My Journey

Stepping out of that myopic existence I began to get an inkling that there existed a world of truth that I wanted to encounter, and so I set off.


Walking


It’s time for a little update, not much, but I am no longer new to blogging. I have been at it a few years. Not that I have gained any particular stature. I simply can’t claim to be new at it. I still write as part of my profession, but blogging is more interesting. Blogging is my way of sharpening ideas and fleshing them out. I know I don’t always “get it right”, but it’s the journey that counts.

I have been on a journey for truth since I emerged from the haze and confusion of adolescence, much of it self-induced. Stepping out of that myopic existence I began to get an inkling that a world of truth lay in front of me to encounter, and so I set off. I didn’t realize, then, how much faith is required to seek truth. Continue reading “My Journey”

Some Consolation in the Biblical Illiteracy of Modern American Christians


This piece I post not without some trepidation. I throw it out into the blogosphere nevertheless. For what it is worth.

I was listening to a podcast this morning by an atheist, turned Christian apologist, who commented that an “overwhelming number” of American Christians do not know what scripture says about key issues, including salvation. The comment stood out to me, so I googled it.

I found a Lifeway article that doesn’t focus on Christians, per se, but on Americans generally[1]. (We’re supposedly a Christian nation, right?) The article focused not on the content, but on how much of the Bible people have read. While the article didn’t focus on people who call themselves Christians, it began to paint the picture.

A whopping 53% of the people polled had read no more than “several passages” or “a few stories”. Twenty three percent (23%) had read no more than “only a few sentences”, and ten percent (10%) of the people polled hadn’t read a single word of the Bible.

I am not completely surprised, though I would love to see the percentage of those people who have a strong opinion about what the Bible says.

About fifteen percent (15%) of the people polled said they had read “at least half” of the Bible. Another twelve percent (12%) said they had read “almost all of it. Only twenty percent (20%) of the people polled said they had read all of the Bible, but only nine percent (9%) had read all of it more than once.

Clearly, we are not very Bible literate as a nation, though we have strong opinions on what we think the Bible says. That goes for people who have strong positive opinions and strong negative opinions.

Interestingly, I found an article written by a well-known atheist that suggests most Christians don’t understand the fundamentals of their faith.[2] He concludes, “This survey shows that a lot of people take on a particular religious label, not because they have a full understanding of what that faith believes, but for other more superficial reasons. Maybe their parents raised them in it. Maybe they were led to that religion by a friend. Maybe they attended a service and found it welcoming and inspiring.” Anecdotally, I see some truth in that statement.

It’s not just atheists making that observation. An article by the Barna Group, a Christian organization, finds that most churchgoers have “never heard of” the Great Commission.[3] Another article commenting on a similar survey concludes that most Americans are heretics and claims the results show that even “those who wear Christianity on their sleeve” … “Christmas-treed the survey, espousing all kinds of unorthodox views”.[4]

I found many articles by Christian leaders expressing concern about Bible illiteracy among people who consider themselves Christians (calling it a big problem[5], a scandal[6] a crisis[7] and an epidemic[8]), so it seems there truly are an “overwhelming number” of American Christians who do not know what scripture says about key issues – to circle back to where I started. And, where do I get off this feedback loop?

Continue reading “Some Consolation in the Biblical Illiteracy of Modern American Christians”

Comparative Views on Pain and Suffering

What we have in Christianity is a God who is separate from His creation, but He isn’t detached. He is intimately engaged even with our suffering.


I studied World Religions in college at a time when I was searching. Buddhism was attractive to me at the time. (I have written on this before in Lured by Buddha but Taken By Christ and Reflecting Back On the Path I Have Traveled, among other places.) Perhaps, the reason that I think about the comparison of Christianity to Buddhism (in particular) is that I was attracted to Buddhism once, so I am interested to read or listen to what others have to say about it.

Though I eventually gave my life to Jesus Christ and vowed to follow Him, that decision was made in the environment of a secular college. My new found faith was challenged from the start. I engaged in a constant measuring of that belief against competing views early on, and that habit of measuring Christian belief against competing worldviews continues to this day.

