The Space Between Agnosticism, Doubt, & Faith

THE BOOK OF MAJESTY AND MYSTERY

Inevitably gaped between the skepticism of disbelief and the hope of Christian rebirth, there is spiritual buoyancy, namely agnosticism. As a growing Christian, I’ve learned there is so much to understand about my walk with Jesus. The preconceived notion that performance is the underlying evidence of a born-again Christian is one of many common fallacies, one even I continually catch myself being mislead by temporarily. Reading the Bible more thoroughly has taught me how much substance, life, majesty, and zeal are actually waiting to be sought out from its pages. To receive the words of the Bible as merely sentence upon sentence is to mistake the Bible’s mystery and divinity for grammatical symmetry and redundant formalities which ultimately cost the Bible its very soul.

INESCAPABLE CURIOSITY

Recalling my testimony, I have come to be very familiar with the way God has worked in my soul since I was 22. Admittedly, God has been at work all along, but He only revealed His Truth to me beginning at age 22, where He planted the seed of desire to pursue Him. From mere desire has propelled a deeper longing, a pensive curiosity desperately calling my attention—a curiosity I would instantaneously refer to as inescapable and insatiable to the degree that I am always satisfied and simultaneously never finished. The ultimatum of breathing in this day-by-day faith is how the water Jesus gives leaves us overflowing with eternal life (John 4:14) and honestly, I can say I do not thirst for purpose any longer. I belong to Him, and my mission is to help others who have eyes to see and ears to hear that Jesus is Lord.

However, what is unfinished is my desire to know Him more deeply and intimately. The depths of the intricacies of our Lord in Jesus are never satisfied any more than He is infinite and eternal. Because of this, I am always satiated with His promises. Nevertheless, coinciding with this hope is the honest and humble acknowledgment that I can never know everything—which brings me the thrill of the never-ending pursuit of His heart.

GOD’S PRESENCE IN A FALLEN WORLD

Despite the immeasurable darkness in this world; death, poverty, sex-trafficking, terrorism, homelessness, mental illness, and oppression (to name a few)—there is a greater, stronger, more obdurate light now than there has ever been. Look at the church, the body of Christ. Though there are no perfections, there are also no limits. God is moving through us and to each other. His plan to renew us is as never-ending as it is scandalous. Our God is love, and through Jesus, He is relatable, real, and historical; not merely mystical, metaphorical, metaphysical, or incongruous with any form of reality we experience.

Rationality cannot cloak faith with conjecture, science cannot prove its absence with empiricism, and skepticism cannot fade it out with resistance or denial. Just as naivety is the absence of experience—disbelief and closed-mindedness are the absence of the fullness of life; in that the fullness of life is found only in our God-given purpose, not a created purpose concocted by the transient, empty-handed motivations of this heart-broken, ephemeral world. 

COMPELLED BEYOND IMPERMANENCE

At some point, every person comes face-to-face with the question of their purpose in this life. Our innate desire to seek out and embrace our vocation becomes so strong that the thought of not having a vocation makes life feel intolerably small and pointless. We inevitably find ourselves asking, “What am I here for?” In response, absent-minded secularism would answer, “What do you desire most?” Faith, alternatively, would narrow this overly spacious path to what we feel most called by God to do. What’s the essential difference? The first is driven by selfish motivation, while the second is motivated from our connection to the infinite hope beyond this life. Put differently, the latter is driven by the belief and understanding that this life is not all there is, and what follows is if this is not all there is, then what we will feel called to do will reflect the impermanence with which we associate this lifetime.

Our recognition of impermanence separating desperation for pleasure from godly wisdom is how we perceive each breath as either a gift or a waste, and this separation is the difference between the pretentious secularist mentality and soul-compelling faith in Christ. When we are able to see life on Earth as a gift while simultaneously acknowledging its transience, we can appreciate every breath without clinging to it. Oppositely, if we cling to every breath in the belief that this is all we have, pleasure becomes our purpose. Driven by narcissism, our existential identity becomes as void as our transparent hope in a distant tomorrow.

FUNDAMENTAL PERSPECTIVE SHIFTS

Truly, our perception of this life plays a significant role, not only in what career we choose, but in the way we define our role identity, the role the people we connect with have in our lives, the meaning and weight of the love we believe others (as well as ourselves) do or don’t deserve, the reason why—and how to apply these developed viewpoints with our personal beliefs in what life in total really is.

