In this sermon, Greg provides an introduction to a new series on the reason why we believe in and follow Christ. He surveys why this topic is important and some of the various questions that we will explore in the series. Then Greg explains the foundation of his faith that he worked out when he was wresting with questions of belief.
We live in crazy times, times when the foundations of meaning are being rattled. Everything looks like it is changing, which means that we are like Pilate, asking “What is truth?” We don’t really know what truth is. Even in the midst of the myriad of questions about what is and is not true, this is a great opportunity for us. The things that are true should stand up to scrutiny. We should never be afraid of being challenged. We need to ask if our beliefs are true. Peter wrote: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
Unfortunately, for a lot of Christians, their faith isn’t standing up to scrutiny. Many are abandoning the faith all together, and some high-profile believers have done so in a quite public way. Two-thirds of young people raised in church end up leaving church by age 22. Some leave because of bad experiences with church. For some, the strong alignment of evangelicals with right wing politics has been a deal breaker. Other reasons include: the lack of love expressed by the church, the suffering of the world, issues with the Bible, perceived conflicts with science, traditional patriarchal systems and religious violence.
These concerns raise legitimate issues. The speakers in this series will not be bashing those who express their questions and frustrations. We need to take a dialogical approach where we learn to listen to the concerns while also seeing how we can respond to these objections.
We must ask what is it that has allowed us to continue to believe when so many others are not? This often requires a deconstruction and reconstruction of faith. We must be willing to wrestle to the point where we “hit bottom.” Greg shared how he went through this three times in his life. He had to ask, “What do I really believe and why?” On Greg’s journey, he developed four parts of a foundation for why he believes what he believes. He offers this as a way of explaining the hope that lies within him.
The first part of the foundation is love. Life has a purpose and this purpose is about love. In short, how did an irrational, amoral, meaningless cosmic burp evolve beings who try to make rational sense of things, long for meaning and have moral convictions? We long for love and live for it, even when we don’t have a rationale for why we search for it like we do. There is a point to our existence and the point is about love.
The second layer of this foundation is that the purpose of love has a “purpose-er.” We cannot have love as the point without someone who is the lover. There must be a “God,” ultimate intelligence, behind physical reality, and this ultimate intelligence must be perfectly loving.
The third layer is Jesus. If God is personal and therefore purposeful, and if we are created for the purpose of love, it makes sense to wonder if God has ever communicated with us. It’s significant to note that the Gospel story, if understood correctly, is the greatest love story ever told. God set aside the bliss of heaven, made himself into a fellow human being and then offered up his life on the cross, bearing the sin and curse of his bride. But it’s not just a story; history has shown us that Jesus actually did these things out of love for us.
The fourth layer is Scripture. If we trust that Jesus did what he did, then it is logical to trust in the things that he trusted. And one of the things that Jesus trusted was Scripture. Jesus viewed the entire Old Testament as the word of God. Not only this, but Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would come remind them of all Jesus taught, and he promised that the world would come to believe in him through the word of his disciples. This implies that later generations would believe through their written words.
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5 thoughts on “Hitting Bottom”
Note correction: It’s 1 Peter 3:15
You have a typo here: https://whchurch.org/wp-content/themes/whchurch/print-studyguide.php?referrer=34568
“… We need to ask if our beliefs are true. Peter wrote: ‘Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you’ (2 Peter 3:15).”
That should be 1 Peter 3:15.
Thanks for the help on that scripture reference, guys!
– Charley, Communications Team
Thanks so much for this. For years I attempted to argue people into faith in Jesus Christ, primarily, through scriptural and historical arguments. What is noteworthy is that Greg actually ends with history and scripture in his argumentation rather than beginning with them. I find this to be a much better method, since what Greg began with seems to be anchored in intellectual honesty and a beautiful love story rather than religiously motivated apologetics. I hope more Christians will take note of this, as well as more skeptics.
I spend a fair amount of time each day at the Gym. A majority of the folk there are from Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim cultures. I’ve made friends and we enjoy spending time in the sauna talking about how Science correlates with Jesus’ teachings.
This may seem surprising but they like Jesus and consider Him to be the greatest prophet that ever lived because of His teachings.
The things they don’t like are the same things Greg brought up: the strong alignment of evangelicals with right-wing politics, the lack of love expressed by the church, the suffering of the world, issues with the Bible, perceived conflicts with science, traditional patriarchal systems, and religious violence.
The general manager of the gym, a Muslim, is the most authentic person I’ve ever seen. Trust me in a gym like LA fitness, [L]ost [A]ngels, there is more than a fair share of chaos.
This manager resolves conflicts always maintaining a smile and speaking the truth, regarding situations, in LOVE.
I side note from Dan’s sermon Miracles and Microscopes I believe is pertinent.
When you ask Google Siri a question you can interlace the question with all sorts of derogatory expressions and she will still just sweetly answer as best as she can from a database of stored information based on the concatenation of the search criteria. Siri is hearing the same input your Spirit hears, the collapse of the multi-layered constellation of neuron paths.
NOT so when we speak to each other. We are sending waves that before they get collapsed by the wave function, into our perceptions; stop at the amygdala of the limbic system for the emotional aspects; so TONE is key. If it’s derogatory in nature there is a good chance, if we don’t hold thoughts captive, the library of stored emotional information history will intercept and forget the wave collapse the somewhat mindless insanity begins.
In a recent conversation with this manager, he told me he has come to discover it fruitless to focus on other people’s faults and has decided to just deal with his own.
I told him the scripture Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.
He looked this up on his phone and showed it to me. He was deeply touched.
Muslims don’t see Jesus as God. The reason; they are monotheistic.
I passed the following passage to Dan and Greg for their ReKnew podcast.
Mark 10:17-27 …..a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do so that I may inherit eternal life?”
But Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. …………………….. “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
From our western approach to figuring stuff out this appears, on the surface, to be a dichotomy of statements! Why would you follow someone who by his own opening statement appears to NOT have a grip?
Not so for the Muslim manager who comes to this country from South Africa.
Consider John 12:49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. And John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
I believe the reason Jesus never sinned [missed the mark] was that He ALWAYS spoke and did the GOOD will of this Father.
Just maybe this is a universal syllogism for all of us that we can only discover God’s GOOD and perfect will NOT try to figure it out on our own.
So whenever any of us does good, regardless of religion or lack thereof, we are on the narrow path of wisdom however we have a tendency to dance on and off the path all the time; so Jesus came so that we might follow/yoke with him so as to stay on the path by dealing with our planks rather than poo-pooing other folks.
The more aware I am of the things God has yet to change in me [my planks], the less offended by and uncomfortable I will be with what God has yet to change in someone else.
The more you do this the better off you will be down the road. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
I believe this is of much greater value than, as you have rightly said Mathew, religiously motivated apologetics.