I find myself rejecting Christianity more often than is probably healthy. I play my own devil’s advocate. I pretend to not know Jesus and imagine the kind of God I think I need. I pretend to not know what is in the Bible and make up a story of how things came to be, and why the world is the way it is.
Sometimes living under God’s rule is like trusting a lion to lead me out of the jungle. He can protect me from every other animal in the jungle, but I am never protected from him. I am haunted by the thought that one day, if He wanted to, God could ruin my life. There is nothing He cannot take from me.
The Christian God is too free, too unruly, too unpredictable. I am always trying to cut myself away from Him, and from “The Authorities” in general. I think it’s the way my generation was raised. We were raised to be rebels—autonomous, independent rebels who are willing to take risks and even willing to take responsibility for those risks. David Wells says that sin is “all the ways we live life on our own terms, to our own ends, with accountability to no one but ourselves” (The Courage to be Protestant). He describes perfectly the kind of life I have aspired to live.
Left to myself, I would never choose Christianity. Buddhism, maybe. Roman Catholicism, maybe. But not Protestant Christianity. Protestant Christianity is so counter-intuitive that it rings almost ridiculous (I am thinking of its doctrine of grace in particular). This God saves bad people, not good ones. This God thinks too much of grace and too little of good works. This God expects nothing from me.
I keep trying to make an argument against Christianity based on personal hang-ups. The problem is, no matter how much I want to walk away from Jesus at times, the facts do not change: Jesus did walk the earth. Jesus did die on a cross. Jesus did resurrect on the third day. I could walk away, but I don’t because Christianity is ultimately not just about personal belief; it’s about what actually happened in history. It’s an objective debate, not a subjective argument. If I want to argue about whether or not Christianity is true, I have to argue over matters of historiography, archaeology, and physiology—not over my personal experience with God or opinion of Him. I don't have any issues with the historicity of Christianity, only with how it connects with my daily life.
So, Christianity has not so much invited me to belief as much as it has imposed its beliefs on me. It is like my toddler calling, “Look, look, Mommy, look at me!” while I am talking to someone. I look not because I want to, but because I have to. It’s too hard, too distracting to keep talking over the nagging voice. It’s an act of surrender. Our wills are not as free as we think.
But at any given time, I am allowed to walk away—for a year, for ten years, for fifty years—because salvation does not and never did depend on my commitment to God. It always depends on His commitment to me.
If Christianity isn’t true, let me eat, drink, and be merry. Let me live simply to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Let me live for today, for tomorrow I die. Because Christianity is true, I have to live with all of the implications of this. I am not as autonomous and independent as I think I am. I cannot live only for today, because there is eternity to consider. That Christianity is true creates all sorts of complications and inconveniences for me that I’d rather live without.
I have to keep reminding myself that I must be a Christian not because it “works,” but because it is true. Even when it doesn’t work, it is still true.
I suppose that is why truth is the linchpin of life. Truth not only informs reality, it also interprets it. What I believe to be true is the most important question I need to answer. Everything else in life hangs on the answer.
When faith and life collide, faith wins.