Wednesday, 25 February 2015

It might be true for you, but ...

So if you're still around and I haven't already turned you off, I would like to share some of the foundation on which I'm now living my life. These values and ideas are the underpinnings of everything I do, and although I fail often in living out my faith, these core beliefs give me pause for thought every day.  Probably still crazy for those who know me well and have never heard me breathe a word of this, hey?  I'm not that great a liar, I swear.  I have just kept these cards close to my heart up until now.

We live in a very secular,  relativistic society (this is especially true if Canada and Europe although some feel that the US is following suit).  Relativism is, put simply, the idea that no ideas or views have absolute truth or are ultimately valid.  The only value something has is understood through the perceptions and ideals of the person who holds that view.  This is the idea that everyone simply decides what is true for them.  I didn't notice it until I started looking for it.  Then it was all around me.

I tend to think we often see relativism parading around under the guise of being polite or "politically correct". Especially here in Canada, we are almost afraid to say anything resolute (especially on matters of philosophy, religion or metaphysics) for fear of being politically incorrect or offending someone.  Truth becomes very subjective when you are hesitant to state anything with certainty for fear of being labelled as judgemental, prejudiced or even a bigot.

Before I go any further, I was going to give you my own run down on the types of truth and self refuting statements but instead I shall just direct you to this fabulous and easy to understand you tube video.  It is by a Christian apologist named Brett Kunkle (of Stand to Reason ministries.  Check them out... a great organization for non-Christians with questions, Christians looking for accurate and intelligent ways to defend the faith, and for budding apologists!).

*(For those of you who don't know, as I didn't until about a year ago, an apologist is simply someone who gives a defense (or an 'apologia') of something ... It is NOT someone who apologizes for something!  So, a Christian apologist is not apologizing for being Christian but  giving a defense of the Christian faith and Christian doctrine).

Anyways, the video clearly outlines the difference between objective truths (understood as relating to the truth statement itself) and subjective truths (understood through the lens/ perspectives of the holder of the truth, as opposed to the truth itself).  He outlines nicely the way in which objective truths can be discovered and shared by anyone.  In contrast,  there are no mechanisms or processes by which subjective truths can be projected onto (or made wholly applicable) to another person (since their interpretation is based on personal perspective). 

He makes a strong case for the reasons why the existence of God falls into the former category and I choose to operate from this same understanding.  Whether his argument is solid or not could certainly be a fair topic for debate (if someone were to have sufficient cause to find error in his premises) but that argument is a separate one altogether. 

Thus,  I believe that God's existence is a truth that is objective. I believe that God cannot be just true for some people and not for others.  If the statement "God exists" is an objective truth, we cannot claim non-belief by simply prescribing the truth to those who it "suits" and omit those who choose the opposite.  Instead the non-believer bears a burdern to disprove or dismantle the defense of God's existence or prove His non-existence  (much more tricky I'd say).  

I am going to (probably many times) quote CS Lewis, one of the most insightful and genuine Christian apologists I've ever read.  I think his quote relating to this topic of truth is so applicable here. 

 "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."

We (especially here in Canada, under this relativistic and often apathetic culture) tend to make the grave mistake of placing belief in God in that third category.

My own personal journey to find out the truth about God's existence  was certainly more an internal than external struggle (remember I was firmly rooted in the ideology that it was fine for others to believe in a Christian God,  but I didn't need to).   I think this is an appropriate time to address an important distinction that I've noticed in my own journey.

There was definitely a time when I would've called myself an atheist or a non-believer, but its not until recently that I had an epiphany and realized I was never really convinced about God's non-existence (at least at a deep level, and without having had any real exposure to anything Christian). Even when I was the most in doubt, anger or hopelessness, I would think (and say) things like, "See God, I knew you didn't exist" (who did I think I was talking to?), or "If there is a God, he sure makes some terrible decisions" (again, completely entertaining the idea of there being a "God", whom I of course knew better than). On the flip side, when things were good, I was perfectly happy to take the credit, or feel more or less neutral about God's involvement, but I never actually dismissed God as non-existent (at least not for any length of time). Again I think a Lewis quote applies so perfectly to my state of mind while wrestling with these things:

“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

I am sure it is different for everyone and I do not doubt that some who claim to be atheists/non-believers genuinely feel that God is a completely fabricated idea but I will be very honest and speak to my experience.  I would say that very near to 100% of the time when I felt that I was doubting Gods existence, I was really doubting (or misunderstanding) God's nature. 