Considering how fundamentally these perspective bifurcations affect our lives, we either become aware of how important it is to contemplate and understand our points of view more fully (which begins in the same space where we are either driven by curiosity for and towards the unknown ((faith)), or thrown into a haze by the overwhelming mystery of this universe and life—seemingly too daunting to pursue), or we do not pursue this contemplation any further—a choice which leaves us in the vulnerable position of living an unanswered life full of agnosticism and dubiousness. Living this way, as I have come to learn, is not worth the “liberation from labels.” Truly, it is better to know what we believe and to stake our eternity on it than to profess there is nothing to believe and live a vacuous life of ignorance and unfulfilled desires.

If we are not captivated by God’s magnanimous existence, we are dejected by the skeptical conclusion that belief in nothingness is merely easier—even if less rational, less fulfilling, and less innate than desiring an intimacy only a relationship to God can make sense of.

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE AND SPIRITUALITY

One of the most problematic facets of spiritual apathy and nonchalance is the decision not to be challenged. During my teens, I was in denial about faith in Christ—but then I also didn’t want to talk about faith at all. I had no defense beyond that of my anger and misconstrued notions of who God was—my only argument was emotionally driven. For many people today, this is the case for agnosticism and even atheism; they want to argue and complain, but they don’t want to understand what they argue about. An emotionally charged response against God’s existence does not change anything anymore than a child stampeding off to their room challenges their parents’ rules about bedtime. We may argue and cross our arms, but the argument for God stands far above and beyond emotions. Once again, skepticism is as powerless as responding emotionally to an argument we don’t like. While skepticism and doubt are welcomed in the presence of faith, the face of skepticism is merely a mask of makeup compared to the authenticity, freedom, selfless motivation, and transcendent hopefulness of abiding in Christ.

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Pursue

Darling Downs Diaries

Recognizing the Broken Soul In the Mystery Of Faith

 

Before I received Jesus into my life, I was an atheist; and before I was an atheist, I was raised Catholic in a very traditional church where repetition seemed more sacred than relationship, and repentance more emphasized than forgiveness or community. The concept of God always seemed a one-dimensional idea that didn’t breathe, feel, or matter, and therefore it never pulled at me during those years. I didn’t pray because I didn’t have any faith in receiving an answer, and also because I didn’t believe with my heart that there was even a God listening. 

PHYSICAL STRENGTH & IDENTITY

During the end of seventh grade, when I was going on 14—I began weight-lifting to get in shape for the football season the following fall. What I eventually grasped, after playing for one season and disliking it at the time—was that I only had a passion for muscle-building. I enjoyed my time in the weight room far more than my time on the field. Once I fully realized my interest for weight-lifting as a bodybuilding exercise and not as preparation for any specific sport, I began idolizing muscle-building, putting more emphasis on working out my body to receive attention from society than on challenging my mind and soul to stretch and understand the esoteric of the supernatural and the theological. If I couldn’t work out, it was a big deal because I had associated looking strong as a part of my identity; trying to act strong with my body without actually being strong of heart or pertinacious of will.

Years of this mentality drove me to take offense when anyone would label me as thin or weak, because I tried so hard to be the opposite. Truth is, I only weighed 155lbs, but my pride told me I was 200lbs of muscle. In fact, my pride convinced me that my identity had to be stronger than I really was, and it rejected the humility of accepting that I was holding myself back from my true potential. What my true potential was—or what I learned it was later on—obviously had nothing to do with my muscular physique. But I was stubbornly clinging to the artificiality of strength for power in a lifestyle void of spiritual purpose or meaning.

From where does our desire for power derive from? Everyone wants to feel powerful, but not always in the same way. Some people want power in the form of wealth, where others want power in the form of fear or intimidation. I wanted power in the form of strength, volition, and recognition/validation. And while none of these related to my true potential, they all drove me towards the desire for a purpose that made sense to a heart lacking belief in the supernatural; I didn’t believe in God, therefore power and validation were my reasons to breathe and to live for the next moment, the next hour—and even for tomorrow.

UNINSPIRED BY RELIGION

The impersonal aspects and disconnects of my childhood religion–preceding the trauma of my parents’ divorce, grandparents’ death, and being forced to cope with the repercussions of such drastic life changes–were still my reasons not to return to some one-dimensional religious system. However, looking back now, lacking faith in God changed everything for the worse.

There was a time in my life when I was only open to the topic of God if I was allowed to exit as soon as possible. I remember choosing to restrain my capacity to accept the topic of the possibility of God’s existence to enter the conversation long enough to make me think. Now, I consider myself a very deep thinker, and quite analytical, but at the time I was an atheist, I was “deep” in that I was studious about the psychology of the mind; not so much the influence and influx of spiritual matters and their pertinence to human purpose.