Though we are all susceptible to confirmation bias, I strive to put my faith to the test. While I have held tightly to “mere Christianity”, I have held loosely to denominational doctrines, peripheral views and political positions, among other things. I have “evolved” in my thinking on evolution and science, and I have spent the better part of 4+ years deconstructing my political views at age 60 (now), to identify just a couple of area sin which my views have changed.

I also have spent much time wandering in my own wilderness. I have not always been a faithful follower.  Though I have had many reasons to turn aside and have nearly been undone by my own proclivity toward sin, I have not found any worldview or way more compellingly true then what I have found in following Christ.

Since I became a believer in Jesus, I have always been keenly aware of the intersection of belief and unbelief, probably because of the environment in which I became a Christian. I was confronted from the beginning by alternative and opposing views, and testing Scriptural text against alternative and opposing views has become a force of habit.

As I do, I am reminded of certain signposts along my journey, benchmarks of enlightenment – the light bulb moments in my journey – that have marked my way. I am reminded of them again when they pop up in front of me from time to time.

I came across one reminder of an old signpost this week. It was in a letter to Justin Brierley, host of the Unbelievable? Podcast, that he read on the air. The writer of the letter commented on a discussion about Christianity in India and the native religion of India, Hinduism. Brierley read the letter, prefacing it with the questions: “Which worldview offers the most satisfactory explanation [for pain and suffering], and which worldview offers the most opportunity for healing?”

Below, I will recite from the letter verbatim and make a few comments on the the dramatically different ways in which Christianity and Buddhism  (and Hinduism) approach suffering: Continue reading “Comparative Views on Pain and Suffering”

Justice from a Human Perspective


Every human being has a sense of justice that develops at a very early age. If I show a cookie to a 15-month old, and don’t give it to her, she will cry. She might not be able to articulate what she is thinking, but she reacts because “it isn’t fair”. I shouldn’t show her a cookie I’m not going to give her!

Is this a primitive form of the sense of justice that we all have? Maybe.

Scientists used to believe that a sense of justice didn’t develop until age 6 or 7, but recent studies suggest our sense of justice forms much earlier than that (before we even reach the age of two).[1] The study shows that toddlers not only have a sense of justice; they are already developing nuance in their sense of justice to distinguish between lesser and greater injustices.

That sense of justice matures as we grow older. Studies show that children as young as 3 to 5 years old can already identify injustice done to others, not just themselves.[2] I think our common experience demonstrates that our sensitivity to injustice grows, develops and becomes more refined as we mature as people. We develop a sensitivity to injustices done to others, not just ourselves and the people we know.

Still, that sense of injustice is never provoked so much as when we are on the receiving end. We are never more incensed at injustice as when the injustice is done to us, our family or people with which we identify. Our sensitivity to injustice tends to get softer and less urgent when the injustice is done to people we don’t know, especially if they are people with whom we don’t easily identify.

Don’t think so? When someone from “the other party” rants about a particular injustice done to “their side”, do you feel empathetic?

We can train ourselves to be more sensitive to other people, including other people with whom we have little or nothing in common, maybe even people with whom we disagree, but it’s a lot of work!

Let’s be honest here: it’s much easier to spot the injustice done to ourselves and people with whom we identify; we are much quicker to jump to our own defense and to the defense of people with whom we identify; we don’t naturally have the same feelings for others, especially those with whom we have little or nothing in common.

These observations suggest that a person’s sense of justice is affected by his or her perspective. As we grow older, our perspective broadens and widens, and we can learn to take other people into account as our sense of justice develops, but even as mature adults our sense of justice is driven by our personal perspectives.  Continue reading “Justice from a Human Perspective”

Justice from God’s Perspective


In a previous blog post, Justice from a Human Perspective, I explored how we people have an innate sense of justice from a very early age, even before two years old, and that sense of justice develops as we mature. Everyone has a sense of justice, and we all act as if justice is a knowable, immutable fact. Even when we disagree on what justice means in a given situation.

