Spiritual Peripheries: The War Between Nihilism and Faith

HEAVY SPIRITUAL BURDEN

In the spiritual static of despair, doubt roams steadily but uneasily, prepared to consume and destroy but unable to capitulate the desire to understand and heal.

For several weeks now, I have been experiencing a heavy spiritual burden that has had me vacillating between the darkness of disbelief and the hope that the pieces will eventually fall into place before I lose my sanity, my faith, or both. 

From the buoyancy of this spiritual ambivalence comes the whirlwind, the inner-storm, of misunderstanding the roots of faith itself. What do you believe, and why do you believe it? These are the questions my storm has brought to me the last several weeks, and the lingering silence has been haunting me. What could cause a believer to doubt and question in this way? Which direction does doubt take the precarious Christian? If you find it in yourself to follow my pattern of thought and self-examination, we will search for the clarity of truth underneath this lull of uncertain theism.

LOGIC’S INCOMPREHENSION OF FAITH

In hindsight, I realized a while ago that for the majority of the past 8 years, I’ve been trying to understand Jesus through the conduit of logic. It’s no surprise then, looking back over how my faith came to be, that if I am to find logic as one of the pillars of how I came to grasp what faith is and what it means to me, then my foundations have indeed been frivolous and fallible. In retrospect, understanding faith through logic is like estimating the loyalty of a relationship by scoring how many kisses and hugs prescribe genuine commitment. There is no such equation, of course, and as such, the “formula” to faith is arbitrary and oppositional to any methodical delineation of digits or images. Faith is unlike logic in that it commences in the spirit. Concordantly, one must in the least acknowledge belief in both the human spirit (in addition to the body) as well as a personal, sentient God to grasp more fully the significant purpose of the Christian God in Jesus Christ.

THE REASONING OF AN ATHEIST

An atheist commenting on one of my previous articles turned into an e-mail discussion between the two of us, which eventually culminated in his inquiring for “good reasoning” in order to believe in God and Jesus. In light of arguing God’s existence over the constituents of logic and reasoning, the reason for belief in God comes down to purpose. When I disbelieved in both God and Jesus back 10 years ago, I was nearly certain I had no purpose, which is why I wanted to end my life. The atheist I confabulated with expressed himself with stubborn, austere logic, preventing him from viewing Jesus as any more than a fantasy conjured in the imaginative minds of ancient authors from millenniums past. Reasoning itself, I find, is the schism between the conduit of faith and logic, since logic and faith use different patterns of reasoning to understand their own platforms of belief. Let me explain.

LOGIC VS. FAITH

Logic is made viable through the reasoning of mathematics, formulas, particulars and specifics to reach a narrow and condensed table of exacts. Faith is a much more open-ended platform which allows room for belief in the spirit to expand what we declare to know and believe about our own metaphysical existence—apart from our physical, bodily existence in this three-dimensional world. If one grows skeptical over this “expansion” of belief, the believer could ask the skeptic to explain, from their point of view, the otherwise mysterious paranormal activities and spiritual interventions, such as bodily possession, dramatized vocal changes, telekinetic movement of inanimate objects—and all of these apart from the more “benevolent” testimonies of the inner transformation of murderers and addicts into devoted Christians committing their life to Jesus, praising His name publicly and living drastically altered lifestyles after declaring Jesus as Lord. Logic cannot adequately examine such miracles with mathematical particulars. These are beyond explanation, as they act solely as their own evidence in spiritualized empiricism. 

“THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL”

The foggy haze I’ve experienced for the last several weeks has kept my spirituality from moving out of stagnancy and into growth. I’ve considered the possibility that I’m experiencing what is known as the “Dark Night of the Soul,” (St. John of the Cross, 1542-1591) and it’s quite possible this is far from over. This spiritual stint is as unpredictable as it is unmeasurable, since the purification of the soul is commensurate with how much space in the spirit the grace of God frees and opens in the vessel He is refining.

Such a darkness is very familiar to me, especially since I spent years devoting my spirit (though I didn’t believe in the spirit at the time) to doubt and rage, becoming familiar with agnosticism, disbelief, loneliness, and suffering. Familiarity with these led me to expect them to remain my rock and comforters, rather than Jesus. Therefore the darkness in correspondence with “The Dark Night of the Soul” is merely different in the way this new darkness is wielded by God with the intention of making my faith stronger through the conduits of humility, surrender, and reformation; whereas the darkness from many years ago was initiated and manipulated by traumatic circumstances.

