I will not convince anyone through argument, even sound argument, that my God is real.
Verbalizing the above is not the same as saying no argument can be made. In fact, more has been witnessed, documented, and discovered to support the reality of a creator and the physical reality of His Son, Jesus, than any other theory/person in history. Still, to lay out all the evidence before an intellectual or an atheist or a person of some other faith will never be sufficient proof to convert said individual to my particular point of view. We might have an interesting discussion. We could both walk away from the debate with more to ponder than when we began it. And, we may even consider ourselves closer to some common ground, or dare I suggest–relationship. Those potentialities would depend on the openness with which we went into the conversation. But the bottom line is: I won’t be able to convert him or her via debate.
I do not doubt that for some people intellectual, faith related discussions are enjoyable. They are for me so why couldn’t they be for others. Still I find myself bowing out sooner and engaging in fewer of these conversations all the time. Just last week my son brought a particular thread to my attention on which I made one comment and then disengaged. I was left wondering why I behaved the way I did and have come up with a couple answers.
The less flattering answer is that I found myself wanting to pull out my hatpin and start poking. I like matching wits with people, causing those with pat answers to feel flustered or become angry enough to show their self-righteous colors, and then leave the conversation thinking the champion for the underdog/marginalized/voiceless has struck again. Like I said–that is the less flattering answer.
The other reason I departed from the thread is because I came face to face with the maxim: actions speak louder than words. I began to understand in a new way, at least for me, that someone watching my practice is going to learn much more about my faith–what I actually believe–than someone listening to my words.
Despite what we want the outside world to think most Christian fellowships are filled with people who have questions, not answers. (Yes, I am making a judgment that holds a dim view of most Christian fellowships that some may not think I have the right to make. However, my credentials and why I think I have a pretty accurate picture of Building-based Christianity are below). Christian fellowships are full of members who are worried and fearful and secretive and in pain, despite scriptural instructions to consider the lilies of the field and stop worrying, promises that love casts out fear, encouragement to bring sin into the light and be set free, and suggestions that God will heal. In other words, our fellowships look a lot like the rest of the world.
The pressure to put on the happy mask, NOT ask any questions, and recite a variety of mantras–God is good all the time, Jesus loves you, you are a child of the King, God is in control–the moment one walks in the door successfully suppresses most every effective witness that could be displayed by the Body as we actually engage with the wounded, lonely, confused, and down-trodden. Jesus showed us the way alright–through His example. But we have exchanged the Word for a rule book, cite chapter and verse to try to validate our superior position in the world of religion, and overlook completely the real significance behind the facts that the Christ of our namesake came from a lowly birth, was born to an unwed mother, lived for a time as a refugee, chose as His closest friends tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, hot heads, and even a man who would eventually betray Him. We gloss over the realities of His ministry, for instance the fact He relied on friends to feed and house Him or upsetting the economy of the temple by chasing out the money changers in favor of the highlights, such as changing water to wine, healing lepers, casting out demons, or out witting the Pharisees. Even more likely we leave the behavior of Jesus behind completely and concentrate instead on the instructions of Paul that we can more easily put into nifty rules to live by.
Perhaps the answer to the question: Why aren’t more intellectuals believers (AKA Christians) is the same as the answer to the question: Why aren’t more atheist Christians, or more Millennials Christians, or more Buddhists Christians, or more _________ Christians. Perhaps the answer is because more Christians aren’t Christian.
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I regularly (weekly unless I was ill, had a sick child at home, or was on vacation) attended six different denominational fellowships, including United Methodist, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Dutch Reformed, Episcopalian, and Baptist as well as three non-denominational fellowships, over the course of 30 years. The reason for most of the changes were due to my family moving to a new city or becoming part of a church plant.