I have long wondered, spurred on by thought provoking moments in the buzz of everyday life, why I bother to profess my faith. It is rarely in moments of trial or attack that this comes to me; questions beginning with “why” are often the last things on my mind. Rather, it is in moments of calm, peace, and general happiness that I try to discern the reasons why I believe as strongly as I do.
So I now offer my written defense of faith. It is not a literal defense, however; it does not counter points of attack and is not a rebuttal figured into a long-standing debate. If anything, it is an open discussion with me. I do not fancy myself a Christian apologetic, nor do I wish to become one. I have two reasons for writing this, and neither one are tied to the historical definition of Christian apologetics.
First, I am writing this so that I may spell more clearly what I believe. It is one thing indeed to say you are passionately faithful, and another to explain what that faith is. I hope that I will find where I can articulate that faith and where language simply does not suffice. Secondly, I hope to make the Christian perspective—specifically my own—more readily understandable to those who are not familiar with it. Whether they be faithful followers in other traditions or outside of faith as history and religions have shaped it, I believe that this perspective is an important one for them to understand. Just as much, I will note, as it is for me to understand theirs. This, however, is my moment to share.
I will begin the best way I know how—with the foundational tenets that are core to my personal faith. Approaching each as I believe it to be and moving onward, I hope to build a rudimentary structure that is visible to all who choose to read this text.
1) Jesus Christ is the Son of God. As I believe, he is both man and God. Men of history have spent much time trying to decide how much God he was and how much man. The argument was not insignificant. But I was not born in those times, and I see this in a more relaxed way than they did. Is Jesus Christ the Son of God? I do believe that he is. He is not Son as human sons are born of human fathers, but son just the same. He was the essence of the love of God encapsulated in an imperfect human being. Acting according to his will—God’s will— we came to know him as Jesus Christ. For those who ask how I can believe he is human and God, I would ask them to account for the millions of anomalies that occur in our daily life without explanation. How is it gravity is more at force here on earth, and less on Mars? Why is it some people die before they reach adulthood, seemingly without warrant? Why do bad people prosper? It isn’t that we need explanation for these things; in many cases, they simply are. So it is with Christ. It isn’t a matter of arguing logically that Jesus could be both a man and God in the same person. If you can accomplish that, then you have destroyed that part of him that is God—the part that is mystery and beyond human understanding. If we knew how God was both human and divine, he could not be divine. So it is, one believes it is possible because of powers foreign to what is known, or it is believed to be impossible because it cannot logically be said to have happen. I have chosen to believe.
2) Jesus Christ died for us. While it would be fairly easy to admit that Jesus died—or even was killed—it is far more difficult to comfortably examine his death for our sake. Some might dismiss Jesus as a noble human being who died to save his friends, the biblical apostles. Many, however, have gone much further. I am one of them. Jesus Christ, being God and man together, knew the suffering of humanity and possessed the uninhibited wisdom of his Father. Now, taking for granted that sin was and is a natural condition of mankind, how might we suppose to be forgiven for those sins? Why is it we couldn’t rely on our own consciences to spell out our contrition, figure in whatever penance was our due, and move merrily along never being the worse for wear? The truth is, as human beings, our sins remain sometimes unremitted; they are not always coupled with a sincere apology. And so, according to the grace of God, they are either wiped away or held fast. Couldn’t God simply have done this on his own? Did he need to send a part divine-part human partner to earth for our own redemption? Yes. And this is why, as I believe. Jesus Christ was a man like us in all things but sin (hence the part that was divine). In giving of himself willingly in death, he endures the ultimate absence of life. As God is the creator of all living things, Jesus himself was for a time, devoid of God. Or so it would seem. Yet, after his death he rose again. This proves two things. First, God has power over the strongest death, and can reverse it. Two, that Jesus Christ makes manifest in his own corporal sacrifice the ability of all mankind to suffer through death