I obstinately rejected the consideration of a world in which supernatural forces could coincide with the existence of mankind; where the insidious actions of some God seemed to leave behind a trail of devastation, heartache, misery, and pain.

PAIN, EVIL, TRAUMA, & GOD

What I failed to understand as an atheist, and one of the ways I now relate to atheists today, or even agnostics who aren’t sure of what they believe—is that pain, suffering, heartache, and even devastation—these are all circumstances God allows so we will call out to Him for help, closure, and guidance; where His response will not be to eradicate the danger or to rescind the trauma, but to guide us through our hurt and pain.

Does this all sound too technical or cliche? To rephrase: God uses trauma to help us to draw near to Him.

Another common argument I hear brought up is that if there is a God, He is evil because He allows evil. If you are someone who believes God causes evil, however, then you have misplaced the Devil with God, confusing the two by making the mistake of allocating evil to one spiritual force, and ignoring the other. Basically, you are–whether intentionally or not—dismissing the fact that there is not one, but two separate spiritual forces at play simultaneously: God and the Devil (good and evil). Ultimately, you absolutely cannot have one without the other while on Earth. To argue that point, you would have to claim that love can exist without evil—and on the plane of Earth, free will is what convolutes the nature between choosing one over the other. This picture of free will is what creates the undeniable schism between love and hate; good and evil. Free will dictates the extraordinary dichotomy in which humans have ably produced the atrocities of generations past, as well as the blessings of goodness in human history (good samaritans, acts of selflessness without credit or reward, etc.). The choice to love can replace—or override—the choice to do evil, because in order to decide on one and not the other, one must be decided against. Primordially, choice is what gave birth to sin to begin with: Choice (pride over humility) was what transformed Lucifer into Satan.

Therefore, God and the Devil cannot both be evil, otherwise love could not exist. But since we know love does exist, both of the spiritual forces cannot be evil. One must contradict the other in order for us to raise the dichotomy of their differences in debate, transmuting the concept of morality into a reality we can see, touch, taste, and smell.

For instance, the taste of flesh is connotative of cannibalism and, depending on which culture you reference—for the majority of people, cannibalism is considered “bad.” However, does it make a difference whether or not the person being cannibalized is an adult or newborn baby? Does your conscience not speak into this discussion and call for a timeout? If that is not an explicit indicator of the existence of morality, what is?

As an atheist, none of these thoughts were even given the light of day. Not until years into discovering Christ did I even give them any consideration to make sense of them at all. What’s important to me now is that I share where I am with people who are open to receiving it, and that I try to be as gentle as possible out of respect of understanding where they are now, considering where I was, many years ago.

GRACE AND MORALITY

For those who don’t believe in the love of Jesus–extending grace may at times becomes not a gift from one person to another in the name of something bigger than themselves, but rather the scoff of resentment for having to go out of the way to do good, and to be genuine about doing it. I remember as an atheist, I cared so much about what others thought of me that a lot of times, my actions were only influenced by my intention to get a reaction from the crowd. In hindsight, this indicated a lot of my actions were influenced by my desire to be accepted by others, and not by authenticity.

I witness so many secular-minded people dismissing morality as too complex to discuss, and theology as too unbelievable to process, and yet–magic seems a feasible topic because, when transfused subtly, it doesn’t require God or Jesus to be interjected in order to be validated. What also seems confusing and distorted to others–and what was distorted for me growing up in the Catholic church–is that God requires religion to initiate contact with. That is something I strongly disagree with. In fact, I detest religion, myself, as a Christian. I consider Christianity a walk of faith, not a religion, because to me–religion signifies rules, obligations, and false pretenses (“Talk the talk but not walk the walk.” Or, as another example, those who go to church and pretend to have it all together, just to leave the same way they walked in: unchanged and not trying to improve). I was raised to believe religion was the only way to God, but I’ve learned that Jesus wants intimacy; not false pretenses. I was convinced that God was a God of rules and expectations—not to mention a God who allows trauma because He is careless; but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Now I understand religion is not the way Jesus ever taught us to follow Him—He taught us the way was through HIM; through loving God, others, and ourselves, the way He loves us.

JESUS DESIRES INTIMACY

What I love about Jesus is that He doesn’t want me to come to Him uncomfortably in some formal fashion, but rather, He wants me to come to Him to build an intimate relationship with Him as Savior of my life and best friend, recognizing and worshiping His deity while also admiring His precious sin-consuming humanity (Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself when He was crucified; therefore He consumed all of our sin and paid the price for all of us at the same time). I couldn’t love Him more for that. And, if you will accept that into your heart—that is your choice, after all—could you not love Him for that as well—for being worth deifying and also worth the admiration of a best friend? Jesus is not just some character in a book; He is as real as anyone you know. I didn’t understand this truth until I was in my mid-twenties! You may not be ready yet, but I want to encourage you to open your mind and try to seek further into this truth for yourself.

