“Use your mind to use your soul”

In honesty, there’s room for improvement
Thoughts may change, the truth be told
A closed mind will leave you empty
Use your mind to use your soul 

“All That Is Good” Five Iron Frenzy

Despite my qualms about how and why Joe proclaimed that “religion is stupid” (check out my last post), I do sympathize with­­ his criticism.  In fact, it’s rooted in a critical question:

How can a rational, educated person believe in God (or subscribe to religion) while maintaining their intellectual integrity? 

It’s a fair, necessary question.  Do spiritual beliefs need to be shielded from analysis, evaluation, science, and rules of reason? Should they be? The answer matters.  It matters a lot.

I see this quandary as a wall.  A wall in the brain.  On one side of it, critical thinking reigns.  It’s where essays are written, relationships are evaluated, vacations are planned, and car problems are solved.  Basically, it’s where intelligent thought happens.  And on the opposite side of that wall hides spirituality.  Faith and intuition–rather than critical thought–reign there.

This is merely my conjecture, but I suspect that such walls are rarely erected by atheists because because they cherish their intellectual integrity.  And I respect that, a lot.  I mean, doesn’t everything deserve to be subjected to our sharpest mode of thinking–  especially the stuff that determines the meaning and purpose we ascribe to life? Like my atheist sisters and brothers, I cannot in good conscience believe in God like I believed in the Easter bunny or Santa Claus.  It’d make me feel warm and fuzzy and comforted and not alone, but I would be lying to myself, which would make it all pointless.

So how the crap am I religious then? Is it because my mind is untrained? If that’s the case, then I apologize to America for dumbing down thousands of her kids in my classroom.  Hopefully my students would testify to the contrary.

This is the part where I daresay that I do subject my spiritual beliefs to the same intellectual rigor as my academic, political, and “everything-else-ical” beliefs.  Critical thinking is for my professional, social, and academic life, and critical thinking is also for my spiritual, religious life.  Which means that I’m asserting that my Christian faith stands the tests of historical reliability, rationality, and logic.  It is reasonable and respectable.  (And I acknowledge how much evidence and explaining my claim may owe you… give it time, friend.  I’ll get to the first of it at the end of this post.)

I’m no scholar or apologist, but doubts, mentors, books, professors, and the interwebs have taught me much over the years.  In college, I ardently questioned the foundation on which my Christian worldview was built:  If God knew humanity would fall from the paradise He intended, then why did He create at all? If we truly have free will, then every decision I make could have eternal repercussions, right? That was a major source of *often paralyzing anxiety* that lasted about five years and still haunts me.  And then there’s the classic problem of pain:  If God is both love and omnipotent, then why does suffering exist?

This is not to mention my frustration and anger over the “Christian bubble” I kept knocking up against throughout college.  I often had one foot in some well-dressed, cheery-voiced, happy-faced “church” while the other was in the “real” world of at-risk teenagers who were dealt some seriously crappy cards in life.  My cynicism isolated me at church, and I was angry about how much help these kids needed, and how contentedly ignorant the “church” seemed to be about it–at how much emphasis the ladies’ socials received in comparison to the heavy stuff of suicide, abuse, and addiction outside the church’s walls.

God’s brought me a long way since then. In brief, The Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity, both by C.S. Lewis, were pivotal in my process of reconstructing my faith, as was the advice of a church leader:  “Start with what you know.  Go from there.”  So I did, slowly.

I want to share with you, over time, the evidence and arguments in favor of Christianity, because it deserves to be understood, and you deserve to understand.  And then, of course, do with it what you will.  I plan to simply raise questions and then introduce you to some of the great thinkers and resources that speak to the issues.  Because I’d rather not attempt to recreate their beautiful wheels (and fail at it).  😀

So the sensible place to start, I believe is here:   How do we know Jesus even existed?

If there was no historical Jesus, then Christianity is nothing.  I’m thankful that God provides us with archaeological and historical evidence that passes academic tests of historical reliability and then some.  I hope you will find that the evidence–when reviewed from an unbiased perspective—does lead to a logical conclusion.   I find the info. on the sites below to be compelling, credible, and fair.

#1 Annotated list of 10 Historical References to Jesus Christ from ancient non-Christian sources

If you want a Sparknotes version of the info. in #2, then check this out:  “Ten historical facts about Jesus from non-Christian sources”  The original context and source for each “fact” is provide.  I will note that while this list is compiled by a Christian, I assure you the content is not religious, but entirely historical.

#2   “Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible”

Mykytiuk, Lawrence,  Ph.D. in Hebrew and Semitic Studies.  Purdue University Associate Professor, History Librarian and author.

This is the most scholarly and detailed of the three sources I’m sharing.  There are extensive endnotes and cited sources for further study.  Also, please keep in mind those endnotes constitute much of the article’s length, so don’t be intimidated.

#3  “What is the Historical Evidence that Jesus Lived and Died?”

University of Cambridge Professor, Dr. Simon Gathercole, on evidence for the historical life of Jesus Christ, published in The Guardian.  Not exactly an easy read, but a shorter one, from yet another perspective.

 

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