We disagree on things like abortion and capital punishment. Get very nuanced, and the differences multiply. Even at the highest levels, we experience a disconnect between the innate assumption that justice is objectively knowable and agreement on just what it is.

I believe the disconnect exists because we are finite beings. We are finite, and we our perspectives are, therefore, limited. As a result, justice from our human perspective (individually and collectively) is ultimately subjective.

God, on the other hand, is not so limited. His perspective is broader, wider, deeper and greater in every possible way because God is infinite.

Justice isn’t just because God says so (an arbitrary and capricious standard). Justice also isn’t an abstract standard to which even God is subject. Justice flows from the very nature of God, because He is the creator of everything (all that is seen and unseen). Justice is defined in relation to God by necessity, because of who and what He is.

One thing is for sure: in a world created by God, we don’t determine justice.

We all have our perspectives about what is just, but the only standard that ultimately counts is the standard of justice that conforms to God’s nature.

And, that begs the question: what can we know of God and God’s justice? That is a loaded question to be sure!

As finite beings, how can we know God’s perspective if He doesn’t reveal it to us?

We can know something about it, perhaps, just as we might know something about God. For instance, God who created the space/time and matter, must be different from the universe He created. He must be spaceless/timeless and non-material. The universe had a beginning, but God must not have had a beginning (otherwise, we would have an infinite regress – who created God? who created the thing that created God? etc.)

An infinite, non-material, timeless, spaceless God would most certainly have a different perspective on justice, even if the basic components of justice are objective and knowable – things that we can grasp, just as we grasp how gravity works and quantum mechanics. We might not understand all of it but we are able to grasp some of it, and we continue to advance in our knowledge and understanding.

We can know something of God’s perspective on justice from what we can know about the attributes of God, even without any special revelation from Him to us. Beyond that, though, we would need God to reveal His perspective to us.

Each religion attempts to answer these types of questions about God and the universe. Hinduism, for instance, developed the idea of karma and reincarnation. In the Hindu tradition, we are rewarded (or punished) in the next life for what we do in this life. It’s a never ending cycle of getting in the next life what we earned in this life.

The Christian tradition somewhat agrees with the basic idea of getting what we deserve in the next life for the way we lived in this life, but without the endless cycles of reincarnation. We die once, and then the judgment. Thus, both traditions perceive something about justice, but they interpret it and apply it differently. In the next piece, An Exercise in Viewing Justice from God’s Perspective, I will explore one way that Jesus reveals clues to us on God’s perspective about justice.

An Exercise in Viewing Justice from God’s Perspective


In Justice from a Human Perspective, I explored the phenomenon that the vast majority of people have an inner sense of justice that is pricked every time they experience injustice themselves or by people they know and love. The very protest, “That’s not fair!” implies that the protester believes others should recognize it.

We have an innate sense of justice, and we innately feel that others should recognize the justice or injustice we see and feel. We do have have much general agreement, but the disagreements are many at the same time. Those disagreements might be attributable to our perspectives, which are limited and, therefore, subjective.

Thus, we can’t anchor an objective standard of justice in people. It must be anchored in something more immutable, like God (see Justice from God’s Perspective), but how do we know justice from God’s perspective?

I submit that we don’t… we can’t, unless He reveals it to us.

In the Bible we what purports to be a record of God’s communication and involvement in the history of men. While, I admit that we can learn something about justice in other religious books and literature, for many reasons I think the fullest and most accurate record of God’s revelation, generally, and of justice, specifically, is found in Scripture.

You might disagree with me, but stick with me as I consider the following story about Jesus that provides us some perspective on the issue.

Continue reading “An Exercise in Viewing Justice from God’s Perspective”

God’s Caring and Purpose in the Midst of Pain and Suffering

God is not cold or uncaring or unaware of our pain and suffering. Yet, He has a plan, and He intends to carry it out.


“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18 NIV)

John is talking about Jesus, of course. The progression in the beginning of John’s Gospel goes like this: In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God; the Word was God; all things were made through the Word; in Him was life; and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:1-4, 9, 14) Then, John makes the statement I have recited above. No one has ever seen God but the one and only Son, who is God.

