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Read this before you tell me what to believe

You may have noticed I haven’t written about faith and Christianity in a while. And I’m not sure when I will again. Probably not until someone asks a question that consumes my every spare thought for a day or two. That happens more often than you might think–a couple of times a year–but definitely not every day.
The reason not to write about that subject matter every day is pretty simple if you look at my inbox. My inbox is littered with evidence that people believe that if they read something about what I believe, then I am obligated to read exactly what they believe. The problem with that particular belief is that 637 people visited this site yesterday, and yesterday was a slow day.

And, invariably, the mail states that they too, are a believer, but they place their faith in science. Or reason. Or logic. Or something else that’s inherently good, but in and of itself doesn’t provide every answer. And then they say that all I have is faith in some Jesus and I can’t prove that what I believe is any more correct than what a Hindu believes. Or any other religion, for that matter.

The temptation is to convince them. Look at the fruit. Find me a Hindu who lives a life as fulfilled as mine! Next thing you know, a bunch of us are grunting and flexing our spiritual muscles, trying to show each other and God who’s the most buff. That’s pointless. It doesn’t work. It proves nothing and accomplishes nothing other than burning up some excess testosterone.

So I can fall back on the argument that we have more indication that Jesus existed than we have that Shakespeare existed, and that we have a much closer representation of the original text of any of the 66 books of the Bible than we have of any of Shakespeare’s plays, despite the language barrier, and in spite of the ages of the texts involved. But what does that accomplish? Knowing that is comforting if you already have faith. But it doesn’t give you faith.

I can appeal to logic, and say that no other great religious figure made the claims Jesus made, and if He said that He is God and He is the only way to God and you don’t believe that, then believing anything else He said is just like putting any weight in the things Jim Jones taught or David Koresch taught, because they made the same kinds of claims and were later shown to be madmen. But again, that’s comforting if you already have faith. It’s just an argument if you don’t. It won’t give you faith.

But it’s not my job to convince them. Giving in to that temptation is to dive headlong back into the Garden of Eden and try to be God. Only God can give faith. I can answer questions. I can make you think. But I can’t give faith.

Try this exercise, if you dare. Read the Gospels of John and Luke, in that order. Read a chapter a day. You don’t have to buy a Bible–just go to, type John 1, John 2, etc. up to John 21, and Luke 1, Luke 2, etc. up to Luke 24, and pick a translation. The New King James Version is possibly the most true to the original languages, whereas the New Living is the easiest to read.

Why Luke and John? John was writing to a Greek audience rather than a Jewish audience, so those of us who are of European descent have an easier time understanding John than we do many of the other books of the Bible. And of all the Biblical authors, Luke was the best pure writer of the bunch.

If you dare, each time before you begin, ask Jesus to show you what’s different about Him. You can just say those words. Or you can just think them. It’s even easier than e-mailing me to tell me I’m wrong. Trust me. I can’t guarantee what you’ll find. I can guarantee that some days you won’t find much of anything. Other days, you’ll likely find the most provocative thing you’ve ever read.

Give that a shot. Trust me, I lived for years with things like logic and reason and history being my god. It didn’t get me anywhere. So before you tell me how great that is, and try to get me to come back over to someplace I’ve already been, spend six weeks over on my side.

Then we can talk.

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6 thoughts on “Read this before you tell me what to believe”

  1. Your (journal/blog) site is the first one I check out every day; on busy days it’s the only one. I’m disappointed when you don’t have time to update somedays (but I understand!) and I still haven’t figured out R. Collins…but I do read him.

    I first got here thorugh the daynotes gang link (um, I noticed you’re missing from there…). I spend as much time reading both the technical and the philosophical entries. The tech entries make me try new things or relearn the things I thought I knew. The other…
    well generally they make me think for days. Thank you.

    (Please)keep on doing what you’re doing here. It makes a difference to some of us.

    Oh, and thanks for the link. I’m not quite ready to let my co-workers see a bible on my desk yet.


  2. I came because of the book. I stayed because of the community. I don’t get the baseball stuff, but everything else just clicks. There are not a lot of people who can be technical and still have faith in God. Most get lost in the science or in themselves. This blog is an example to those of us who try to walk that line of technical/spiritual.

    I recommend using the New Revised Standard Version or the New American Standard Version. The NRSV is what we use in hermeneutics classes at Oral Roberts University. While many biblical scholars turn to the American Standard to check their translation of the Greek, because it is the most accurate, meaning for meaning translation. However the ASV is out of print, and in the public domain, so it is hard to find a good usable copy, except at used book stores. That is why I recommend the NASV.

    Read Romans when you are done with John and Luke. Romans is all about living in the land of many gods. We live in a society of god worshipers; the problem is we don’t worship the true God. Instead we setup our idols of money, power, fame, politics, technology, and freedom( our personal freedoms, or lack thereof and our freedom of ideas, technology, or software) and hold them up as our salvation. Our salvation is only through faith in Jesus. He is our light in a dark world.

  3. Jeremy – NRSV is a great Bible from what I hear. Any English Bible that was edited by Bruce Metzger is a good bet in my opinion. (Haven’t gotten around to picking one up yet, unfortunately.)

  4. Had a minister in our church, whose opinion on Biblical scholarship I really respect, tell me that the translation of Romans in the NRSV wasn’t all that great. Apparently one of his instructors during his doctorate work was a rather well-known scholar of that book of the Bible.

    He suggested the older RSV and I picked up the Oxford Annotated version. Nicely done, and the annotations are quite useful and interesting. He also suggested the New King James as a good tranlation (although for pure, beautiful language, I’ll pick the old King James any day 🙂

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