Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why I Am Still A Christian?

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God;because if there be one, he must more approve of the homeage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."- Thomas Jefferson

Allow me today to write about my Christian faith and how I wrestled with recurring doubts to satisfy my intellectual curiosity and worldly urges through the years. At the outset, let me stress that I was born a cultural Catholic. However, upon reaching the age of six (6), I was exposed to an entirely different belief. It was my mother, a dedicated elementary teacher, who opened our eyes to the teachings of the bible and Christianity. From then, the whole family shifted devotion and became born again Christians. As the words imply, we felt being born again into this world, with a new faith to hold on to. Our new faith catalyzed the irreversible changes in our family. I witnessed first hand how my father changed his life instantly, from habitual drunkard to a living saint. He was in a state of total transfiguration. Meanwhile, the rest of us vowed to spread the gospel in our community. On my part and so with my two older siblings, we ventured into the realm of reading bible stories and other gospel anecdotes. I can say that this exposure has honed me to be the writer and reader that I am today. Since then, I can beastly say that my reading skills and comprehension hyped unimaginably. Although admittedly I was an inconsistent honor student in school, but when it comes to bible quizzes I always emerge as the ultimate victor above anyone else. As my spirit is languished with a fresh faith, my tot brain was flooded with bible characters and scriptural verses one after the other.

Later, my desire to read the bible became monotonous until the passion dwindled to ground zero. It was not abrupt, though. Gradually, as I discovered the wild edges of secular thoughts and practices, I began to question the very faith I turned down the other one for. At the age of twelve (12), I became obsessed with rock music and learned to play the guitar as fast as I could. My fondness for bible characters dramatically shifted to rock icons like the Beatles and later to a much heavier stuff. How, un Christian-like of me! I turned deaf to all criticisms, especially of my mother who was very against it. Unheeding her authority, together with my high school buddies, we formed a rock band to satisfy our rock n’ roll fantasy. Now, we felt like certified rockstars! Suddenly, I was being reborn again! This time I was embracing another passion …

For quite sometime, we enjoyed local popularity like appearing in local television shows and radio programs. Humbly, we won the much coveted battle of the bands contest. The perks and porks of slight popularity elevated our minds to a nearly euphoric level. Being the popular guys we were, flirting with girls was much easier. Add in all the mischief we seemed licensed to do so, undoubtedly, this new passion has moved me further away from my Christian faith. It was on the brink of destruction and no amount of biblical passages could save it from ruin.

My unchristian journey continued until college. Way passed through it however, I was beginning to see an unclear direction for my future. This time however, my desire to turn my life into the path where it should be was abrupt. I suddenly realized how education could lift me from the emptiness I am feeling. I completely abandoned my foolishness and decided to devote more time in my studies. But reviving my faith was never put into issue. My Christian faith remained dormant in many ways except that by this time I regularly attend Sunday service in our church. Thus again, did not revive my Christian faith even in some little way. The next lines would illustrate why.

Please give me this chance to make these admissions. The sermons delivered by our pastor never arouse my intellectual hormones let alone strengthening my Christian faith. Going to church every Sunday became more of a routine rather than a sacrosanct duty for every devout Christian. These made me crave for an unorthodox or radical perspective of the bible. I hail for a teaching far from the usual evangelical sermons which to me were purely rhetorical and conventional. These things however were not done without a little sense of remorse for my slowly weakening faith. In fact, I feared that one day I may not be able to defend my Christian faith against other religious dogmas. To counter this, I made a commitment to pursue the truth at all cost. Thus, I began to ask serious questions regarding origin of life, morality and ultimately the very existence of God. As mentioned, the conventional evangelical teachings failed to provide persuasive answers to these critical questions. Thus, I remained a nominal Christian for quite sometime. So it must have been fate (that’s contextual), that I entered law school…the battleground for logical thinking and academic discipline.

In law school we were thought not to take anything at face value. Facts must be supported by convincing evidence otherwise you can't justify your theory to win a case. Having this kind of training and thinking, I started to test my Christian faith using my training as a law student. I contemplated whether most Christians are really indeed Christians in the truest sense of the word. Do they have the right reasons to support their belief? This is where the distinction between faith based on reason (reasonable faith) and faith guided by blind assumptions deserves critical precarious considerations.

Here there should be a clear delineation between cultured Christians and authentic believers or followers of Christ. And so I search deeper and deeper, asking questions about faith and the existence of God. To satisfy my intellectual curiosity, I read books on secular worldviews. Having proclaimed myself as a fledgling Christian apologist, I started to conduct my own research and ended up with Bertrand Russell's essay on "Why I am Not A Christian." I must admit though, that Russell's objection to Christianity is a bit shallow and mostly couched in an open-ended language. Nonetheless this essay however bolstered my curiosity and decided to search deeper on atheism and agnosticism. Finally I devoured books authored by militant atheists Sam Harris (e.g.The End of Faith and Letter to the Christian Nation) and Christopher Hitchens (e.g. God is not great), both are staunch defenders of atheism or should I say hard core atheists. Most of their objections, except for their incessant anti-God tantrums, are valid and intellectually stimulating so to speak. I then entered into the realm of metaphysics which I found amusing but very difficult to understand in first reading. By this time I was partly convinced that the anti-theist theory is bereft of any logical arguments as to the non-existence of God. Embracing atheism as a way of life is like succumbing to a life of perpetual emptiness, a life without meaning. But still questions exist in my head. If atheism is a farcical worldview, does Christianity provide authentic answers to all questions pertaining to meaningful existence- a life based on morality? Again I searched for answers carefully weighing everything and anything that Christianity has to offer as the gospel of truth. Then I came across Ravi Zacharias’ book on Christian apologetics entitled Can Man Live Without God. (e.g. The End Of Reason) This work tackles on the philosophical aspects of Christianity and deals squarely among others, with Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” on the issue of morality and happiness. Then I resorted to Lee Strobel’s outstanding book, The Case for Faith, a very interesting book which answers almost all my questions and doubts as to what faith really is in essence. My further readings obviously expanded my understanding on faith and reason, between theism and anti-theism, and more importantly the essence of being a true Christian. I always thought that God gave me the absolute freedom to navigate uncharted waters so that I may be able to appreciate Him more. To do otherwise, I guess is to depict God as a lesser Being.

The pursuit of truth is a never ending journey for us Christians. My journey so far has brought me satisfaction both intellectually and spiritually. While I do not wish to discuss Christian philosophy or apologetics in this writing, the message I want to convey is two fold. First, it is a normal thing for us human beings to question or to have doubts regarding our respective faith. By encountering doubts, we pursue the truth, we search for a deeper explanation about life and meaningful existence. That is the essence of free will. Freedom to think is a God given right, use it to know your creator by heart. Second, by pursuing the truth you may be able to defend your Christian faith in any given forum, and in the end convince others to be followers of Christ. Knowing the truth is the decisive answer to the question on why I am still a Christian all this time


Inf Williams said...

great post..needed this.

Anonymous said...

I am already admiring your writings/works, I admire you even more for your courage in professing your faith. No wonder God blessed you with such a great talent. The number of comments says it all that the discussion of faith is mostly avoided yet the irony is, it is the most important part and the essence of life afterall. I am of the same boat as you described above "dormant" due to works and preoccupation but I always feel the need to keep my faith and be able to nurture it. Such an inspiration! The last notes are very true I must say.


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