Another thing Rachel Held Evans and I have in common is we both came of age at the height of the Christian apologetics movement, that two- or three-decade push for Christians to be able to “be able to give an answer” to critics of the faith.
As Evans writes on Page 78 of Evolving in Monkey Town:
To experience the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we didn’t need to be born again; we simply needed to be born. Our parents, our teachers and our favorite theologians took it from there, providing us with all the answers before we ever had time to really wrestle with the questions.
Emphasis mine. I was attracted to the idea of a rational faith, one that could be defended on evidential grounds, as if this was a court case. And, of course, apologetics was all about court cases: Evidence That Demands a Verdict. The Case for Christ. Etc.
Here’s the problem with court cases though: Once the verdict is in, you stop thinking about the arguments.
What I mean is that, at least in my life, when I reduced faith to a series of evidentiary statements, I stopped, well, having faith.
This is where Evans and I differ. In her story, the tools she had been given with which to critically analyze and, to put it bluntly, pick apart other faiths she eventually used to do the same to her own, and she found the answers increasingly wanting.
In mine, once I had solved the crime and won the verdict, if you will, I was done. I had reduced faith to a logical series of facts, and as such, it withered and died inside me. There was no mystery, no excitement, no reality. Faith was another argument to which I had the right answers, no different than my faith in supply-side economics or the Christian beliefs of America’s founding fathers.
There was no room anymore for faith to be faith.
In the end, God had to perform miracles in my life to reawaken my dormant faith. I had to reform my view of God from one of “Jesus loves me / This I know / For the Bible tells me so” to “You ask me how I know he lives / He lives within my heart.”
Because ultimately faith is nothing if it is not living inside you. That doesn’t mean you stop worrying about the contradictions or ignore the questions raised by skeptics. I am going to grad school, after all. But it means recognizing that sometimes it’s OK not to have all the answers.
I’m not very good at that. I’ve always been the smartest kid in the class. I won most, if not all, of our school’s spelling bees and geography bees. I love to debate, but most of all I love being right. I love having The Answers.
But it’s time to realize that although I know God exists and loves me and died for me and wants me to spend the rest of eternity with him, the only proof I have of that is anecdotal — what God has done in radically reshaping my life. And as I’m fond of saying, anecdotal evidence isn’t really evidence at all.
And that’s what faith is, isn’t it? It’s about relying on God, even when you aren’t sure he’s going to catch you. It’s about believing a story as preposterous as the perfect, omnipotent Creator allowing himself to be squeezed through a birth canal so he could ultimately be subjected to the worst torture his own creation could devise — all because he wanted to live forever with those very same people.
It’s about believing the answers, even if you can’t prove them.