Recently I had quite the lengthy discussion with my Mom about Christianity. As usual, I don’t know how it came about. It seemed to unfold before me so quickly that I became decidedly assertive in my responses.
Perhaps it started with her telling me that “I should be reading my Bible more” and that “My Biblical understanding was “PITIFUL”. She insisted that I must “Look to God for guidance.”
While I usually brush her suggestions out of my mind and off my shoulders, today I decided to engage. I told her that I have read the Bible. I understand most of the basic premises and doctrines threaded throughout the text. To that, she scoffed and said, “You don’t know anything!” She started laughing uncontrollably. The thought of me merely “thinking that I had a basic understanding of even one verse in the Bible” made her cackle.
I asked her, “Okay then. Please tell me exactly what it is that I don’t know or understand about the Bible. Be precise here. Is it that I don’t understand Salvation enough? Propitiation? Justification? Communion? Baptism? What underlying theme or doctrine do I not understand according to Protestant, Fundamentalist Christianity?
She was hesitant to respond but said, “You don’t understand that Jesus is in every book of the Bible!”
“Let me tell you what I do understand”, I said. “Christians believe that Jesus is symbolically interwoven into every book of the Bible—including most books in the Old Testament. For instance, in Genesis Christians will suggest that Adam was a “precursor of Christ”…a symbol of Christ. I understand the Christian idea that “Jesus was the second Adam”. Adam’s sin ushered the world into the spiral of sin and damnation. Jesus—the Second Adam—brought the ultimate solution—his act of death on the cross would restore the relationship humans would have with God. Unlike Adam who sinned, Jesus would lead a sinless life. At the end, he would lay down his life as a living sacrifice for the sins of the world. All humans could be reunited with God again. We would now have access to eternal life instead of divine retribution in hell. This is where “free will” comes into play. Humans would have to exert their own free-agency to accept Christ into their hearts in order to be redeemed back to God.
Please tell me what I’m missing here? Yes, I think I understand Christian doctrine…theology.”
I understand how Christians think and their interpretations of scripture. I took both Old Testament and New Testament Survey in college back in 1999. Remember?
Furthermore, I understand that Christians want to get to the heart of the issue—that Jesus is the centerfold of the Bible—and that everything comes back to him. “It’s not about knowledge and intellect it’s about the state of the heart” Christians will repeat endlessly. Christianity is the only belief system which has “God looking out to man” instead of “Man looking out to God”. I also fully understand this. I know these basic premises of Christianity but I reject them based on the idea that I first, and foremost, do not see evidence for a God—and certainly not for the Christian God or Muslim God.
She proceeded to tell me that I should, “Open my heart and stop rejecting God!”
I said, “You’re looking at this the wrong way! I’m not rejecting God or Jesus. I am no longer within the confines of your world-view. I think very differently now. I have a hard time rejecting something that I don’t believe in.”
I could just as easily say “You’re rejecting Mohammed” but to that you would reply, “I don’t believe in Mohammed (and his claims). You see how that works?”
“Guess what?” My Mom interjected, “Mohammed was a real person and he believed that Jesus was a real prophet of God.”
“Okay then, fine.” I said.
“You’re rejecting the leprechaun who wants you to embrace him.” Why do you keep on bringing up the subject of Leprechauns?” My mother said, incredulous. There is no organized, developed system of belief with regards to Leprechauns. There is no text. The Bible has been around for millennia, the beliefs from it have sustained themselves over centuries and it is still one of the most quoted books of all time. It has been influential in many aspects of human history. “Yes”, I agreed. But it still doesn’t mean it is true. Supernatural claims require extraordinary evidence.
The conversation continued until I finally asked her if she would ever be willing to admit that she could be wrong. She insisted “Never. I would never give Satan a foot-hold by allowing the possibility for doubt.” At that point I said, “And that is where we differ. I will admit that I could be wrong. I will always be open to changing my mind.” This is where intellectual humility and honesty starts. If you can’t admit that you could ever be wrong, then…where can we go from here? You are, at the beginning, already asserting that you are right, THAT YOU ARE CERTAIN. The truth is, neither of us can be justifiably certain in our metaphysical positions of reality.