I'm not going to "review" the book O Me of Little Faith by Jason Boyett. Frankly, i think the book so good, all i can say is: Buy it; read it. I don't think any "review" i write would do it justice. Jason is an excellent & intelligent writer. Read.The.Book. If you're not sure you want to read a book on doubt, get the book & read the last chapter first. If you don't find it uplifting & helpful, well, enough said. He doesn't come up with reasons not to doubt; he has fine reasons why doubt & faith walk hand in hand. For many of us, at least.
Check out his blog. I recommend this post on The Problem with Asking Hard Questions. The comment section is excellent, too. (I will admit, however, that as much as i like the site, sometimes reading "doubt" day after day is a bit too much for me. Rather like looking at the glass as half empty too many days in a row.)
Obviously, the book had much in it which resonated with me. I wouldn't recommend it otherwise. I will be posting on some highlights that touched me.
Frankly, i'd very much like to send G a copy, very anonymously. (I don't think he'd read it coming from me.) I think he must be struggling a lot with doubt to preach against it (& fear & other emotion) so strongly.
In some ways i think my faith has grown to be quite strong. In other ways, not so much. I know a lot of people who see God in every moment of their lives. They walk him, talk him, regurgitate scripture every moment, pray continually, see him everywhere, & refuse to take credit for choice they make (good ones, i mean) in order to give God the credit & glory. I struggle with that thinking & mentality. Can't they see that they made a choice to do X, Y or Z, even if they ultimately give God the glory? And because this type of life/thought seems to be a "Christian standard" way of thinking, i can't help but wonder, "What is wrong with me?"
Anyway, in Chapter 2, Jason presents some of the arguments which "prove" God. The Ontological Argument, the Transcendental Argument, the Teleological Argument, the Anthropic Argument. (He covers them well enough in the book, but Google them if you wish.) I studied some of these in Apologetics in college. I find that my faith is based, in a large part, on what i would call a variation of the Transcendental Argument. That one is that ethics & morals could not have evolved; they require God. (Oh, go look it up!)
I think that man/men/mankind/people/folks could not be good, probably would not know what "good" is, were there not a God. I've never believed in "total depravity" for if that were so, the human race would have killed itself off long ago. People would not have children & raise them; they would have children & eat them. Amoral behaviors & wars would have killed off all the rest.
I am not arguing about whether sin is real, or that there are truly evil people in the world. It is, there are; that is obvious. I'm not arguing against the idea that we needed Jesus to be our "bridge" to a relationship with God. I'm not saying that people have the ability to "reach a divine state" apart from the grace of God.
What i am saying is that people know moral values. They know "good." A mother has a child & 99% of the time (i believe) falls in love with that child & wants all things good for him/her. A father wants to protect that child as well. Other folks admire the baby (they don't think, "Dinner!"). (Now, as the child grows, that ability to have patience can be another matter altogether! Oh, & yes, i know those feelings serve an "evolutionary purpose" - but that doesn't really sway me.)
People, all kinds of people - Christians, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhists, Muslim, "religious folk," Wiccan, agnostics, atheists, non-spiritual, the lot - have the ability to show compassion, do "random acts of kindness," & come to the aid of their fellow human-beings, nature, animals, where they see a need. I believe that is so because there is within us still part of the "image of God" & the "knowledge of good & evil" which tells us when our behaviors are good or not good. We also know that we've fallen short of the impossible "perfect."
I know a few atheists personally. They are "good," moral, ethical people. In some ways they are much more consistent than many Christians i know. Why would this be so? Why would they not be "out for whatever they can get"? Why are they proud of being good?
I believe it is a piece of the human race: We know when we have done less than the best, when what we have done is not perfect. We seem to be, the majority of society, motivated to aspire to be good. I don't think society would survive were it not true of the majority, regardless of their beliefs.
Now, i'm not saying that this argument would sway anyone else. I'm saying, it works for me. I also fall in line with some of the other arguments. I like the argument of a designer (the Teleological Argument). When i see the complexity of the world, it seems to me that someone must have done it - & is quite proud of it too! But this one doesn't carry the weight that "people know enough to try to be good" has for me. I just don't think this would be so apart from the imprint of God.
