(a letter written in response to a letter from my father, an evangelical Christian, that stated his beliefs to me, once again – beliefs that both helped form my own and hindered my search for a viable personal faith.)
November 2, 2007
Thanks for your letter. I am glad that you took the time to express some of your beliefs despite knowing how contentious some of this can be. At first I did not plan to respond because I don’t want to start some back-and-forth argument that only seems to be counter productive. However, after sleeping on it, I’ve decided simply to state how I see things, for whatever that is worth.
I think my basic over-riding belief is that, yes, there is a God. What exactly that means, I’m not sure. Quite frankly, I don’t think any of us are capable of understanding what that means. The finite cannot comprehend the infinite. I believe that we as humans have a need or desire to try to understand God and therefore have always found ways to wrap our feeble brains around it.
Each culture, all the way through recorded history, has come up with various mythologies particular to their culture to help them in this task. What seems like a ridiculous fairy story to us is vastly relevant and meaningful to someone in a different time and place. Every one of them is trying to explain God in their way and each one of them succeeds and fails to varying degrees.
That is why I have a real problem believing that one definition of God or one solitary “plan for salvation” is the only correct one. Particularly when part of that system of belief condemns every one else created by this supposing “loving God” to an eternity of torment. It seems improbable to me, that out of all of human history, this fairly recent interpretation of this particular set of scriptures is the only correct way to God. Yes, I believe it is a way. Perhaps maybe even a really good way. But the only way? And simply because it says so?
It occurred to me one day that I cannot comprehend the vastness of God, or whatever that means. Then it also occurred to me, that if God made me that way, it’s OK. I never will. I never can.
I like the story of Jesus coming to die so that we can be forgiven. I like the things he taught and the love he (sometimes) showed to those around him. I also like his being an outsider and how he harassed the righteous and hypocritical. So, in a sense, I “believe” in him. It doesn’t really matter to me whether the story is historical fact or not. Particularly some of the more miraculous aspects of that story (virgin birth, resurrection, assumption, etc.) Most mythologies throughout history share many of these same images. They make for marvelous metaphor, and truth can be found in metaphor just as much as in scientific fact. At least, in my opinion.
I feel that since, according to our tradition, we are not saved by works but by faith, then I, too, am “saved.” I believe in the story – maybe not as “fact” but in its “truth.” So I feel it is OK to just get on with it.
We can argue till judgment day, if you will forgive the cliché, about the details. But I think that is what keeps people apart. “You are wrong and therefore condemned if you don’t see it as I do…” That way of thinking has also been the source of a lot of human misery and corruption for centuries.
Maybe this doesn’t mean anything to you because you know you are right in your beliefs. And I have no interest whatsoever in making you believe otherwise. My only point, really, is that you aren’t the only one who believes that they are right. Every different culture, religion, etc. forever and ever has believed that they were “right.” Even within Christianity each little faction believes that their way of interpreting the same scripture that you read is the “right way” and that everyone else is wrong and going to hell.
To me, it’s OK to believe that the way I see things is “right” but it’s not OK if I believe everyone else is wrong. God is big enough to allow more than one way, despite what we think that verse says about “no one comes to Father but through me…”
But that’s just me…
I love you!
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