About a year and a half ago I wrote a post entitled Voodoo Religion II. One of the points that I touched on was the personal dangers that I face when I am pressed to explain or justify my Christian faith. I have always found it difficult to defend faith as it is, by its very nature, not something that can be quantified or subjected to the standard scientific method. I have found that tough questions can sometimes lead me to question my faith because I just cannot provide answers that make full sense or are fully satisfying. I often feel that it is best to stick my head in the sand and just ignore the difficult questions that lead to such consternation.
Of course, this is the defense of a feeble army. One of the central points that Rob Bell made in his book Velvet Elvis is that we are not being responsible as Christians if we are not always testing our faith. As we have a lot at stake with our system of beliefs, it would be more than foolish if we just bought the whole Bible lock, stock, and barrel without reading it, experiencing it, and considering it very carefully. A Christian should not just be identified by a pin-on label. No, being a Christian means that we are living (or should be living) very different, transformed lives compared to who we were and how we lived before we were saved. As such, becoming and being a Christian is no small undertaking. Therefore, if Christianity is a trampoline, Rob Bell would encourage us to jump.
The other night at my church Community Group, we did just that. Our group spent the evening jumping. We were discussing the message of our sermon the previous Sunday that focussed on the central notion of Christianity that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. Therefore, according to the word of the Bible (e.g. John 14:6, "No one comes to the Father if not through me"), those who do not know Jesus Christ and accept him as their personal Lord and Savior are doomed to spend eternity in hell. This point did not sit well with several members of the group. What about God's chosen people? The Jews do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. What about people who are Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists? Most people who are religious follow the religion of their parents or their people. The fact is that these people have never been exposed to Chrisitianity and will never have any way to know Jesus. According to the New Testament, how good of a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist they are is irrelevant, they are all going to hell. What about primitive, isolated tribes in the South American jungle? There is no way for them even to know about the Bible or experience it. It just somehow seemed inappropriate or unfair or "wasteful" for God to have created so many beautiful people, not given them an opportunity to "follow the rules", and then damn them to eternal hell. Of course the notion of picking and choosing what one believes from the Bible, Old Testament or New Testament, is a dangerous game. If one part is shown to be incorrect or false, then the whole ball of string can quickly unravel.
We talked about a lot of things that night. I am quite certain that nobody's mind was changed by the discussion, but it was certainly not a hostile atmosphere. It was open and honest and supportive. It was safe to jump.