and likewise be resurrected. Now what is the point of all of this resurrection if we aren’t going to be constantly put to death? Jesus spent his life clarifying this point. What was more concerning to God, and hence to Jesus, was death of the spirit. In truth, the body mattered only insomuch as it was a gift with which to share and embrace the spirit of God. Therefore, the spirit was the true human treasure. What Jesus tried to tell us, and what I am only now beginning to understand, is that we are each imbued with the spirit of God. That is to say, we might all be considered part human and part divine. The normal course of events does not have us being appointed prophets or called to be head priests, but rather to listen to the inner workings of the spirit that guides us according to the will and grace of God. Now, when we sin, we wantonly ignore the guidance of the spirit, not only acting against it, but damaging it and perhaps the spirits of others. This damage, if regular and sufficiently severe, can result in our spiritual death. Christ wanted us to see that even this death is not ultimate; God can raise us to new life—but only through our belief. In this way, it is not quite like gravity. A ball will drop whether or not we believe it will. And yet, what God is asking us to believe is something almost as radical as the opposite of gravity. Any fool would say the ball would drop. But if “men can move mountains with words” and words are the outpouring of the spirit, it seems to me that God is asking us to take on the seemingly absurd. Believe in what seems unbelievable. And, if we recognize our own important involvement in his creation—indeed, in himself—we might be able to reverse the scientific law is the cornerstone of physics. Laugh as you will, but this is the point: Jesus defeated death. Who would have supposed he could? And yet he did. We are called to do the same, each in our own way. It is, therefore, the fundamental belief in God that offers us redemption. When put to death by our own sin, we may be raised up, as was Jesus.
3) Why believe in the “Jesus Code” of sin and death, right and wrong? A fair question. It would be far easier to suppose we were guided by an unnamed extra-human entity that was forever forgiving, occasionally punishing, but ultimately good-natured. We would not need a visceral and tangible image to enforce our faith. In fact, it might speak more to our faith if we believed as fervently as Christians without a figure such as Christ. Christians confess the need to believe without proof: “Blessed are they who do not see, but believe.” Yet, Christ is an important part of my faith for very emotional and human reasons. As a human being, I desire intimacy. Part of intimacy—as I know it—involves physicality. Instead of God asking us to transcend our state of being, he came to us. I am not saying that I would have asked this of him; the very fact that it was done by his own will is a testament of love in itself. Seeing ourselves so wrapped up in our humanity, he sent the person of Jesus Christ to bring the good news of resurrection and redemption. This not only allows us to feel closer to the divine, but makes it possible to see a bit of divinity in ourselves. I would say that this is quite a bit more difficult—if not impossible—for those who reach to entities beyond this world entirely. Even those of the pagan religions, whose worship extends to nature, cannot bind themselves very closely to it. Or, if they find themselves “one with it,” they might well admit that it is a one-sided, unconfirmed relationship. As I see it, how much in common can non-human nature have with humanity? Forgive me if I speak out of line; I spell out only what I see and believe. I hope, though, that if this unveils any ignorance, that it can be quickly done away with.
4) Is it necessary to have three parts to God? It isn’t a matter of necessity; it’s a matter of mystery. When I cross myself, I try to envision three separate entities—a very human effort. The person of Jesus allows me to remain close to God and reminds me of everything I have just explained. The person of God provides me with an all-encompassing, awe-inspiring deity that is both Lord and Father, Parent and Deity. It is through this awe that I begin to understand the creation of the world and all its manifold parts. The person of the trinity is a bit more difficult for me, however. I have never spent much time on it—either in classes or on my own—and failed to truly grasp what it is. What I have come to thus far is this: the Holy Spirit is the mysterious component of the Godhead that allows for the mystery of ability and will of God without due explanation. It provides the awe for the inspiring Father; it invokes the tears for a crucified Christ; it is the emotive, intellectual, and spiritual component of humanity that takes our non-tangible connections to God and elevates them beyond the temporal world.