The subject of near-death experiences is a deep rabbit hole, as I have come to find out. I have listened to a number of testimonies recently of people who have had near-death experiences, and that led me to look up what Gary Habermas has to say about them. Habermas has been involved in the research of near-death experiences (NDEs) for a couple of decades.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Tim Keller lately. Today I listened to an old interview in which he said something that got me thinking. He asserted that, for many or most people, whether they are religious or secular often depends on their social influences. I suppose this would mean parents and family as well as peers. Richard Dawkins, the famously vocal atheist has said similar things: what religion we are depends to a large extent on the society in which we grew up.
Keller supported his thesis with anecdotal evidence from his own experience. He says, for him, he was religious initially because he wanted to gain the favor of people closes to him. What does that say about the power of social interactions? What does it say about our beliefs? If Richard Dawkins and Keller are right, how authentic are anyone’s beliefs?
I read an autobiographical account by CS Lewis in college in which he recounted his journey from atheist to agnostic to Christian. The twists and turns of his journey were fascinating to me. I gained much insight into my own journey and how God works in the hearts of people who are inclined to follow the prompts.
His journey was like mine in some respects and much different in others. Just as I see how uniquely tailored and personal those prompts were for me, they were just as uniquely tailored for CS Lewis.
The God revealed in the Bible is a Person, and He is personal. He made us in His image. He made us to have relationship with Him. He relates to us as no one can. He knows our innermost being. I have found all these things to be true to my own experience.
After CS Lewis conceded the intellectual point that the universe was more likely created by a Causal Agent than not, he began to sort through the various possibilities for what that Causal Agent could be. Searching out the various world religions, he found that one stood out. One was not dependent on man’s own capacity to know or to understand. All other religions required special knowledge, understanding, and effort to achieve a connection with that Causal Agent.
He reasoned that a loving God who is just and fair would not foreclose a connection to those who are born without the intellectual capacity to understand or know what is required of them. Such a God would have to be accessible by all people, regardless of capacity. The complexities of religion did not seem appropriate to Lewis as he contemplated these things.
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him…. John 12:37
Imagine being there when Jesus lived to hear Him speak, watch Him interact with people and maybe even perform a miracle – right in front of you! How could you not believe?!
It’s easy to think these things. But, what would it really be like? Though Jesus performed many signs in front of people, still they didn’t believe Him. People still believed what they were disposed to believe. People saw what they expected to see.
Would we be any different?
Some people heard Him speak and saw the miracles and believed. But more people heard Him speak, saw the miracles and did not believe. In the 1st Century, they accused Him of performing black magic. Today, we might accuse Him of performing ordinary magic, planting people in the audience and doing sleight of hand.
He would most certainly rock our notions of right and wrong, proper and improper, sense and insensitivity. He would challenge our sacred ideas about ourselves and our freedoms, our causes and our individual rights.
He would be too politically incorrect for the left. He would be too progressive for the right.
Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:1-3)
Paul said that he is not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16) Faith is obviously central to spiritual life in Christ.
What is meant by faith, however? Is faith “blind”? Is faith is antithetical to science, and science the opposite of faith? Does faith require the suspension of intellect? Does faith require us to abandon obvious evidence to the contrary? I have not found any of these things to be the case.
I have been learning how to use HootSuite this weekend. The HootSuite technology allows a person to leverage one’s finite time in a way that one can communicate in almost real time with a vast number of people. It is a website for tracking and posting to an almost unlimited number of social media sites and groupings within sites at one time. In one stroke of the keyboard, a person can tweet, post on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, MySpace, Foursquare, WordPress, Mixi and within those social media sites on specific groups and pages, potentially reaching thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously. At the same time a person can almost simultaneously follow and respond to dozens and even hundreds of other people posting things in the same social media sites and groups. It is pretty remarkable.
Technology brings to us what was only dreamed about a few years ago and what might never have been imagined just a couple of generations ago. As we become more self-sufficient than ever as beings, the tendency is to become less reliant on faith and God. One thing technology has not changed is the certainty of death. We are also still beings. This world is bigger than us, and we do not ultimately control our own fate…. but that is another topic for another day.
It occurred to me as I learned my way around HootSuite this weekend, that God’s ability to have an individual relationship with each and every person is not such a farfetched concept. If one finite person can simultaneously communicate with hundreds and thousands of people, it is not hard to imagine that God, who is infinite, can communicate with each one of us on an intimate, personal level.
It is written that God knows every hair on your head. (Luke 12:7) Even more than that, the Psalmist says that God knows your comings and goings and the very thoughts in your head! (Psalm 139) God knows when you get up and lie down. There is nowhere a person can go that God is not there and is not aware of what a person does. It really is not so hard to imagine that God can do that in light of the ability that we have at our fingertips. God knows you