Category Archives: Questions on Faith

The Four Most Destructive Words of the Christian Testimony

This statement could apply to either side of the argument…

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been away for a while. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time over these last several months in the mission field. In fact, I’ve been immersed within one of the most important missionary areas that anyone confessing to be a Christian can labor in; one that is sadly and too often overlooked by so many well-meaning followers of Christ; one that is actually the nearest and most important field within which any of us can work. I’ve been spending time lately in tending to a few of the beliefs, and mending a great amount of faith, within my own heart. And here’s one of the things I’ve been convicted of as of late:

I firmly believe that four of the most destructive words that any Christian can utter to a world that increasingly and desperately needs to hear (and more importantly see) any kind of “good news” of Christ and His followers are these:  “The Bible clearly says…”

No. No, it doesn’t. Continue reading The Four Most Destructive Words of the Christian Testimony

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Of street preachers and racing semis

Vigilant Christian

I’ve seen this meme posted over the recent past by more than a few well-meaning Christians. And, it got me to thinking: Is this really how we, as believers, see ourselves? How we see the world? How we see God’s judgment?

If so…that’s really sad!

First of all, how stereotypical is it to have the Jesus guy on the side of the road with a bullhorn and a placard. I mean really? How apocalyptic street preacher can you get?

Secondly, why a semi? Is God supposed to be driving? Is Jesus? What do you see through the windshield? What’s His mindset? What’s His facial expression as He approaches this guy? Do you see glee? Satisfaction? Sadness? And, if sadness, why? Is that truly God’s face we’re seeing through the glass, or might it be a reflection of our own?

But my main thought was this: Why isn’t street preacher dropping his bullhorn, throwing off his placard, AND GOING OUT TO GET THE GUY!!??? Continue reading Of street preachers and racing semis

“With an Open Hand”

cropped-change.jpgAll of our possessions, all of our abilities, all of our opportunities as well as the circumstances and people who cross our life path, are there for a reason. Each of them are ingredients in this rolling, boiling cauldron of stew we call life. We are given ample opportunities to use these ingredients, adding and subtracting in any combination we like. With them we can glorify God. We can bless others. We can use them for personal gain. Or, we could even miss them completely. The more we are “in tune” to these circumstances, abilities, and opportunities, the more we come to see and recognize them. I would place our understanding of faith and belief in that boiling cauldron as well, even though this comes with great responsibility, and great risk.

It reminds me of hearing a pastor one time speaking about a posture of holding all that he had been given throughout life with an open hand. That God is the one who provides, and we should feel a response to this provision as being open to the prompting to use, or even lose, what He has graciously given us. I know, it seems like a grandiose version of “the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away” but I think the analogy stands.

Does that mean I am saying we should hold our faith and beliefs in such a grasp? With an open hand? Willing to risk rejection of them? To risk having them shaped and morphed and changed by age, wisdom, and experience? To risk losing them completely? Yes, I believe we should. And I have to smile a bit as I say that, because even this stance has evoked gasps of righteous indignation from certain circles of faithful believers. “How can you say that you only hold on loosely to your faith in God?” they ask. And the answer is simple: because this stance is something I feel led by the Spirit to embrace. I know that one day I will stand at the foot of the cross and give an account for each direction I chose to take along my path, as well as for what my heart held dear and what it was willing to hold loosely. This includes my faith.

Yes, I believe part of holding our faith with open hands means the possibility of losing it altogether. In fact, this needs to be an option for faith to truly be alive and vital within any of us.

Is it scary? Yes.

Is it unsafe? Definitely.

Faith is not an easy walk. Faith is scary. Faith isn’t safe.

The world isn’t safe. It will certainly try to challenge our beliefs and understandings. And the Lord may often allow these challenges in order to stretch, grow, and strengthen us—and our faith—as we journey further along life’s path in the world. This allowance is not out of some sense of meanness, anger, or indifference. Quite the contrary, and I think this is key. God’s use of these troubling circumstances shows an incredible amount of love and faith on His part. You see, we are called to have faith in Him for the simple reason that He has faith in us! I believe He is actually rooting for us. Encouraging us. Cheering us on surrounded by a vast chorus of angels, singing, shouting, and doing the wave! For us!

Why?

Because He knows we can do it. We can overcome. We can weather through. That this is what we were designed for. Not to be constantly battered by the storms of life, but to show God’s glory within the storm. To rely on Him, and on those He surrounds us with. Within each circumstance, we are the ones who get to choose whether it be a test to strengthen our faith, or a challenge to abandon our faith and walk away.
~ excerpt from These Threads of Faith, pg. 22

I’ve Been Called Out by an Atheist…And He’s Right

I’ve been engaged in an online discussion of my religious views on the blog site of a friend of mine, Nate, who happens to be an atheist.  The discussion was not with him, of course. He has (probably wisely) remained silent during most of the back-and-forth commentary.

No, my conversation has been with another—more hard-line if you will—non-believer.

‘Ark’, as I call him, short for his online handle Arkenanten, points up apparent fallacies within many traditionally held religious, primarily Christian, beliefs. He has done a ton of academic and statistical research and is well-versed in biblical and religious writings, and also in the historical, archaeological, and scientific research used to debunk most all of those religious writings. If you ever want a lively debate, my dear Christian, on any of your firmly-held beliefs or doctrines, Ark’s your guy. I respect his knowledge on the subject if not always his “comment-side” manner…but that’s nuance, and I digress.

