Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Need to Believe

I’ve already written a little about my crisis of faith and how a friend came to me and helped me get myself back together (click here) . Here’s a little more about that time.

Somehow I got through Sunday’s sermons without feeling like a complete liar. I think I managed by sticking with main ideas of the text and not defending whether they were true.

My friend traveled a couple of hours to see me that afternoon and we went for a long walk out on a country road I was partial to. I was still in bad shape from my diabetes and in truth, I don’t remember everything we said, but here are the pieces I’ve retained.

“Are you saying that you don’t believe that Jesus existed?” he began

“In fact,” I replied, “There is evidence other than scripture that refers to someone named Jesus from Nazareth, so I guess I would stipulate to his existence.”

“So you don’t believe in his teachings?”

“I’ve spent my life studying his teachings and separating out what he said versus what others have said about him.”

“And you don’t believe what he says is true?”

“Well, I can’t throw it out. I like Jesus’ teachings. In fact, I love them. They’re brilliant and wonderful. They’re profound and I keep having new ideas when I read them over again. So no, I don’t reject his teachings.”

“What about the resurrection? Are you saying that you no longer believe in the resurrection of the dead?”

It’s interesting that he bypassed the whole atonement argument, where Jesus was a sacrifice that paid for our sins, because I do have a little heartburn about that one. Instead he went right to the bottom line of Christianity.

“The resurrection of the dead is a bold claim,” I said. “Anyone in his right mind would reject it outright.”

Of course, nobody was saying I was in my right mind.

“I need the resurrection to be true,” I said. “I need to believe that I get to exist outside of the limitations I have now. I need the resurrection as an answer to the grief I feel over the losses I’ve had and continue to experience.”

“So you do believe in the resurrection?”

“Yes, in spite of what little sense I have left, I still believe in it.”


“Because I need to.”

And that’s really the reason.

For me this is not a battle to disprove evolution or other scientific issues that might conflict with the Bible. It’s not a matter of finding validity by proving the truth of my beliefs to others. I don’t have to make converts in order to bolster my own faith.

But the possibility of resurrection keeps me going. So I believe.


  1. Wow. I don't know if it's amazing or heartbreaking. You believe because you need to.

    I almost feel like I don't believe because I need not to believe. I've been happier than I've ever been since turning away. So much more at peace, having understanding to others, joy, that I can't turn away from that. I couldn't achieve such things when I was a believer.

    My heart is bigger, I'm a better person.


  2. Don't know quite where it leads the discussion, but I have no doubt that you have more peace and joy. I also see that you are understanding and that you have a big heart.

  3. I've been pondering what the word "hope" means in theological (and especially eschatological) terms for quite some time (hence the title of my own blog, frankly).

    To illustrate my point take the following two statements and how the word hope functions in them and what the word attempts to convey:

    I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow night because I'm planning on going golfing (more of a whimsical wish for good fortunes, no?).

    As a Christian, I hope for the resurrection from the dead, which will be a liberation from the limitations, pains, and heartaches that charactize (and sometimes even define) human existence.

    I hope for those things tenatively, so it brings a default posture of humility (not certainty and/or arrogance). I hope for those things in that I anticipate them actually happening in the future. I hope for those things in that anticipating the future in that way motivates and spurs me to good works in the present.

    I haven't decided how helpful the distinction is yet, and I certainly haven't thought through it completely. But at the very least, it helps me sort through the epistemological limits of Christian faith and helps reframe my own faith in terms that make sense with the rest of the world and reality.

    What do you think?

  4. Is it necessary for the "resurrection" to be physical?

  5. @brgulker:
    Words are a big tool in the pastor's craft, and we know better than anyone who easily we can get hung up when one word can have more than one meaning--happens a lot in English.

    When that happens to me, I pull the word and think about the concepts I'm considering. My longing for resurrection is miles apart from a mild wish for a clear day for golf, even though I might use the word hope to describe both feelings.

    I would not use the term tentative to describe my hope for resurrection. My words would be something more like: desperate and longing.

  6. At UU4077:
    I do not look forward to living a second life with the bag of bones that houses my consciousness now. I've always believed that the part of me that is my truest identity is what lives on.

  7. "Longing" is a great word. That might capture what I'm trying to express more clearly.