Thinking about Faith

Some things become so much a part of our lives that we do not need to stop and actively think about them. When I ice skate, I no longer think about every little movement needed to maintain balance. I can safely plan next week’s schedule in my mind while gliding along.

digital illustration neurons

Of course, a person first learning to skate or returning to the ice after an injury might need to concentrate fully on the activity.

If your faith has been a part of your life since childhood, stopping to think about it may feel as unnatural as a hockey player hesitating to think about each movement on the ice while chasing down the puck. Faith becomes part of the fabric of your soul, influences your friendships, and guides your decisions. Dissecting it for analysis seems strange.

However, for those times when life events have shaken your faith to its core, thinking carefully about your faith may bring healing. Here are some thoughts on faith:

1. Faith is reasonable but not based solely on reason.

Genuine faith is more than wishful thinking with no basis in facts. If not, a person could have strong, hopeful emotions in just about anything and call it faith. Faith that pigs can fly will not send them soaring over the weathervane on the barn roof. Thus, reason plays a role in faith, and Christianity is rooted in historical events.

At times, faith in God’s provision calls a person to attempt to accomplish more than seems likely on reason alone. However, all lofty goals must be grounded in prayer and planning, with reason serving as an anchor that stabilizes and protects a person from drifting into dangerous waters.

2. Faith is based on relationship, not only ideas.

Knowledge without trust is meaningless for salvation, and facts without relationship falls short of meaningful faith. A well-known verse explains this concept succinctly:

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Belief in God is not just a line in a creed, but the basis for a relationship. Like all relationships, your faith in God may grow stronger with your investment of time or weaken through neglect. When you feel your faith faltering, you do not need to collect data to bolster your belief in an idea as much as you need to take actions to nurture a relationship. God is not pleased when He is ignored through a person’s season of doubts. The rewards of love, peace and joy come to those who actively pursue Him.

What role has thinking played in your faith?

With Thanks to My Friends

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

The shorter, colder days that signal the beginning of the holiday season create a perfect time to gather with friends and family next to a warm fireplace and a glittering Christmas tree. The spicy aroma of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves from a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie baking in the oven, or the taste of peppermint flavoring a mug of hot cocoa provide comfort on snowy days.

Holiday celebrations also offer an opportunity to reflect on the events and accomplishments of the year drawing to a close and the people who have impacted our lives. In 2014, the publication of my book, Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith, gave me many reasons to express gratitude to friends who have been faithful over many years as well as new friends who have joined me on this journey.

The editors, publicists, and members of the marketing team at InterVarsity Press are relatively new friends who have taught me many things this year and brought joy into my life. Editors, leaders, and friends in the National Office of the Assemblies of God have been a source of ongoing encouragement. WordServe Literary Agency, and the staff at FaithHappenings.com have provided first-rate support, and I appreciate the many new friendships I have formed with other authors represented by this same agency.

Recently, the opportunity to appear on several radio shows, including one broadcast from KDKA1020 in my native city of Pittsburgh (the world’s first commercial radio station) has connected me with readers of my book across the country. I am especially grateful for readers like Jason on Brave Reviews, who have taken the time to share their insights about my book.

Discovering my book on sale worldwide in bookstores and through online retailers, has enlarged my circle of friends. However, knowing that my own local church named my book as Book of the Month filled my heart with gratitude, for they have been with me since the beginning of my ordained ministry.

Many of you receiving this message by email also have been with me since my early days as a writer and as a scientist. Thank you for your friendship. Have a wonderful holiday season!

 

 

The Book Release Banquet

After years of working on this project, I am excited that my book, Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith, has been released! As the shipments arrive at the various bookstores and distributors, I feel like a host whose guests are streaming into a banquet hall for a feast to celebrate the harvest season.

Bountiful Harvest
Bountiful Harvest

The time of preparing for the banquet is over. The ink has dried on the pages of my book. Thanks to the work of many, the book, free of typos and beautifully designed, is available for readers to enjoy!

If you follow the link on this website to Bookstores, you will see that the book is available in many different places for the book was written for all the guests interested in attending the banquet. Like the host in the Parable of the Great Feast described in Luke 14:15-23, I am sending out the invitation to anyone who wants to come.

I hope to meet many of my readers through social media sites, such as Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter, and at book signings, speaking events, or conferences. However, even if we never meet in person, know that this book was written for you. I hope you are entertained by my personal stories and find the encouragement or information you need in one of the chapters. Pick up a plate, walk along the buffet table, and then sit down and join me in the celebration!

Constructing Newton’s Bridge

Fountain-at-PointIsaac Newton, one of the most influential scientists who ever lived, also was a Christian theologian. He once said, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” His quote resonates with me because bridges filled the landscape of my childhood.

I spent the first eighteen years of my life growing up in “The City of Bridges”. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, contains more bridges within its city limits than Venice, Italy, with the current number of bridges totaling nearly two thousand. Three major rivers come together at the Point, the location of Pittsburgh’s iconic fountain first built in 1974.  In addition to the presence of rivers, the steep hills and ravines around the city make bridges a necessity for transportation. The early European settlers of Pittsburgh quickly learned that they had to choose between living in isolation or finding creative ways to span the waters and valleys.

People cluster on one of two riverbanks in their approach to relating human reasoning to faith. The first approach, common in many Christian circles in my childhood and college years and persisting to this day, revolves around mistrust of the intellect. Acquiring knowledge, analyzing information, and questioning assumptions become suspect activities. Too much thinking means that you are not listening to your heart; you are out of touch with practical concerns; or you are not truly spiritual.

Many Christians find support for mistrusting the intellect in a variety of Biblical passages. All the way back in Eden, Eve’s temptation included a desire for wisdom and knowledge. In Proverbs 3:5, an often-quoted verse reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” In the New Testament in John 20:29, Jesus said to the doubting apostle Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:27), the apostle Paul explained, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

Clustered on the second riverbank, we find those who worship the life of the mind above all else. Human reasoning reigns supreme. The standard for judging truth becomes data collected through the human senses and processed by rational thought. Atheists and agnostics wield Occam’s razor to slice away the possibility of revelation, preferring explanations that avoid spirituality. While the 14th century Franciscan friar William of Ockham was right to suggest that a scientific model should avoid introducing more causes than necessary, the principle often is used to exclude from the possibility of existence everything not perceivable by the human senses. Occam’s razor is a sound approach to the practice of science, but when brandished too freely, justifies positivism. This philosophy persuades those dwell on this second riverbank to stop their search for spiritual truth when they reach the limits of human reasoning and empirical evidence.

Perhaps the two camps of settlers could survive adequately without venturing beyond the limits of their respective riverbanks. Yet I join Isaac Newton and the early settlers of Pittsburgh in the conviction that a richer life waits for those willing to construct a bridge.

Key Concepts to Tweet

  • “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” Isaac Newton  Buffer
  • People cluster on one of two riverbanks in their approach to relating human reasoning to faith.  Buffer
  • A richer life waits for those willing to construct a bridge.  Buffer