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.

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. God bless you all!

Pursue

Darling Downs Diaries

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 Battle Of Keeping the Faith

A friend of mine recently asked me if there is anything that could cause me to walk away from God. As a growing Christian, I realized how important and relevant this question was. In this article, what I’d like to do is bring to the surface some of the ways in which the Christian faith is challenged by a world of skepticism, doubt, and resistance. In doing so, I hope to bring encouragement to believers as well as clarification for those who are weary or questioning the idea of faith, so that we may all be well-informed with the ways in which a Christian not only can be motivated to love boldly and to live confidently in Christ, but to hold true to our faith in the face of our darkest adversities.

IS GOD GOOD?

When my friend first asked me what could cause me to walk away from God, the first thought that came to mind was, “If God wasn’t good, then I would question the existence of any such God altogether.” Why do you think that is? Would you believe in a God if you didn’t believe He was good? Why does goodness matter? For me, I can’t imagine life as relationally driven as it is to have been birthed to life by any force that wasn’t intrinsically loving. The reason why is because, through the human experience, we derive our sense of self from our awareness of and attention to (expectation of) love. We anticipate love, whether subconsciously or consciously. See, we cannot address ourselves with hatred and still retain some fathomable desire to continue living. If we were to be made with hatred, our lives and purpose would be centered on hatred—and hatred, if we were to hypothetically consider it as the core of any relationship—would bring our focus down to that of narcissism, bitterness, resentment, and regret. Hatred cannot breed a healthy relationship, only love can. Therefore, since human beings are obviously relational in that we need people to thrive with and connect to, it is ridiculous and irrational to believe we were made for hate. Considering this, I have the hardest time fathoming the idea that a hateful God created us to hate each other. God, if we can acknowledge one, must be that of love in order for us to experience an intrinsic need for love in order to live prosperously; fulfilled, satisfied, and complete. Therefore, if God created us out of love, then He must be good

THE IMPACT OF PAIN

The amount of pain we experience in this human life is another source of skepticism to dig into for a reason to believe in a good, loving God. When we lose a loved one, or experience the slow, torturous process of watching a loved one battle with cancer or other malign disease, we question where God’s love and goodness is. We can’t fathom how such a loving Creator who placed us in the universe on the one planet which can sustain life would allow cancer and disease to destroy us slowly from the inside. A lot of what we don’t think to consider while in emotional state during this type of situation is what tends to obscure our ability to see God’s loving action at work. While watching a family member or close friend suffer from cancer or a malady is excruciatingly painful, sometimes we overlook the role we play in their lives, and the importance of that role in the long run. In the bigger picture, what is more important: That we understand why God allows such horrible malignants to spread chaos and agony on Earth, or that we are His example of love, compassion, concern, and selflessness during that process? Think about this for a moment. The next section continues to address this issue.

THE IMPORTANT ROLE LOVE PLAYS IN PAIN

When we watch others suffer while we live life without that kind of pain, sometimes we forget the importance of loving those people, and being the light that they themselves may not be able to see while in their experience. Loving on people who are suffering is more important than questioning why they are suffering. Loving people when they are suffering does not make God evil or bad, but rather, loving others shows that God is indeed at work in others’ situations, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Perhaps their body cannot be saved from cancer, but their spirit cannot be touched by anything other than their choice, and we play a vital role in that choice by the way we love others in their pain; be it mental, physical, or spiritual. When we refuse to love others but instead emanate resentment, bitterness, or hatred towards the reality of their suffering, we miss out on loving them with everything we are.

This is God’s gift to us in the most intrinsic form; not that we would complain about why He allows what He does, but that we would shine through the darkness of pain and suffering with the everlasting glow of His love; that we would display patience and appreciation for the mere presence of those we are supporting—especially those in our lives who are hurting. It is in these situations where it is essential that we express thanks for the remaining moments we have left to share with our loved ones. Rather than blaming God for pain, we can show others that, because of the love of Jesus, pain does not get the last say; that love, hope, a listening ear, a gentle hand, a warm hug, a sincere smile—a hearty laugh, and a compassionate spirit overcome through Jesus in the light what Satan can only attempt in the dark.

