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

In the Dark: Processing Doubt With Faith

BEAUTIFIED PAIN

Resting under the dark grayish blue hues of makeup that is the dawn of the sky’s face on a Sunday morning, I listened to the placating voice of Leslie Mills in Yanni’s “Before the Night Ends” while my stoic, broken gaze was raptured by the song’s emotion. Truthfully, my faith is hurting; I have been feeling distant from God, yet His gift to me through this perfectly beautified pain resonates in way I cannot avoid or deny. 

There are moments, stints in Christianity alike the inevitably “natural” cycle of life—where intermittent adversity strikes spontaneously and painfully. A time arrives when faith seems like the wrong choice, when Christ Himself seems like a lost fictional character in a fairy tale reserved strictly for the absent-minded folk looking for an escape rather than a solution. How long does this phase last? More importantly, is this just a phase, or a reality within the life of faith? I would like to explore these thoughts here.

ABJECT DOUBT AND MINDLESS RESISTANCE

What strikes me is this specific facet of hardship in Christianity; namely, the facet of doubt becoming so abject as to seem more real than belief itself. Not so much regarding the level or scale of faith required of the believer to retain spiritual composure in the face of adversity, but rather the weight-filled capacity one is required to open/free up in sacrificing the “old self” in order to fully embrace the “new self” and “pick up our cross to follow Him.” In other words, what I’m facing is the violent, mindless resistance of my old self desiring its place back in my life. But my eyes have been opened: I cannot “un-see” my faith. I have been embraced by His essence and enraptured by His truth—I cannot un-know what I now know anymore than I cannot take off my humanity and become a centipede. 

THE MIRAGE THAT IS LIFE

Within this thought is the honest truth and opinion that Christianity is not “easy,” depending on the perspective of the believer. But, I would sternly argue how faith in Jesus as Lord is not an invitation to an easier life; this is as naive as believing dessert is healthy because it looks and sounds delicious. Christianity can look shiny and clean at times, and that is not a facade—but that is not the full picture: It is but one angle from a single mind within a multifarious crowd of individuals, each at different intervals of the same adventure led by the same leader. “Cleanness” is but an attribute of orderliness and fair-play, one which would profess Christianity does not shed blood nor experience pain, and this is as fallacious as life itself acting as a mere biological mirage in the form of keratinocytes/epidermis (or skin), electrical wiring, hormones, and thought patterns. This is, after all, the surface value human experience as we know it; one we can deny or believe, resist or accept, but which exists nonetheless as our mental skeleton of life, positioning us between existence and what comes afterwards. 

After almost 10 years of investigating faith and Jesus, a stark truth stands out: Faith generally appeals to the hearts of those who see nothing else to turn to in our cosmically darkened labyrinth of existence, and also to those who realize they have altogether seen too much and fear turning in any other direction other than the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

A JEALOUS GOD, AND A NEW ‘SKIN’

Listening to “Before the Night Ends” brought me to a calm and stolid state of mind. I slowed down enough to realize my position in my faith and my thoughts of Christianity at this point in time: In the air, vacillating between the desire to scream at the sky (as if God is there and not inside me through the Holy Spirit) and my incessant need (and inability to admit otherwise) for His love and presence—despite my rebellion to pursue Him more adamantly. I make God jealous by desiring anything other than Him before desiring Him. The adversity of the Christian (the psychological portion of the “Christian ‘mess,'” if you will) is the level of aversive doubt we must face and fight with faith. Our faith, of course, is only as strong as the amount of ourselves we’re willing to “let die” in order to gain the “new epidermis”; namely the new spiritual skin of faith—armor from above in the form of a belief more pertinacious than any tangible iron we could strap over our chest. 

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

As I listened, the words and flow of the song reminded me of a stark image of the Christian faith: Christianity has moments when we are called to either fight or rest (among other, smaller roles within these two); the fight could be evangelism, prayer, or simply obedience in the face of rebellion. Rest could be meditation, surrender of thought or concern, singing praises, or even physical rejuvenation. At some point, however, there will always come the opposite (fight or rest), and this striking point hit me like a wrecking ball while in my car. This song, having pulled me into the trance of relaxation, had me realize I was resting in the posture of gaining back some strength—but for what? To fight again. We are not called to permanently rest on this earth.