Unrestrained familiarity with misery, suffering, and pain (i.e. emotional trauma) would affect a person’s clarity in discerning the reasoning for their belief, as well as awareness of that belief—by confining the conduits of clarity and reasoning to the darkest recesses of the human psyche; namely, the claustrophobic anti-belief of nihilism—that everything we do, are, and experience hopelessly exist without meaning or purpose. 

THE ANTI-THEISM OF NIHILISM

Spiritual tension-turned-rebellion, born of aggressive unbelief, is a sure-fire trajectory into the dangerously obscured, empty waters of nihilism. How is this true? Spiritual tension is the static thought between our desire for purpose and our denial of its manifestation in our lives, and when this static thought is left undeveloped or unmoved, it can transmute to the colorless backdrop of nihilistic beliefs, beginning with the fallacy that purpose itself is an ideological myth conjured in order for people to tolerate the inevitable tragedy of suffering.

Ultimately, every person believes in something, if nothing less than the something of nothingness (the anti-theism born of nihilism). In order to incarnate the belief in nothingness into its own ideology however, one must incorporate the anti-belief into action by implementing a lifestyle commensurate with the immaterial of its corresponding anti-faith. In order to accept such a broad, ambiguous, and practically anarchic freedom from spirituality or religiosity, one must force-feed themselves the tentative possibility that purpose does not matter, inferring that the significance of meaning itself is purely subjective. In effect, this inference demands that we indefatigably consider accepting that we need neither (purpose nor meaning) to determine whether or not either are mandatory to live a fulfilling, complete life.

SEVERING EMOTIONAL BONDS

Surely we can try to imagine a life without purpose, but such a life demands the severing of emotional association or attachment; connections to people and things which feed us the feeling of acceptance and belonging. Purpose demands that a person finds an intrinsic truth regarding his or her life in feeling connected to a person or thing, and that that connection is their reason to live. We innately seek a feeling of connection, belonging, and acceptance, as this is the criteria from which we search our lives for purpose. Oppositely, the severing of bonds as required of nihilism demands that we retire this criteria and resist/ignore/avoid the desire to connect at all.

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF PURPOSELESSNESS

The very substance of relationships is how we sense our purpose inside the connections we feel safest in. Safety guards our purpose with closure, rebuking the fear we have of losing our purpose and ensuring our existence with the emotional belief that we need connection to live. Purposelessness demands the opposite, requiring that we sever this connection and live under the belief that we need nothing; the thoughts in our head and the repetition of routine—or the adventure of spontaneity—survive merely as luxurious conveniences and psychological appendages stuffed within the unnecessary fat of our brain. However, these “appendages” are also connected to us via purpose—we derive a sense of purpose from either being on the go, or being swept up by the monotonous flow of expecting our life to mirror itself day-by-day. In other words, even what we may refer to as a literalistic sense of purposelessness requires that we remain connected to purpose in such a way as to continue living in the wavelength of a predictably phlegmatic nonchalance.

Ultimately, there is no such thing as purposelessness, as even declaring ourselves without purpose commands that we seek purpose in some other materialistic way. To be completely without purpose would infer a premature nonexistence; not even in death, but only in never having been born into an earthly body in the first place would we no longer carry a purpose. We would then be void of the spirit sustaining this psychological dichotomy between living for someone or something, and living only for the uncompromising dissatisfaction of materialism—both of which require a connection to purpose through the conduit of belief to remain coherently true.

NIHILISM’S CATCH 22

If we are to accept that we have a purpose, then we must also accept the truth behind nihilism, namely that it is a lie attempting to manipulate us into believing there is nothing to believe. Since that is the fundamental root of nihilism, which in itself is a belief, then what we can gather is that the purpose of nihilism is to believe that there is nothing to believe—or, in other words—a “catch 22.” Once we accept this ‘catch’ as a lie, we simultaneously grasp the truth of our purpose, which promises—through the Christian faith—that our most intrinsic need is to connect, belong, be accepted, feel loved, and trust this feeling of safety within the parameters of intimacy (fellowship)—through our belief that life is fulfilled by experiencing intimacy with other people by the love and grace of God through Jesus. 