SKEPTICISM AND DOUBT

Skepticism is a good thing when implemented with intention and precision. What that means is that asking questions and thinking deep are useful tools when it comes to new things that may or may not make much sense right away. Anything from a product a salesman is trying to sell us to a belief system that someone is trying to help us understand—it is more important to ask the hardest questions so we can be absolutely sure of what we are buying and why we need it, or what we are believing and pursuing with our spirit and soul, and why. What impassions us doesn’t always impassion others. Why? Not everyone is in the same place, or they aren’t on the same path at the same time. And that’s okay! What’s amazing about a good, loving God is that He meets us wherever we are on our journey and builds us up from there. What is the guide in which He uses to do this? His word (Bible), community (church friends who support other church friends), and time intimately spent with Him in prayer and devotion/intention. He meets us in our skepticism and doubt and speaks clarity into our situation by revealing one truth at a time so that we can process in chunks what may feel so new to our spirits. 

I can tell you that coming to know Christ more personally after 21 years of rejecting Him was not easy for me. I spent years not taking the faith very seriously. The biggest reason for that was because the newfound way of looking at faith was like living in a dark room for 21 years, then opening the door and walking outside into the 1pm sunlight on a bright Saturday afternoon: It was beautiful, but quite blinding on impact. 

LEAVING NO ROOM FOR UNCERTAINTY

To ensure this message is taken properly, I want to reiterate how important asking questions is when we’re unsure of what we’re believing or buying into. If we don’t know how a product really works, then what we’re really buying is the salesman’s smile and tactics more than what’s in his hands. Likewise, if we believe something without asking solid questions and breaking the ice, we might end up believing something we don’t agree with and then not know how to live when life is hard and we aren’t sure how such a belief system affects our lives on that deeper level. With Christianity, questions like these are always redirected back to community. If we are experiencing hardship, “Do you want to talk about it? May I pray for you? Do you have a support team who is encouraging you and reaching out to you?” (Maybe not back-to-back like this, but these will be the commonly asked questions by a supportive Christian friend) Someone may even offer their number to us so they themselves can be the friend they’re asking about.

THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO ADVERSITY IS COMMUNITY

In Christ, we believe the body (the church) of Christ is a supportive network of people working, acting, and living with the authority of Jesus given to us by His blood on the cross, and consequent resurrection from the dead. Our faith in Him enables that power, and for others who do not yet believe, we use the power of prayer to express that it is not from ourselves from which we derive our answers or our esteem—that it is through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection that instills pure hope and joy on the deepest level; that because of Him, this new lifestyle and new life-changing perspective is what re-establishes and redefines friendship, support, and healing for all those who believe.

Before Christ, we had just as much reason to depend on ourselves for support as we did any other response to pain, suffering, bitterness. But in Christ, knowing His power and love for us as His creation, we know He does not leave us to figure ourselves out; He does not leave us to heal ourselves while He just watches from the throne. Jesus gives us the power we need by living within us and being next to us in our most vulnerable moments. He wouldn’t miss anything. Jesus calls us as a church of believers to join in with that same support with His authority to dispel evil and repudiate doubt in His name with the encouragement of a supportive community. We are never asked to run on this adventure alone, Christ goes with us wherever we go.

QUESTIONS?

There is so much to talk about on this one subject, but I’d like to hear it from you—where are you when it comes to battling faith? What is the hardest question for you to answer for yourself, and what question do you need to ask that would help ease any doubts you have in pursuing faith in God through Jesus? What are you facing right now that is causing you to believe that if there is a God, that He is good? Do you have a community of people who support you in these times? If you don’t, would you be willing to find a church where people can encourage you in your pain? 

I would really like to hear from you, readers. Please write any questions in the comments section below, and I will do my best to respond promptly. I’m happy to meet you where you are and encourage you in your doubt, pain, and struggles. We all have them, but not all of us have Christ. Not yet. That is why this blog exists, so that you may have Christ brought you where you may not have Christ being brought to you elsewhere. 

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. May He meet you where you are and affirm you in ways you never imagined. In Jesus name!

Doubt