My prayer for you is that you’ll come to understand whatever area of your life this represents, and that you’ll try to seek out the Truth for yourself. Whatever that means for you, I pray you will pursue this for your own sake so that you have answers where now, you have none. May you be blessed in that search, and may you do it authentically, putting intentional effort into uncovering whatever mystery is blocking you from living into the building of your soul, and not the hopes that this world will ever get you what you want. What you want is to feel important, validated, cared for, and loved. Intimacy, right? Guess what? God planted those desires in your soul, He knows what they are and why they are there; even why they are unique to you. Why don’t you try talking to Him about that, and see how He responds? It would be a great conversation starter:

“God, I’m not even sure if you exist… but You know me better than I know myself. Please help me to see you in my life, and in my heart. Help me walk away from my distortions of you, and towards the Truth that you are my loving Father. You know what is best for me, and You want that for me. Please help me to move towards what that is in my life. I have never tried trusting you before, but I want to trust you now. I’m sorry for ignoring You and not putting more time into understanding Your intentions for me. I want to try to do that now. Please meet me where I am, and help me to feel Your presence in my life now. In Jesus name.”

BE BLESSED!!

Artificial

Paving the Path For Trusting God: Part 1

By and by, I feel the need to respond to secularists, atheists, and unbelievers whose questions scrutinize the Bible, its authenticity, and what it calls Christians to believe and live by. After so much skepticism, these people’s questions leave them baffled, silenced, confused, and bitter– their hearts malformed by cultural and societal misunderstandings, resenting the censure of a massive conglomeration seemingly tossing all their eggs into the basket with a dusty old book called the Bible. One of the most powerful questions–even for the Christian, is: Why should I trust God? You see, if we don’t trust God– the Source of all argument for theology, religion, morality, and faith–then we undermine those concepts altogether by claiming the Creator and Causality of such inquisition is scandalous, fake, and too ambiguous to be real, mighty, or supernatural. And if God isn’t who He claims to be– if He is not really with us today– then how can we trust Him with our lives

As a former atheist and current Christian, these questions are poignantly familiar to me, sinking right into home base with my history of disbelief years ago. The mystery of trusting the concept of a God was what instigated my departure from the Catholic church at age 11, when my parents divorced. After that, the mystery of trusting God became the seed for dark humor when I was about 14. The notion that God would do such horrible things–such as allow trauma, suffering, and death–did not match up with the type of loving God people seemed to profess that He was. How do you trust in a God who allows suffering and death? How do you trust in a God you can’t touch with your own hands—scream at while anticipating His reaction with heavy breathing and clenched fists? How do we come to try to understand this dilemma of the misunderstanding of God, and how He fits into the very relationship He calls us to be a part of? First, as I discovered, we must try to understand the context of God.

What is the space He lives in, and how does His presence and existence affect what is around Him? The Bible says God is love:

(1 John: 4:8) “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (italics mine)

The Bible gives an explicit example of the way He physically affects those around Him when anything of His true physical nature is revealed. When Moses came down the mountain after God had passed around Him– Moses’s face was literally glowing from exposure to seeing the backside of God (Exodus 33:18-34:9); not God’s face, no– His back. God warned Moses if he saw His face, He would die:

(Exodus 33:20) “But,” he said, “you cannot see my face. For no one may see me and live.”

If people would not survive witnessing God back in Moses’s day, surely they would not survive the experience today. Why is that? What is the nature of God? He is love. Then what is our nature–human natureWe are sinners.

How do we know we’re sinners? First, we have to define sin. The dictionary defines sin as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.” One might think of “divine law” as represented by God’s ten commandments**, others might add that it refers to the Golden Rule (Mark 12:28-34). I refer to sin as the rebellion to, the transgression of, and the deliberate departure from– what God wants with us in our relationship with Him. Rebelling against His love is to resist it, living apart from its blessings.