A DARK BURDEN REVEALED

This said, as a believer unsure of the source point from which my faith originally began, I am curious to understand the basis of the faith I first started ingesting 8 years ago. My reasoning for this choice is this. Either I completely engage with Jesus, or I pull back entirely by refusing Him. If I refused Jesus access to my heart and gave Him a definitive “no” for an answer (which isn’t something I’m prepared to do), I believe I would end up returning to the lonely, dejecting life of doubt and uncertainty which, after the terrible despair of my adolescent years, I know would be far more severe. Aware of this, I am not ready to refuse Jesus, but careful to tread the waters slowly, unsure of whether this water is where I belong (purpose); not so much because of whether it is too “hot” or “cold,” (preferable or not) but based on whether or not it is the life I feel (spiritually) intrinsically associated with. For example, there are places in this world where each of us feel out of place, out of sync, and disconnected—not only with our environment and the people in it, but also with ourselves. This disconnectedness is our spirit speaking to our subconscious, making known that we don’t belong there and commanding that we find the place where we do. In likeness, I need to comprehend my connectedness with Jesus to move forward with Him.

This is how I know I don’t belong within the torture of refusing Jesus: I can sense—even in the hospitable rumination of denying Him—that He would let me turn away to walk towards to the darkest of the black of anti-faith to allow me to experience the burden I had chosen, in order to reveal why I would ultimately choose to come running back to Him, sincerely desperate for a Savior once more.

THE SOURCE OF THE BATTLE

Sometimes, in the midst of spiritual chaos, there is no happy ending in sight. That is a reality just as there is no war without bloodshed and pain. We began our introspection with the question, “What do you believe, and why?” This question leads us in many directions without an effective compass. We know we cannot expect logic to help us determine a direction because the brain cannot comprehend the spirit. In the middle of this desert-like darkness myself, I have few helpful words to write about where to turn to other than towards the hope that a response from Jesus will come. I am not without any personal experiences inviting me to believe Jesus is real in my life, but I am attempting to understand whether my previous experiences conjured a belief I wanted to cling to for the sake of having something to cling to (careening on the periphery of nihilism while insinuating a lack of genuine surrender to the invitation of Christianity from the start), or whether my beliefs were conjured inevitably from a supernatural source of spiritual transcendence (grace). 

A GLIMMER OF HOPE

Despite my storm, I believe faith to be necessary because without it, we leave all our questions and curiosities without answers or explanations— without even so much as acknowledgement that our questions and yearning to understand derive from our desire to know our life purpose.

Our need to know our purpose is given to us from our Creator, and it is my awareness of this which gives me the one and only glimmer of hope that there must be a reason I want the belief in Jesus as Lord to make more sense in my spirit, and less like an “I told you so” from the outside world. It is this desire to understand why I would want Jesus to be my Lord that keeps me from asking Him to leave me in utter darkness. Moving forward, may God open our eyes and help us to see the Truth He has called us to embrace, and be transformed by his grace in the process. I pray this for myself and for you, in the name of Jesus.

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Foggy

Grasping Our Reason To Live

MODERN EMPIRICISM AND OUR REASON TO LIVE

Although some of us seemingly give up immediately while others do not, every one of us searches for a reason to live on after something tragic, difficult, or painful happens. Why is that? Through intuition of the spirit, humans can perceive a truth, subtle or otherwise, as to why we are here on this Earth. That truth, when examined closely, points to far more than mere pleasure-seeking. When we pretend we don’t require an answer to our questions about purpose, or when the answer we receive is not the one want—we may deny our instincts and live a life unlike the one we imagined to be more satisfying or exciting. The truth is that we are here for a reason, and if we can’t seem discover the answer to “what reason?” through our spirit, we may try to figure it out with the use of logic and reasoning—depending on and trusting in science and the theories of modern empiricism to give us an answer we consider easier to digest. However, is “more digestible” also more true?

The problem with this approach will be explored in the first portion of this article. Later, I will explore the more sensitive topic of Christianity and how faith plays a role in the lives of many who fall away from their faith in the belief that God isn’t truly real or that Jesus isn’t truly God. How does a person get to this place? How can we avoid it and help others not to? We will explore this together as well.

THE PROBLEM BETWEEN PURPOSE AND LOGIC

When we rely solely on logic and reason to make sense of life, two titans of existentialism—purpose and meaning—lose their essence. If purpose undermines logic, insofar as understanding purpose does not demand the human mind to find value in something as precious as the comfort of breathing without pain (i.e. Equating a difficult breathing pattern to “life is terrible”)—then purpose knows its identity without needing approval from the body. Put differently, purpose finds value in the most infinitesimal living matter; such as the “awe” in the awe-inspiring beauty of the sky, the pensive appreciation of a butterfly’s spotted wings, or the humbling treasure of hearing a child’s playful laugh—because it is not measuring by size; rather, purpose measures by quality and significance.

