Religion Part 3 - Faith
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
As simple as these words of Jesus seem, they have always troubled me in more ways than one. By everlasting life, was Jesus talking about the eternal infinity that is life, about experiencing the infinity of moments that exist between each second, or was he referring to my own life, reassuring me against my own fear of death? But for today, I want to focus on another word here- "believeth." Faith is where my focus is today. In order to have this promised eternal life, Jesus says that a person has to believe.
OK so even that seems simple enough, except that within the evangelical Protestant Christian church, we as humans are powerless to seal our salvation. We simply can't do it. Only God can.
Now if you think about it, that's a paradox. We can't do anything to get saved, yet we can't get saved unless we believe in Jesus.
So what does it mean to believe if believing is not something we ourselves do? If we can't "will" ourselves to believe in God, then just what is this faith?
I'll be honest with you here. I have no idea how to answer those questions. But I have recently begun to see the effects of this paradox on those who do claim to believe.
For most of us, faith is an act of the will, something we ourselves do. Faith is taking something we can't prove and making it a part of our own reality by believing that it is true. We have faith by willing ourselves to believe. That is how we define and understand the concept of faith.
For Christians, though, the faith that saves, the faith that gets us to Heaven, can't be something we will ourselves to do. To Christians, that kind of faith is impossible. Believe it or not, but for Christians, faith has to be something God does since only God can save us.
Therefore, whatever Christians believe, no matter what it is, does not belong to them. They don't own their beliefs. They don't own their faith. God does. The faith that saves, according to evangelical Christians, must come from God. Yes, we believe, but the faith must come from God because if it were our own doing, it wouldn't save us, it couldn't. We as sinners are incapable of saving ourselves. So faith is like water in a stream. It flows through our existence.
But you and I, as rational human beings, don't believe this. This is just mindless prattle and we know it. We can see the evidence of its mindlessness just by observing today's American Christians who have set their God-owned minds on the destruction of God's own creation! And they do it all in the name of faith! They do everything that the destroyer wants them to do, attributing it all to a faith that they refuse to own, a faith that they attribute to God and Jesus and "the Holy Spirit." In their minds, according to their beliefs, according to their own interpretation of "Scripture," God intends to destroy this earth.
I've never read the "Left Behind" series, and hope I never do, but to evangelical Christians, that is God's plan for this earth so anything they do that leads to this plan must be OK with God. If faithful Christians support the development of nuclear weapons, it must be OK with God because God will most likely use these things to destroy His creation. And what sense does it make to conserve nature if God's intent is to destroy it? Why not consume it while we can?
And as if that weren't enough, when the time comes for God to do all this nastiness, "believers" won't even be here to witness the harvest of those things which they themselves have sowed in their lifetimes. They will be "raptured" right on out of here before God lights the fires. Not only are Christians not responsible for the things they do in the name of God, but they will be saved from all the suffering they cause! How convenient! Who could resist a system like that, huh?
Nope. I don't buy it at all. I just don't buy it. If I live my life according to faith, according to beliefs, no matter what, they are my own beliefs, it is my faith. If by my faith I consume that which God created, then if there is to be eternal life, some day I will answer to God about why I did it. If I support the destruction caused by war, if I support the use of fear as a tool for social control, some day I will have to answer to God for why I chose to do it. If I believe in the destruction of the world, the destruction of God's creation, some day I will have to answer for my beliefs.
Furthermore, if I don't wish to have to suffer eternal punishment for those beliefs, the only possible solution acceptable to God is for me to refute them, to stop believing in war and fear and the destruction of God's creation, the world, and hope that it isn't too late! My beliefs are mine! If I want to live my life with the Prince of Peace, then I need to believe in peace myself. I need to believe that the answer is for me to love God and His creation. Period! I can't serve two masters. I can't serve God's ongoing creation while at the same time serving God's plan to destroy that creation. One or the other of those outcomes is from God. One is the plan of creation. The other is the plan of deception.