Ark called me out on a couple points of my beliefs in a recent exchange, wanting to turn the conversation to more of an evidence-based discussion, even though on repeated occasions I’ve told him I’m not nor have I ever been a fan of apologetics. Some Christians are and I’m fine with that, but I’ve never been a fan of trying to “argue” someone into belief. But, in short order, that’s exactly where I ended up, and I got frustrated.

My last comment on Nate’s site was not something I was particularly proud of, yet with it I thought I’d let it go and move on.

But I went back. One last time. And Ark had answered my semi-tirade. And he asked some rather critical questions. And he pointed up some apparent hypocritical statements I had made, countering what I had said in previous comments to what I had posted (admittedly, four+ years ago) on my own blogsite.

And, most frustratingly, he was right.

His first question was, “If you don’t blog about Christianity to inform the world of your god belief and the command to proselytize, then why are you blogging about Christianity? Ego?”

That got me thinking.

I don’t think there can help but be a little ego involved in our online commentary—be they Facebook posts, comments, memes, or a host of any other tools we Christians use to get across our “point”.

I’m no different actually, and I’ve soon got an almost 200 page book coming out on my own faith journey and beliefs to prove it. I do it to clarify a few of the positions I hold to as a believer, positions that might differ from my Christian brothers and sisters, and I do it to answer why I write what I do in the fiction realm, and why some of my characters say things and act as they do. But, could there also be a bit of ego in it?

Without the added aspect of relationship in any kind of dialog, be it a FB post, a blog entry, or an entire manuscript, there probably is a certain amount of ego involved. Aren’t we all, to some extent, trying to prove a point? To “make our stand”? To point up where someone else might be “wrong” while we have the “right” answers? How differently are our conversations over a cup of coffee or a couple beers compared to what we feel emboldened to write across the relative anonymity of a computer screen?

Ark’s next question was: I am simply curious as to why someone who is so “in bed with god” would continue to visit an atheist site? Are you looking to challenge the views of a former fundamentalist turned atheist or are you not quite as sure about your position as you try to make out?

You know, I’m not sure. And I’m comfortable with that uncertainty. If we Christians are honest with ourselves, none of us can fully be sure. That’s why our belief in the Son of God is called “faith”, and not “certainty”, though we like to put up a good front that we are.

I’d also say that my visiting Nate’s and other atheists’ sites is for much the same reason that I appreciated his commentary on my own blog (which is actually where he and I first “met”). The topics I read there give me cause to do my own research and studying, furthering my understanding of this elusive Deity I’ve chosen to worship. And, though the conclusions I’ve come to are often differing to those of Nate, and Ark, and others, I still respect and appreciate their knowledge as well as their own conclusions. And I will continue to visit them from time to time.

Concerning a few of my conclusions Ark finished his comments with this: And I say you’re a hypocrite of the first order… your site is replete with Christian posturing and posts, including the self-effacing way in which you casually ”announce” you are also a Christian. Just what is that if not apologetics?

He then uses my own words “against” me when, during the running commentary I said:  “As far as my own views, I don’t put much stock in a literal hell but, as you know from my books…” and yet from my own “About Me” page Ark pulled this: “I believe in Hell. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and no second chances. (Sorry, Mr. Bell)”

And Ark summed it up with these questions: You note your use of the capital H, I hope? Did I misquote you, Kent?

Yes I did note that, Ark. And, no, you didn’t misquote me. In fact, you are absolutely right.

Oh, I could say—and accurately so—that some (okay, quite a few) of my beliefs within the umbrella of Christianity have evolved over the years, but that truth doesn’t belie the fact that I was doing and being exactly what I’ve hated about the public perception of Christianity all along. Yeah, I was being a hypocrite. And yeah, a lot of it was ego-fueled.

Words are powerful. Especially written words, thrown up to the ethereal cloud of anonymity we like to call the internet. People are looking into the windows of our glass houses and seeing rampant inconsistency: Our saying one thing, and then later saying another; saying one thing and doing another; driving aggressively while proudly displaying our fish bumper stickers; yelling at our kids in the grocery store while wearing our cross necklaces.

Guys like Ark have a very valid argument. Yes, we’re going to have inconsistencies in our lives, and yes, it’s going to look a lot like hypocrisy. Whether it is or not really isn’t the point, Christians. We are being held to a different standard, a higher one, whether we want it or not, whether we deserve it or not, and whether we like it or not.

And, you will be called out on occasion, and rightfully so. How you react will either perpetuate that stereotype, or dispel it. And I think we’ve found the answer to the majority of ‘reactions’ written by Christians across any given Facebook page.

We can do better.

I can do better, and the first example that came to mind in this instance was admitting that I was wrong. Wrong in my approach. Wrong in my delivery. Wrong in my hypocrisy, if not wrong in my beliefs.

Yes, if you peruse my site you’ll probably run across posts and pages that I’ve written over the course of almost five years now which may no longer be an accurate representation of who I am, or what I believe. I’ll change a few of them. But some I’ll leave—as mile markers and sign posts if nothing else, of where I’ve been, where I’ve come from, and, hopefully, points along a trajectory of where I’m going.

So, for that Ark, I apologize, and I thank you. And, in the future, I’ll try to do better.