I felt that a God who would allow the things that I was witnessing and experiencing, or a God who would withhold goodness and love in the way I perceived, must be a pretty rotten God.  It was (as I've now learned) a standard case of the argument against God based on the "problem of evil" in the world.  I'd like to talk about this more later but I guess my point is that I would just feel so angry, so abandoned, so hopeless and sometimes so punished, that I would wonder how good (and useful) this "God" character could really be, thus making me question his existence.  But when I look back (and I still struggle A LOT with this issue) my real doubt was in His character, not in His existence. I needed to find the truth about God, but since everyone's truth was just their own as they perceived it, how could they help me? I was left to only rely on my own senses and experiences.

That turned out to be an entirely unfulfilling and empty search. 

I started looking outside myself.  When I was in grade 11 I really started "soul searching".  I didn't really know any Christians but a family friend turned me on to the book series "Conversations with God" by Neale Donald Walsch.  He wasn't a Christian but claimed to hear directly from God (and I use this word claimed intentionally as I now believe the reliability of this claim to be flawed, but that's another issue).  Nonetheless, it opened me up to the idea of a God whose character (and thus, existence) I could stomach and more importantly opened me to the idea of defining myself as someone who might be able to believe in God. It would be another few years before I met Brendan (now my husband) and was introduced to the Christian God.

I guess this was the beginning of my "truth" discovery. My  life growing up was really good. My parents were amazing, I had many wonderful opportunities, and their encouraging of us (my sister and I) to discover our own truths was done with honest and  "liberating" intentions.  Unfortunately, for someone who was seeking for solid answers to deep questions about life's greatest uncertainties surrounding origin, meaning, morality, and destiny (as coined by Ravi Zacharias of RZIM ministries), I didn't need liberation or the loose and relativistic ideals that our culture was providing me.  I wasn't finding clear cut answers, and the analytic and scientific side of me was desperate.  My doubts about "religion" were fed because the paradigm I was operating under was telling me that the answers that were out there were just relative to the beliefs of the people who held them. I found myself miserable, confused and anxious. 

It is only now, almost 16 years later, that I've come to realize (and in the future I will share this process) that there is objective truth. 

The truth.

That may be offensive to some people.  I still cringe a little when I say it, and it doesn't yet feel completely comfortable rolling off my tongue.   I know that saying things like this might make me appear to some to be intolerant and narrow- minded. If that is you, take heart.  I judged others so often in this way that I can completely understand (and in a strange way, still sympathize) with that perspective.  But I cannot deny that something inside my head and my heart has changed. 

I know these things I am learning to be true.  I know them in my head (because I have disovered there is a logical, reasonable and intelligent defense for their validity) and in my heart (because I have experienced God in a relational and relevant way).  I know that although I have avoided it for so long, I must share my understanding of these truths.  It makes no difference if we accept an objective truth or not.  It's validity is based in the truth itself, not in the fact that we buy into it.  An objective truth would still be true even if no one decided to believe it. Here's the thing, it actually makes no difference to me if I share it or not.  So why would I?

Because it could make all the difference to you.

So, with all of this in mind, I unveil my new ideology...

I believe that God exists and that this is an objective truth. It is true for me, because it is the truth.  For me.  And for you. 

I know that this won't be universally well-received but I implore you ... this is not something to feel offended about, for truly my friends, this is SUCH exciting news and I am hoping that as I continue to unpack my journey for you, you may just find yourself as excited about this news as I am ♡

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Why "Unveil"?

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

If you made it through that very long quote then you probably deserve an explanation for why this blog exists. Those of you who know me may also know that I already have one under-utilised blog on a horse-related front, why start another one?

Well, this one is about me and my life.

How I, and the life I have been trying to construct around me, are being systematically destroyed and reconstructed into something that I could never have envisioned on my own.    It is about my real life.  The one that not too many people who know me are really aware of.  And I think it might be about you too.  Or at least I am hoping so.