The Greek word that is translated “one and only Son” in the New International Version of the Bible is monogenés, derived from the world monos, meaning one of a class (one of a kind) and genos, meaning only of its kind. A more literal translation of the word would be “only begotten”.

The beginning of the Nicene Creed[1] captures the idea as follows:

We believe in one God,
      the Father almighty,
      maker of heaven and earth,
      of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
      the only Son of God,
      begotten from the Father before all ages,
           God from God,
           Light from Light,
           true God from true God,
      begotten, not made;
      of the same essence as the Father.
      Through him all things were made.
      For us and for our salvation
           he came down from heaven….

These thoughts arise today in the context of a discussion between the great Anglican scholar, Tom (N.T.) Wright[2], and Justin Brierley[3], the Unbelievable? Podcast and Ask NT Wright Anything host out of the UK. They were talking about the corona virus threat that is plaguing the world.

Among other things, Tom Wright (who is an historian) observed that a pandemic like the corona virus is not unique in the history of the world. The Justinian plague is believed to have killed as many as 25 million people (6th century), the Black Death killed probably double that in the 14th century. The Italian Plague (1629-31), Great Plague of London (1665-66) and Great Plague of Marseilles (1720-22) took millions of lives in Europe, and the Third Plague Pandemic killed about 15 million people, hitting China and India the hardest.[4]

After a discussion of how Christians should respond to the threat (in the same manner as they always have – with compassion and self-sacrifice, helping those in need), Justin prompted Tom by asking him for a five minute response to the hard question: why does God let things like plagues happen?

Tom Wright’s response recalls articles I wrote on March 22, 2020 (Change of Perspective: From the God of Moses to Jesus) and on March 28, 2020 (Perspective in the Reminder of Our Own Mortality). In the first article, I addressed the seeming incongruity between the picture of God we see in the Old Testament compared to the person of Jesus we meet in the New Testament. In the second article, I sought some perspective on the bad things that are happening in light of God’s revealed purpose in creating us and the world in which we live.

Tom Wright’s brief response (focusing on the raising of Lazarus from the dead) sits right in the middle. Right where we live. Let me explain.

Continue reading “God’s Caring and Purpose in the Midst of Pain and Suffering”

COVID-19 and Spirituality in the 21st Century

We are made for interaction and for relationship. 


To paraphrase from the article linked below, spirituality in the 21st Century is is a one-person-show. You tap in, you tap out. You are the curator of the experience; you are in the pilot’s seat. Self-betterment. Self-discovery. Self-awareness…. Spirituality in the 21st Century is a singular, self-focused pursuit.  You are your own god, attempting to build your own island paradise. Sounds like a dream.

That dream is a attractive to a recluse like me. As a child, Robinson Caruso and My Side of the Mountain influenced my impressionable psyche at an early age. Thoreau captured my imagination as a still impressionable, but disillusioned, teenager. Of the major world religions, Buddhism spoke to me as an early college student.

Retreating from the messy cacophony and harried competition of modern life seemed like Nirvana to me. Back to nature, isolated on my own island paradise, beholden to no one but myself, released from external duties and melting into the oneness of all life seemed like a laudable and desirable goal.

My inspiration comes from a blog I follow by a lovely lady and Christ follower. You can read the original blog post here: Eavesdropping on a Plane. She calls to mind the siren song that beckoned me up to a point in my life.

As I sit here in self-imposed quasi-quarantine (for the sake of others, not myself this time), some 40 years after a paradigm shift in my life that changed the trajectory of my journey, I recall the allure of that dream, and I am also convinced it’s a mirage, an unattainable state of illusory bliss.

We are social creatures, created for relationship with God and each other. The ordered, but largely self-regulating, isolation we now experience as we fight the threat of the alien invader, COVID-19, proves the point: we are uneasy, restless, and missing the regular, personal contact we need and thrive on.

Continue reading “COVID-19 and Spirituality in the 21st Century”