For me, too, is the idea of personality. Babies have personality from the very beginning. I don't believe in the idea of tabula rasa. To me, personality is equivalent with "soul." From the very moment of birth, children have different ways of reacting, responding, different things upset or calm them, some have challenging personalities right from the beginning. That, for me, leads in the direction of "soul" & it seems to me that, somehow, that is something that continues. Of course, this idea gets a bit muddy when i see that most animals have personality as well. That is, frankly, why i lean toward vegetarianism. How can i eat something with personality (soul)?
Now, feeling i have bits of "a strong faith" doesn't mean i haven't doubts. There are odd times when i think, "What if it is not so? What if when we die there IS nothing more?" Part of me thinks that i'll be very disappointed. There are many places i've not gone here on Earth, because, quite frankly i'm content to wait & see them in the "New World" to come. I would miss all of that. I won't be meeting the children we've lost; i won't be seeing dear ones who have "gone before," i won't be meeting Jesus, i won't be seeing GOD. But, of course, if there is nothing more i won't know all those things. It won't matter.
But those moments of strong doubt are brief. In general, when i hear someone i know has died, my response has been, "They get to be with Jesus! They are with God!" Of course, very soon after that the reality & sorrow of loss sets in. But frankly i will admit, my first response is usually, "They are with Jesus!" (And i'm jealous for that moment.)
However, this also doesn't stop me from seeing the cruel twists of life: Cancer in children, & loss of young mothers; earthquakes & volcanoes, rain & floods that do so much damage & loss of life; serial killers & pedophiles; folks who don't want children have them, folks who desperately want them don't; some folks get to have 18 children & others none at all; chronic illnesses that devastate lives. I have some answers for some of this (usually very critical of people's choices) but in general, life of unfairness & death in innocents disturb me very much.
And if God really pulls all the strings as some folks claim, how can we understand so much of the unfairness? It seems that the flip side of "the Lord provides" definitely is that "the Lord takes away." For those he blesses with children, has he cursed those of us without? The righteous & the unrighteous alike are mowed down & sometimes it seems the righteous get it harder than those who don't honor God. How can we be intelligent, thinking beings & NOT question these things?
Yet our answer is no more than was given Job: God is not in need of the approval of his creation. He is free. Jason did a good job in this chapter of talking of how Jesus, in many ways, did not elucidate God or the nature of God very well at all. He essentially told us: God is a mystery. We cannot define him, box him, study him as we would nature, we cannot capture, hold, or pin him down. We can, occasionally feel the effects of him, but beyond that we have very little to go on.
It was my intent to write, as well, on belief systems, how & why we box ourselves &/or God into tight places.
But this is long enough.
I will reiterate: In some ways i feel i have a very strong, firm faith. I'm very thankful for it. Some of it is due to attending a church that doesn't believe as i do because it has helped me to refine/define/clarify what i do believe & what i feel is important. Honestly, i don't believe that too much of what i believe is all that important. The basic tenants of the Nicene creed do for me. The rest simply comes down to obedience.
G, when we joined the Lutheran church (this was my first red flag) wanted to insist that we MUST believe that at the moment of accepting communion, it was transformed to be both bread/wine & body/blood. Frankly, i don't care either way & i don't consider it all that important. I think the act of obedience to the command of Jesus, regardless of my belief, is what is important.
This, plus my own doubts & weaknesses would damn me to hell in the thinking of G. In his thinking, any fear or doubt or depression means lack of faith in God & is the path to hell. This is why parts of my faith are strong: I've spent over 2 years countering such thought.
I've also disagreed with G that we need to convince other people that they are bad or evil. My thought is, let them believe they are "good" all they want. Why argue? The reality is they probably ARE good people, as people standards go. Kind of like someone who can broad jump 18 feet when most of us can only broad jump 8. They are far & away better at it than the rest of us. But will that extra 10 feet make a difference when trying to broad jump the Grand Canyon? We all plummet without the saving grace of the sacrifice Jesus made. G was "offended" by my argument because it flew in the face of everything he has believed, but he could find no fault with my reasoning. It didn't change how he sees fallen man, however. Nor his preaching that we are evil little people, not worthy of God's grace & probably won't "make it" anyway, due to our fears & doubts.
I've still my weak parts of faith, & that is why i so very much appreciate the book, O Me of Little Faith. :)
- ▼ June (8)