1 Kings 13, Joel 1
As I began preparing to write this blog, a gentleman, clad in an impressive suit and tie (even adorned with pins on his lapel which I couldn’t identify outright), sauntered over to my table and began a brief discourse on “how to instruct from the Bible”. His attire and delivery prompted me to conjecture he was some sort of professor or well-educated individual who had prepared himself for encounters like this one.
He appeared to be familiar with the Bible — he alluded to the scene where Noah, after spending several days on the ark, comes off the boat and gets, in this gentleman’s words “s**t-faced drunk,” sunbathes in the nude, and then his son benevolently covers up his father to conceal his shame. This gentleman then explained the moral discrepancy between Noah’s son’s action, of which God approves, and the omission of God’s punishment upon Noah for letting him lay out there like that after getting plastered, which, according to this guy, was a well-deserved imbibing after spending “44 days on a boat.”
For no apparent reason other than to further his rationale of the foolishness of taking the Bible literally, he related that he grew up in church (which, ironically, myself nor my tablemate did) and eventually stopped attending because he “didn’t like it,” which implied that perhaps he had grown up or finally outsmarted the doctrine of his youth. Other friends and acquaintances of mine have told me the same thing in the past, so I wasn’t shocked. It seems unfortunate that the church cannot hold onto intellectuals like this man, because he seemed like a really, really smart dude.
Is it the church’s job to corral these guys? I’ve read claims that Christians (or religious people altogether, in some cases) are at a lower tier of intelligence than others. While statistics like this might prompt churches to hurriedly construct some arguments to allay the doubts of the thinking type, is this completely necessary?
I’ve been adhering to the Christian faith for almost half of my life, which is now 16 years. The first sixteen, I was a wondering, analytical individual that probably took things too seriously. The following sixteen years of my life, I’ve been a wondering, analytical individual that probably takes things a little less seriously, but my wife would probably say otherwise. If I were to be categorized, I suppose I’d be listed in the “intellectual” column, and I’m cool with that because I believe that’s how God made me. One might say I’m sometimes insensitive or lacking that touchy-feely thing, but once again, that seems to be my makeup.
But why is it that people who subscribe to reason over purported fantasy decide to leave the church while I stick around? Am I truly that delusional? I mean, everyone says the scientific evidence is stacked mountain-high against the claims of the Bible. Meanwhile, I spent the next seven years of my life after leaning on Christ pursuing higher education in what one might call a liberal university, where I heard persistent counterarguments, both philosophical and scientific in nature, against the tenets of Scripture that I cling to dearly. Surely my education should have shattered the foundation of my belief in mythological stories and reestablished sanity in my conscious thoughts.
But I didn’t leave. I stuck it out. And this resolve has meant quite a bit to my testimony as a Christian and helped me navigate through my adult years rather nicely.
I’m sure there are others like me. In fact, I just encountered one as I finished the previous sentence, so my claim has been confirmed on the spot. That’s pretty sweet.
But there are many others that aren’t like me. The Bible talks about these people at length — the type that overthink and analyze until God is measured in their minds, and then, eventually, put away entirely as a delusion or afterthought.
Today’s reading in Joel and 1 Kings linked above describes a pair of instances where God establishes His sovereignty, yet the people insist on their false idols, even after seeing outright evidence of God’s hand. Haven’t you ever said, “Why doesn’t God just show up or speak audibly?” Well, even when that happens, people have already made up their mind and will just explain it way or ignore it altogether
You see, even if it’s right in their faces, some people just won’t be convinced. Even the Pharisees of Jesus’ time were quite familiar with the Bible — more so than Jesus’ own posse — but they had become so entangled with the law and their version of self-righteousness that they were blinded to the Messiah who stood right in front of them.
This tradition, slightly modified, continues today. The logical and scientific case for Christianity — which, by the way, many good scholars and researchers have done significant work on for centuries now, if you’re actually willing to check them out — doesn’t have to be blatantly obvious to make Jesus or the Bible real. Clearly, that doesn’t really do much anyway if your heart is already cold to the subject.
Another passage that supports this notion, written by another know-it-all former Pharisee, says similar:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Of course it all looks foolish! Jesus Christ single-handedly dismantled pride, superfluous arguments, and positional authority. The apostle Paul would later preach this same message in various think-first cities (Athens and Rome in particular), communicating the gospel rather than using convincing rhetoric. And it worked.
I believe that there is certainly a place for sound arguments. If there’s a site that sells foam fingers with “LOGIC IS #1” written across it, please send me a link. Or I guess I should just pay a visit to CafePress.
Nonetheless, that’s not what won me over. It was the selfless love expressed in Christ’s death and the promise of life through His resurrection that did it for me. And frankly, that should do it for you too.