Those who claim they will rest when they’re dead do not understand the balance of work and play, nor the purpose and importance of human relationships/community/family. Those who do not understand there is a time for ‘fast’ and a time for ‘slow’ are unwise and “like a leaf in the wind,” trapped between indulgence and desire. When Christ said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28) He was inviting us not to get carried away with the exhaustion of constantly living in action (“fight” mode). His invitation was not only Him saying, “I have the power to give you the rest you seek,” it was actually initiating the thought that we need to seek rest from our adversities/battles. There is a time to fight and a time to rest; a time to suffer and a time to heal—Jesus knew this. There is a calm before the storm, and Jesus saw the storms coming.

AN IMPERSONAL GOD – ‘FATE INCARNATE’

Another point which jarred me off balance recently during a visit with family (unbelievers) is how easy it is to live life believing we are here on earth to just get along, cooperate, make a living, and one day die peacefully. This seemed easy to believe while I was with them, but this notion strikes me as not only naive, but completely God-less. We don’t need belief in God to believe life should be more fair, more cooperative, more complacent, or more peaceful. We don’t need belief in God (nor even acknowledgement of Him) in order to bite into the food in our hands because we can still do that without realizing it’s by His love and grace that we have the ability to move at all. But if we impersonalize God and turn Him into a “force” without morality or emotion, He becomes Karma or Fate Incarnate, moving only as a manifestation of Nature (Pantheism); a character in the book of humanity written by humanity from the opinion and limited observation of humans. The emphasis here is to be placed between that which humans make of God when we are inspired by God, and what humans make of a ‘force’ when they are only inspired by thought and perception

DIGESTING THE EXTREMES

For unbelievers, the God of the Bible is too fantastical and histrionic; dramatized with fire pillars, red seas, and a resurrection. But forbid the idea that God could become personal or intimate, lest He become someone we realize we actually have the choice to deny or receive. How can God become so personal as to have a relationship with a human being, and how could He be “born” through a virgin? These questions pass through us, first burning through our brains and down to our hearts where we subconsciously hold hostage the seemingly preposterous idea that we would rather have a personal God—if only the ideology behind such a belief made more sense than the way it is described/presented in a 2,000 year-old book of parables, metaphors, and far-fetched ideas (dragons in an unforeseen world ((Revelations)), a talking snake ((Genesis)), Heaven/Hell).

We then push this notion down from our hearts to our stomachs where we hope we will digest the confusion and forget we were ever bothered by such a conundrum. But eventually, because of Who created our minds and hearts to begin with, these thoughts will return and we will be invited once more to explicate who we are and why we are here. We can either live in the loop of a downwards spiral trajectory (digesting and giving away all hope of a purposeful life), or we can take the time to understand what appears to be a mystery, in turn, finding our Creator in the process and allowing Him to speak over the chaos that is our hearts in this world.

A MESS WITHIN THE STORM OF FAITH

We are given only two options, and this makes us frustrated and resentful. If there is such a God, why doesn’t He just make it all simpler? we ask. We have two choices, not ten thousand or ten million. The choice is between yes and no; it could not get simpler than this unless He literally told us what to say. The truth is, we know what He would love for us to choose, but we still need to make that decision. This decision, of course, will only begin with our yes or no—the rest of our lives will be a ripple effect of that answer, living by faith instead of self-dependency, boldness instead of fear; hope instead of mystery. Jesus Christ is the “Good News,” and even though Christianity is a big mess, it’s a mess because we’re in a storm. 

Looking at this from the big picture, we might say that life itself is the “big picture” form of the ‘fight,’ and that when we die we will be at ‘rest.’ In this sense, the storm is messy, but even in the storm, Jesus does give us rest; we get time to do a little clean-up to feel rejuvenated and energized, and that’s when we’re called back into the storm. This is all Christianity—the good and the not-so-comfortable. We weren’t called to just live in the backseat while Jesus drives the car: He will stop, intermittently, call for us to fight a battle by His side, and He will help us win—even if we are injured. He knows the injuries are only testimonies to His goodness and sovereignty in that He will not only heal us, He will make us new.

WE ARE NEVER WITHOUT JESUS

If you’re like me, and you find yourself doubting your faith or questioning Jesus at times, recall the truth that we’re in a storm, and that this storm was given to us because it will bring us closer to God when we are obedient in pursuing His presence even while it appears to be distant. Jesus is never far, He is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He will not forsake us or abandon us (Deuteronomy 31:6). If you feel like He’s forgotten you, I encourage you to share that with Him openly and anticipate His response. I would encourage you to pray with a believer who will agree with you in prayer. God will send you an answer, and He will not leave you to fall into disbelief; He will lead you to remember that only He is God, and that you are deeply loved. Be lifted high, readers. In Jesus name!

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If you felt 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. You can also reach me on my Contact Page, it would be a blessing to read your thoughts! God bless you, readers!

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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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