In other words, purpose breathes whether or not we do. While logic is enraptured by numbers and equations, ratiocination and patterns—purpose is birthed by sentiment, meaningfulness, emotion, generosity, selflessness, and truth. Logic and reason may be indirect conduits by which purpose can be viewed or considered, but logic cannot explicate the complex mechanism that is life without ignoring the intrinsic aspects of the soul. Our soul cannot fit into a pattern any more than God can be fit into a box. Therefore, when our search for life’s meaning and purpose is searched for using any one criterial facet of logic, the journey automatically culminates in disappointment because the very nature of logic fails to understand the depth of purpose and its intrinsic measurement of quality.

PURPOSE DEMANDS FAITH

The failure to understand the human soul is evidenced by the inability of the intellect to counteract the proposition that our lives are meaningless. Because the sentiment we associate with the meaning of life is so sensitive, our intellect is incapable of understanding or grasping the weight of such significance. Intellect may try to explain it but it cannot discern or sense its power. Needless to say, intellect disappoints immediately, whereas purpose demands a higher calling for life’s meaning than any intellectual explanation can offer. Purpose demands substance from the unseen, the untouched; the transcendent. What substance? we ask. The substance of faith, to be clear. Purpose demands faith. Let me explain.

Faith instills within our existence a meaningful dimension nothing else can make known. When we solely rely on anything outside of faith, the lack of meaningful interaction between faith and intellect ends up forcing us to face the emptiness of our reason to keep going. This is what I faced during the stint leading up to my discovery of faith; I came to a breaking point where I decided if I could not find an authentic reason to keep living, I would end my life. If you have not already, you may read my testimony here

When we associate the purpose of our lives with this world, the tangible, or empirical (all of our experiences within grasp of our five immediate biological senses)—becomes our idol, and the only significance we can conjure from this tangible world is our depraved desperation for pleasure that is never quenched regardless of the habit, addiction, or lifestyle we adhere to.

BORN AGAIN

What is all of this leading to? Purpose and a meaningful life are particularly fond terms in Christianity—mainly because being “born again” refers to the process of surrendering our self-devised purpose for a higher purpose given to us after rebirth, by God. The difference is that our self-devised purpose is built on the tragedy of narcissism and the vacuity of stubbornness. God’s purpose for us is birthed from His sovereignty and selfless love.

How does a man think he knows Christ when in fact he only knows an idea of Christ? Why have some people who professed to be Christian ended up killing themselves? We ask ourselves at what point God was for them. We wonder what purpose they had in “finding Jesus” just to die in the end. This is a sensitive subject. I’d like to touch on this, even briefly, as delicately as I can.

THE BIRTH OF HELL

A believer is called to follow Christ through every adversity he is given, turning to Jesus and surrendering his fear, worry, panic, anger, bitterness, and doubt—straight into the hands of his loving Savior. When a believer refuses this humbling aspect of the Christian walk, they deny themselves the blessing and fruit of a budding relationship with Jesus—and this, when planted consistently, is the seed to the malady of disobedience, disbelief, and ultimately Hell. Hell is more than an eternal place of damnation; it begins in the void of the soul, where our mind—ill-equipped with disbelief—succumbs to disobedience as unbelief and doubt take over the spirit in a body which dies never having known Christ (Matthew 7:21-23). Hell finishes in eternity for the soul who never fully surrendered his or her life to the vocation of humbling themselves before God in desperation for His grace, gratefulness for His love, awestruck by His compassion; relieved by His forgiveness, and ultimately transformed by His resurrection.

I will return to this in the last paragraph of this article.

FAITHFUL OR FAITHLESS?

How often do we consider where we stand when we contemplate the meaning of life and our purpose here on Earth? Why even ask the question? We worry about money, sex, relationships, food, and making it to our appointments on time, but what about considering the impression we leave behind with those who only have the chance to watch us scurry off in a hurry? Our heart beats, but not forever. Where do we place the trust of our decisions each day? The choice of a Christian to be faithful in Jesus by surrendering our fleshly desires when we feel swayed towards disobedience is our only way to make a difference capable of sending a ripple of hope into eternity. Oppositely, living solely from the character of egocentrism would send a ripples echoing the void of narcissism, comprised of a life stuck at work; always in a hurry, never present, barely grateful, absent of humility and unforgiving of others’ imperfections. Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), a faithless life lacking in obedience and surrender to a power beyond selfish ambition is a grotesque caricature of the human experience. We weren’t born to live for ourselves, and yet so many of us do, even many of us who claim to know Christ.

How do we know if we know Him?