When we don’t accept His love, many times that can be as simple as not thanking Him for the blessings in our lives (food, apartment/house, job, friends/family, etc.), and likely taking them for granted, rather than lifting them up with thanksgiving and gratefulness. We have a tendency to sometimes assume what we get in life, we just get, without recognizing them as blessings. Even the secularist must admit, however, that finding that random samaritan willing to help fix a flat tire is less likely to be someone who doesn’t believe in random, selfless acts of kindness without getting something in return. People hardly extend themselves without a scoff, sigh, or moan when their desire to do the deed derives their own esteem, or their own conditional supply of grace. Those who extend themselves with a smile on their face have a Source which they pull from, and this Source derives from faith in something bigger than themselves. For many, it’s the karmic belief in what comes around goes around. Others, holding to a more eternal perspective, understand loving others is their way of loving the Creator of existence, time, space, purpose, love, and reason; they extend themselves from the reservoir of faith in that Creator, knowing that He bestows His gift of love on them constantly; in turn, their response is incorrigibly the desire to share that gift with others, which just so happens to be expressed in the form of the contagious attitude reminiscent of the character of Jesus: joyful, graceful, and unconditional.   

**(The Ten Commandments are a set of guidelines meant to help us stay intimately close with God, and in harmony with one another. Many unbelievers regard the ten commandments acrimoniously with repulsion and bitterness. Perhaps the commandments feel like an unnecessary scolding for choices and lifestyles we view as innocuous. The rules of the commandments, for many, don’t seem have any basis other than inconvenience. The question then becomes: Is convenience the way to God? Secondly, if we can explain the difference between our incomplete understanding of the need for the ten commandments, and the reason for which they were originally given–we may come to grasp the truth that the ten commandments are really just lifestyle principles God requested us to instill in our lives in order for us live more fully, not just indulgently. The question which may then arise is: Do we want to be close to a God who wants to feel close to us by providing a fuller life?)

When we resist His love, we are saying one or more of these:

  1. I don’t believe in His love
  2. I don’t need His love
  3. I don’t want His love
  4. I don’t deserve His love
  5. I can’t live up to His love

Resisting what God wants for us–as a fuller life–is to claim we believe God’s intentions are not aligned with the best version of what our life could be, and instead, wresting the control of our futures out from His hands, not seeking His help or involvement. If we can understand this as the reason for the mistake of missing out on our best life, then we can understand the waste and nuisance of denying the power of God, capable and willing to create the entire cosmos for our benefit. But, for those who adhere to denial, God continually reaches out with His love, hoping we’ll surrender our resistance and choose to see His intentions as they are; authentic and rooted in love.

How can the human race put trust in a God we can’t see with our physical eyes, nor touch with our hands? How do we know when or if He hears us–or if He does or doesn’t want to respond when we ask Him a question–or how He feels when we cry out to Him in frustration? Something critical to understand about our relationship to God is the significance of the differentiation between the way we need God, and the way God doesn’t need us. It’s the most beautiful dichotomy really, because God speaks and acts through what could be just as arbitrary to Him as choosing what color underwear to put on is to us: He chooses to love a species which cannot give Him anything other than praise and worship–because He is love. Do you follow me on that train of thought? God is love–meaning–He doesn’t have a limited amount of love to distribute in specific amounts to each component of creation He makes, careful not to run out—no, He IS love, so He has an infinite supply to give from. There are no bounds, no lengths, no limits– no measurements to God’s love. We could never fit God’s love into a math equation because it would break every rule in the book. God’s love is unlimited, permanent, and forever; powerful, unshakeable, incorrigible, and it’s a decision He’s already decided on.

Is it harder or easier to trust in a God, who, despite not needing us for anything–loves us more than all of creation? Does the truth of this explanation change anything in your heart, or help you see God’s love in a different light? God’s love isn’t just comprised of some words in the Bible, His love is real and–yes–tangible. Perhaps not from his hands or arms themselves–but through others; through nature, and through circumstances— God loves us constantly

In Part 2, I will touch on ways we can see God’s love for us through creation, how we can tie that back to trusting in Him, and I will close with an example from my personal life; an explicit example of God’s love for me in my life, and, consequently—proof of God’s for us as a species.

For now, I want to leave you with some questions to ponder for the sake of your own faith journey and spiritual life. When you think of God, how do you feel? Do you feel judgment, disappointment, and frustration? Do you feel as though God only comes to you or answers you when you’re “performing well”? How do you feel God sees you as His child? How do you define the concept of God’s love in your life today, and what prevents His love from making more sense to you than it does right now? What would have to happen to cause you to consider the possibility that God loves you more than you can imagine, and that He wants you to accept that gift and let it transform your life? What is your response to an invitation like that?

May God bless you as you look inside yourself to discover these answers, growing towards freedom from confusion and the entanglement of the lies of the world and the enemy. I’ll see you in Part 2! 

Trust

Rock Music and Spiritual Awareness

How careful are we with our minds? Do we ever consider how what is received by our eyes and ears directly affects what emanates through our words, actions, thoughts, and lifestyles?