I often tell my husband that I could have been a philosopher.  Or a theologian.  Or both.  Maybe someday I'll go back to school (the nerd in me could've really been a scholar!).  Until then I continue to be more and more convinced that life is far too short not to have conversations that matter.  I also feel that I am moving toward a life that is far more true and authentic ... one in which I more willingly reflect my priorities and values.  I want this life to be one that is a testimony to all that I've experienced as a passionate, motivated and driven wife, mother and professional. I also want it to be a life that is transparent (and that is a slightly terrifying thought because it is by no means a perfect life).  I want a life that is genuine.  A life unveiled.

I've begun to notice that I spend a lot of time talking, watching t.v. and filling my mind and my mouth with all sorts of superficial junk and now that I see my 4 kids (ages 6, 5, 2 and 1) starting to do the same thing, I'm starting to wonder if our time and our words could be better spent. Then I started thinking about how this might materialize and what I keep coming back to is truth (and the wreckless sharing of it). I don't share it very often.  Which is hilarious because I talk A LOT.  And it's not really a case of lying, per se. I just don't generally share the whole truth about myself, my life, my thoughts, my beliefs.

I once had a conversation with my sister-in-law, who is married to a priest and is herself a deacon in the church.  We were discussing raising the topic of faith and belief with the people we know and meet.  She mentioned that it generally doesn't take long for the topic to come up when you're married to the priest (she wasn't yet a deacon so now I'm sure its even quicker!).  I remember being envious, thinking that I wish I had such an easy "in".  I would love to be more forthright in expressing my defense of the hope I hold in my heart (1 Peter 3:15 has always been a challenge for me).  I didn't find Christianity until I was an adult and there are many people who have known me since long before then and I find it extremely hard to find an non-offensive way of sharing.  It's also unfamiliar territory.  I spent a lot longer as a non-Christian than I have as a Christian and I sometimes feel unequipped, and occasionally terrified to begin "preaching" on God. 

So here I am.  Baring my soul (and the fact that I believe I have one).  My own faith and study have brought me to an understanding that what we have is by no means a blind faith.  And it isn't a faith that is "just for me, but not for you".  In the deeply relativistic climate that we live, I for a long time felt uncompelled to share my faith (or dare I say, *wincing* ... evangelize) because I felt that it was just my choice.   But my life has become SO MUCH better since finding my faith.  Not necessarily better in a material or eventful way, but in the depth of my being I know I am better off than I was before.  In fact, many days it feels like finding my faith has opened up a huge can of complications and challenges.  The difference is that now I have something (or more specifically, someone) to create a context, establish boundaries and help make sense of the apparent craziness. I want to share that.  I am called to share that. 

But I hardly ever have.

Until now.

I know that calling yourself a Christian and talking about your faith can freak people out.  I used to be that person who was freaked out.  I came from a fairly secular household.  My views were generally non-threatening (and more-so apathetic) but nonetheless I held many of the cliché beliefs that non-believers often hold.  "Its just not for me".  "I don't need that crutch".  "I believe that there may be something beyond us but I don't need or want organized religion". 

Luckily, I was dating a guy who's family were the most awesome "crazy religious" people I'd ever met and it allowed me to open up to the idea of normal, smart, educated people, who also believed in God and the Christian community. There are also so many well-respected scientists, scholars, researchers and philosophers who have chosen a life of faith and service to God that I have started to envision being among those who reverse the tide.  I would love to be a contradiction to the secular idea that to be "of faith" means you must not be "of science" or "of rational or intelligent legitimacy".  You know ... uneducated, deluded or weak.  I'm beginning to understand (or at least beginning to be able to articulate) the very opposite.  Faith can be reasonable.  Faith can be argued through intelligent and well-researched means. Faith can be strong and well-spoken. Faith isn't just for the ignorant or helpless.

I am ready to share my journey, both how I've arrived here and where I am going.  I hope my candid sharing will help those who read it to ask themselves some hard questions and find some of their own answers, even if it puts me in an awkward or uncomfortable position. 

I hope to deepen and strengthen my argument for my faith and my compassion in sharing it. 

I hope to live a life that is more transparent and true to who I am and what I am passionate about.  A life where I am not nervous or ashamed to speak the truth with conviction and love.  A life unveiled.