GOD FINISHES WHAT HE STARTS

First off, God finishes the work He starts in us (Philippians 1:6). This is a promise. If He has started work in your soul, He will finish that work. A person who considers the faith and thinks about the faith but never walks the walk is somewhere between an agnostic and a pagan—but not a Christian. It is entirely unbiblical to say that Jesus claimed us but that the invitation wasn’t strong enough to keep us walking through the narrow gate. Jesus compels the soul (2 Corinthians 5:14), and there is no “realizing later on” that Jesus is fake unless we never understood He was real.

THE NASCENCE OF CHRISTIANITY

To not understand He is real and to disbelieve in His glory are one and the same. Furthermore, to never believe He was real or even to claim He might have been is not belief. Pushing further still, to claim to believe He is real, to go to church and praise Him, to be kind to others on behalf of Him, to pray with others in His name—but to never have known Him personally–is still unbelief. But how can we know someone we never physically met? we ask. Jesus Christ gave us the Holy Spirit when He ascended. This is His sure promise to be with us during every moment of every day. When we do not receive the gift of His spirit, we have not received Him in full. We will know when we know Him by how much of ourselves we surrender in the faith and pursuit of receiving His spirit, seeking transformation in His name. In the transformation of our spirit from its sinful form to the sinless form of Christ’s resurrected spirit, rebirth occurs; the nascence of our Christian walk and the beginning of our personal relationship with Jesus. 

THE SOUL OF REBIRTH

To receive Jesus is to receive new life (spiritually and mentally). This is how we know we have fully come to believe: When we feel His life in ours, speak His words for ours, feel His desires for ours, and live His life as ours. To claim Jesus exists is easy even for demons (James 2:19); this is not rebirth, for the demons believe and still perish because their works do not proclaim Him, but rather, try to destroy Him (which is impossible). Therefore, proclamation is not the seed to rebirth. Actions validate what our words cannot prove. To worship and pray and celebrate but not believe will not lead to surrender or humility, and it will not seek His grace to spiritually penetrate our souls. 

LOGIC CANNOT MAKE SENSE OF REBIRTH

Putting everything together, the disappointing reality of logic—when faced with spirituality—is clearly evidence that when we live solely from our intellect, the disappointment is grave enough to undermine our intrinsic sense of purpose; evidence of the cogent veracity of faith. By living in the faith of Jesus, we can know with certainty the reality of our personal relationship with Jesus by the way we actively seek and pursue transformation from within our spirit; His love overcoming our selfishness; His humility undermining our pride by exposing it to His divine presence; His omnipresence refocusing our loneliness on His unceasing attention to our deepest needs, and His invitation for us to be known and to belong within a community of people who live, serve, and love each other by His grace.

A SUBTLE FORM OF PRIDE

Logic cannot make sense of this reality or its process, nor can it emanate the hope faith naturally exhales into our souls. To live from reason and logic is to live within limited means of our full potential. What’s more detrimentally true is how living within these limited means keeps us believing we can love each other selflessly based on a goodness we already have; one of our more subtle forms of pride. There is no form of selfless love we are capable of perceiving or extending without the grace God. To claim any credit is to turn away from the goodness of God and to claim ourselves worthy without first receiving salvation; an irreversible dichotomy we cannot win. This is why Christianity is a life-long lesson in delayed gratification as much as it is a walk of humility: One cannot live with faith in Christ without first being humbled into the subservience of the God who sacrificed Him. Concordantly, one cannot patiently wait in anticipation of the undeserved reward of Heaven without first receiving the blessing of humility to desire it without boastfulness in the first place. 

SHARING JESUS WITH THE WORLD

We ask ourselves the painful questions surrounding the reality of professed believers who end their own lives. In response, what we can take away is the importance of sharing the truth of Jesus with the world. Not everyone’s eyes will open, not all ears will hear, but that cannot stop us from sharing the Word of God with the whole world. Christians will know they are believers when they seek Jesus above all else. One cannot mistake His voice; the sheep know their shepherd’s voice (John 10:27). When we hear Jesus calling, we open the door and let Jesus in to eat with us, and us with Him (Revelations 3:20). If we never hear the call, we never knew Him. Let this be a reminder to all who believe, just how pivotal it is that we are not only a living example of Jesus with our actions, but that we also take seriously the importance of inviting Jesus into our public conversations. Jesus Christ is still relevant because the Word of Truth is alive, and also because of word of mouth. We share Him, and people will receive Him while still others don’t. But this isn’t our decision whether or not someone will hear Jesus’s call. We are called to be obedient unto Christ, and that is the command we are to follow. Let others see the Truth and witness His power in our words and actions, and may He who gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) soften theirs towards Him as well, in Jesus name. 

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 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’d love to hear from you. God bless you, readers!

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