During my adolescence, I found and grew to love the rock band, Korn. To this day, they are my all-time favorite band. Now, perhaps before I go too heavily into explaining this, it would be wise to offer context.

I have written at some length about my traumatization as teen experiencing the pain, drama, and depression associated with the stress of my parents’ divorce, my family’s dismemberment, and the death of two of my grandparents, all within one year. Needless to explain, my self-image and desperation for something meaningful to save my heart from an ultimate downfall was at an all-time high, and I began finding solace in music, first beginning with open ears to a rock band called Godsmack, when I was 12.

For four years I was receptive to the sound of rock, and the anger that was expressed in such music matched my own. I didn’t have to wear a guise with the songs I listened to because they spoke directly into my darkest secrets—especially the rage and depression I was sucked into from the pain and stress of loss, resentment, bitterness, and hating my own existence. My emotional state became so intense that I even put theology in question, pushing the very idea of God off His pedestal and into an uncharted, bottomless pit in my mind where I didn’t have to think about it. Atheism closed in, and my choice was to replace the concept of a loving Messiah with something more seemingly “tangible” than the invisible, questionable theology derived of a two-thousand-year-old history that I had never personally experienced, nor cared to learn about.

When I was 16, I was in the music store at the mall in my hometown when I came across Korn’s album, “The Untouchables”. I found song titles curious, thought the cover was a bit strange—and therefore I was drawn in to discover what sort of music would come from the mirage of ambiguity the disc holder displayed. When I put the disc into my car’s CD player, the very first song, “Here To Stay”, immediately immersed me with raw emotion; this time, the words not only matched my own feelings, they surpassed them. The words were more than just relatable, they spoke for me and to me. I found myself listening to these songs repeatedly with absolute certainty that this band was exactly the music I was looking for. Every day I would listen to Korn and get blown away by the feeling of validation which came from the dark, melodic guitar riffs, heavy bass, and brutal lyrics. They spoke into my darkest pain, eliminating the idea that I was alone, and also replacing–although temporarily–my emotional void needing God.

Years passed by, more Korn albums were released, and sometimes their lyrics would offend me a little (I didn’t appreciate nor resonate with the use of the word “rape”–but I also understood this lyrical style was the Jonathon Davis’s (the lyric-writer and singer of Korn) way of representing horrific emotion and opening up about his own personal traumatizing life events. The offensive portion of lyrics got lost in the background and I continued paying attention to the feeling of validation I received while listening to Korn, and the way the rage within me felt mitigated through someone else adequately speaking for and through my excruciating experiences.

That was my musical input for 5 years. When I became a loose** Christian at 22, I was still listening to Korn and loving it. God was still a foreign concept to me while I began reading the Bible very slowly through a life group at the church I was attending during my college years. I did not feel my heart grasping for Him right away. And I was still lost in my emotional past with the baggage of what had happened to me and my family. “God, if you really exist, how could you let this happen?”, I would ask Him. For a while, there was nothing but silence. I figured that was commensurate for the years of denying Him, like punishment for being so stubborn. Later, I discovered that that was not true at all, but at the time, the explanation made sense.

**(I write “loose” because, though I was attending a Christian church weekly, I had just come from 7 years of atheism, and I was not interested in practicing everything Christianity preached and taught was necessary to grow close to Christ through faith, trust, and surrender–including but not limited to loving myself, because I had hated myself for about 11 years at that point, and when I loved others it was through stoic, gritted teeth and this feeling of self-betrayal. Christianity is freedom from the temptation to live in sin, and I was still very much invested in the guilt of living alone spiritually for so long; blaming God, myself, and my life for being so hard for me. Loving myself, and therefore loving God even more–was more alien and esoteric to me than neuroscience or astrophysics. Therefore, I would now, looking back— have considered myself a loose Christian at that time because I wasn’t practicing my faith in the sense that I am now, both emotionally and spiritually)

My questions from my time spent as an atheist becoming desperate for meaning came to the surface and I began using this as fuel. I figured if God wasn’t real, I’d definitely figure it out because I would find a loophole in the Christian faith and deny it, too. Funny, the bluff I was ready to call on God was eventually called on my disbelief. But, see, through this entire time of loose Christianity and testing the faith before taking it seriously—Korn was my go-to music. They were the band that stood out because they never spoke anything but brutal honesty in their words—the message was always relatable to me in an almost startlingly refreshing way; the way they would speak into my heart and not even have to mention divorce.

