jesus, and when a believer is called naive for believing that, the only viable argument is that the person initiating the claim has not received the promise that is the purpose of the Bible. Without receiving the promise as a life-changing transformation, rationality remains to be its own explanation of faith, condemning “belief in the unknown” to be proactive gullibility; when in truth, faith in God fills in the blanks which rationality leaves behind by not dismissing the unknowns with excuses rooted in detrimental presumptions, and answering the questions of rationality with the empirical truth of testimony.

CONNECT WITH ME

If you resonated with what you read in this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. May God bless you as you process these thoughts and come to the table with thoughts or questions of your own. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. May God meet you where you are and affirm you in ways you never imagined before. In Jesus name!

Prudent