Have I been warned about listening to such heavy music? Yes, I have. And I have considered those words. But I want to be absolutely clear about something: We are not what we listen to unless we choose to deify the message of the lyrics, or to worship the rage and the anger rather than the God who allows such music to be relatable, and therefore helpful for those who find it as such. Do I believe God can speak through heavy metal rock music? Absolutely. There’s also other rock bands that I love, one called Red and the other Love and Death; the singer and one of the guitarists of Love Death is actually one of the main guitarist’s of Korn as well, and they are all Christian bands without actually claiming to be a Christian bands. They speak about God without being explicit about Christian faith, allowing the words to speak for themselves without drawing directly into any one faith system. This may consider them “safe” (instead of being cast aside by the secular listeners who don’t want to hear the terms “God” or “Jesus” in lyrics) , but that doesn’t change that they are singing and still praising/praying/talking to God. So their music is still inspiring for me.

Back to my previous point. We are not what we listen to unless we begin to worship those messages instead of the God who provides them. Korn may not be a Christian band (they are not at all Christian–despite how two of its members are), but they speak to me as a Christian. I believe God speaks to me through Korn, yes. Does that sound crazy? I can understand why for those who feel that it might think it to be crazy, because, “how could a band who sings about such dark emotion possibly bring someone back to Jesus?” Well, let’s be careful here. Korn didn’t convert me to Christianity, but listening to them does not deter my faith or make me feel more secular inside. The message and influence of music depends solely on the ears receiving the message, and the softness of the heart accepting the message– or rejecting it. My heart is for Jesus, and Jesus alone. Whatever words offend my faith against Him I rebuke in Jesus name.

Some would argue the safety the mind and heart by advising to simply stay away from anything that is not of God, in order to stay pure and clean in mind and body. I would never argue this point. What I add to that is that for me, it’s entirely possible to hear such heavy rock music with dark lyrics and still praise God and worship Jesus all the same. Can everyone do that? It depends on the context of where you come from. Remember, my childhood trauma led me to need validation. When I converted to Christianity, I realized I only needed Jesus’ love, but that didn’t mean Korn didn’t still resonate with a part of me that God had also touched. I continue to understand to this very day that God can reach me through metal music. In fact, I even wrote a previous blog post while listening to one of their newest singles, “Rotting In Vain”, and the post I wrote was strictly a Christian message. So, while I’m not trying to claim everyone is able to do what I do, what I am explicitly intending to get across is that music is what you make of it; if you are allowing music to influence you the wrong (negative) direction–music isn’t to blame, but your interpretation of what you put in your heart. If the music you listen to is hurting you and/or others, perhaps that is the most tell-all sign that you need to change the musical input you are letting yourself be exposed to.

Korn does not offend me, they still validate me. My experiences in life now are not nearly as traumatic as they were when I was 11, mostly because I am a much more mature adult man with control over myself and my life situation. I didn’t have that when my parents divorced. I was dependent and starving for something meaningful and purposeful to fill me up, but I was simultaneously rejecting God because I blamed the idea of pain on Him.

Interestingly, along my path of conversion from atheism to Christianity, I discovered a fascinating truth: Blaming God for pain and then disbelieving Him–one might think–would cancel out the pain itself by undermining its original cause of understanding. However, my mind didn’t think that way at the time. I basically bluffed myself by saying God didn’t exist, and yet hating pain while claiming if it was done by anyone, “It must have been God.” How could God be in control of the pain in my life if He doesn’t exist? And if He doesn’t exist, how could I be angry at Him for controlling it? If He doesn’t exist, and the pain still does— where does someone like an atheist aim their anger and censure?

You call your own bluff when you cancel out both ends of the equation; one side being God as the cause of pain, and the other that God doesn’t exist. For the atheists who are angry at the world for their pain, how do you separate yourselves from the rest of existence, seemingly claiming your experience of pain is as if no one else has similar experiences–when all humanity is the same species under the same worldly rules and consequences of pain and suffering? Furthermore, placing blame in the neutral position (that is, claiming God didn’t cause pain and that He doesn’t exist) cancels out the causality for any and all pain inflicted (which is insulting to humanity as a whole because there is no denying the existence of pain), either requiring, in effect, to wipe out the idea of pain itself–or the blame for which pain is placed. But the retention of both while claiming disbelief in God is not only irrational–again–it calls your bluff: To rationalize disbelief in God is to claim a worldly replacement for the void pain creates, which consequently would not resolve the problem of pain, nor correctly fix the position of causality towards any viable existential component–but would instead claim that nothing is the cause of pain and that pain must therefore not be a problem to resolve. And anyone who has been alive for more than a few minutes would tell you that notion is absolutely ludicrous.

In saying that, allow me to reiterate: Korn does not offend me, and it does not take me from my faith in Christ– but it is also a reminder that I cannot call God’s existential bluff if I feel angry at Him; therefore, whatever validation I’m receiving through listening to rock music–like Korn–is not validating any hatred toward God (there is no hatred from me towards God), but rather validation towards the discontentment of pain inflicted in life.

To follow through with that thread of thought, one must have a belief in the causality of pain, and if we follow the thread to its source, we culminate with evil, and evil cannot exist without love (not in this world), and love cannot exist without God because love is supernatural; supernatural being the very DNA of love—the DNA of God. God exhales the supernatural because He is the Source of all creation: One or multi-dimensional, tangible or intangible; spiritual or physical, metaphorical or literal. He is the Source of it all. Love would be impossible and nonexistent without God.

How does a person without faith in the supernatural even explain love? That might be a great idea for another blog post. For now, I will leave you with the understanding that if we choose to accept the existence of love, we must express faith in the existence of evil, because one does not exist without the other in this world. They are dichotomies which lead us back to the causality of existence itself, where the spiritual world unfolds in-between the choice to follow love or to follow evil—where evil breeds corruption while love engenders growth, change, opportunity, freedom, joy, and relationship. Without one or the other, the lack of comparison to argue the schism would eliminate the equal sign of our life equation and cancel out the equation of their existence altogether–again–eliminating both God and pain, which is impossible to construe based on all of life, history, and experience expressing otherwise.

Love cannot be without evil (or hate) to counter its personality and reason to exist, and evil cannot exist without love to counter its immorally corruptive fallacies. God is the instigator of existence, and simultaneously the mediator between both worlds: love and hate (evil); spiritual and physical. To claim one doesn’t exist means neither exist, but that is preposterous. Concordantly, to claim they both exist automatically opens the door to morality and theology, the source of opening the conversation for God and Christ. And if we open the case for Christ, there is no closing that conversation because the opening to that conversation would mean the elimination of our denial in admitting love and hate are two dichotomies requiring us to choose between God, or death. We cannot face this conundrum and simultaneously deny God. God’s face is the all-dimensional face of both worlds, where Jesus invites us into the light and the Devil tries dragging us back to darkness, all the while we’d rather claim there is no tug of war at all–but that is rubbish if you still want to try arguing the belief in the existence of morality without theology, especially arguing the dissension between faith and non-theism regarding purpose and meaning.

Coming full circle, I find Korn as a means of expressing myself, but I would never, for example, use Korn to worship at church. They do not deify Jesus as Lord. But I can listen to them without claiming Jesus is not Lord in my heart, and still appreciate their gift in melodic hard rock music. This means I can believe in love and hate (evil), the existence of morality (good/bad, right/wrong) and still appreciate music when it clearly does not exult the faith which I wholeheartedly put all of my faith into. Korn can be a translator of my rawest, deepest emotions, while my heart persistently and adamantly praises the goodness of Christ as my God and Messiah. Hard rock music is not evil unless you worship its message instead of the one who allows you to listen to it. The dark combinations of angry music do not have to trespass our moral compass unless we give it the keys to do so. Our ability to know who to turn to with decisions and life problems is a choice based on spiritual maturity, and if listening to angry music turns you away from belief in common sense and morality/theology, then perhaps you need to consider the truth that that kind of music is harming you. If you can listen to it and feel validated while still believing in God and worshipping Jesus as Lord over your heart, you have successfully separated the message and sound of the music from the faith in your heart, differentiating between music and worship; appreciation and deification.

What music do you listen to? Does it bring you hope, validation, faith in the good of what’s to come—or does it bring out your rage and make you feel more hopeless inside? Are you an agnostic, questioning whether or not you believe in what you think you do—and if so, does your music help you through the maze of your heart, or is it blurring the line of  clarity between your emotions and faith? What do you think is better for you and your mental/spiritual health? Does music create a bridge from one side of yourself to another, or does it close the door and make you feel trapped? Be honest with yourself. Where do you feel your music is leading your heart?

If your music is hurting your ability to have faith in God, I strongly urge to you consider what changes would help you walk away from that separation between you and your faith life. I spent 7 years hating religion, and distancing myself completely from any theology. Faith in Christ is different from religion. Perhaps I can delve further into that in another post. Feel free to comment below on ideas you’d like touched upon. I’d be happy to write about topics you would like to understand better. For now, please consider what music is doing to your heart, be careful with what you feed your mind with, and revise as necessary until you feel liberated from the temptation of emotion to hold you hostage from faith life.

My conversion from atheism to Christianity is the best decision I’ve ever made, and I urge you to discover what that Truth means for you.

Careful