377) Are You ‘Good at Religion’? (part two of two)

     (…continued)  There are those who are like John, ready and willing to believe, and have believed all their life.  And there are those more like Thomas, hesitant, doubting, needing more information, and always questioning.  It seems that God welcomes both kinds of people, both those who would score high and those who would score low on a Spiritual Quotient test.

     C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) had many doubts about Christianity, and for many years was an atheist.  Then he started looking into it, examining the evidence, and thinking it through, like Thomas.  He found what he was looking for, and at age 32 Lewis became a Christian.  With his powerful intellect now satisfied, he began to write articles and books describing his reasons for believing.  His writings have explained the Christian faith to millions of doubters and searchers.  He became the most popular defender of the Christian faith in the 20th century and now, over 50 years after his death, his books are still best sellers.

     English philosopher Antony Flew (1923-2010) spent most of his life and his considerable intellectual ability opposing belief in God, finding it unreasonable and indefensible.  In fact, many years ago, Antony Flew debated C. S. Lewis on the existence of God.  Antony Flew would probably have rated very high on the IQ test, but very low on the SQ test.  He, like Thomas, would not have been convinced even his ten best friends were telling him they saw a man back from the dead.  Antony Flew, like Thomas, would have to see for himself.

Antony flew.jpg

Antony Flew

    A few years before he died, Antony Flew startled everyone by announcing that he had changed his mind.  One of the best known atheists of the 20th century became a firm believer in the existence of God.  Unfortunately, I don’t think Flew ever became a Christian, but he listened to the arguments of the Intelligent Design scientists, and came to agree with them.  He said that this universe gives all the evidence of being created by a greater being, an ‘outside the realm of nature’ force or intelligence more commonly known as God.  Antony Flew decided he could no longer believe that everything came into being by itself and develop into the complexity we now see all around us.  Antony Flew would probably like Thomas.  He would feel a real kinship with another one for whom belief in God did not come easy.

     Dr. James Burtness was a professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul for many years.  Regarding his own aptitude for spiritual feelings he once said:

I don’t believe I have a spiritual bone in my body.  I don’t ever feel like praying and I don’t ever feel like going to church.  I do pray every day, and I do go to worship every week, but I do that because I have come to believe in the truth of Jesus Christ and I believe that he has commanded me to pray and to worship, and so I will obey.  That is reason enough to pray and to worship.  I don’t know why anyone should think they have to ‘feel like’ going.  What do feelings have to do with it?  This is the truth.  Jesus is the way and the truth and the life.  That is reason enough to take the time to pay attention to him whether or not you ‘feel like it.’

 Now you might infer from that that James Burtness would have scored very low on the spiritual quotient test.  You might say he doesn’t have much of a knack for religion, but I learned as much about being a Christian from James Burtness as I learned from anyone.

     There are many different paths to faith and many different ways to become a Christian.  Thomas demanded proof, and Jesus gave it to him, but then Jesus added, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Some believe in Jesus from the time they learn to sing “Jesus Love Me” in Sunday School, and are never troubled by doubt.  Others, like C. S. Lewis come to faith only after a long intellectual struggle.  Some, like St. Francis may readily admit to not knowing much theology, but have a heartfelt faith that after 800 years continues to inspire.  Others, like James Burtness, may not have much at all in the line of spiritual feelings, but for them faith is a matter of intellectual assent and consistent obedience.

     Jesus comes to each of us, like he came to Thomas, offering us what we need, and inviting us to himself, so that we, like Thomas, might say to him, “My Lord, and my God.”

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John 3:16-17  —  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 20:28  —  Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:29  —  Then Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

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Almighty God, heavenly Father, who desires not the death of a sinner, look down with mercy upon me, depraved with vain imaginations, and entangled in long habits of sin.  Grant me that grace without which I can neither will nor do what is acceptable to thee.  Pardon my sins and remove the impediments that hinder my obedience.  Enable me to shake off sloth, and to redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by a diligent application of the days yet remaining to the duties which thy providence shall alot me.  O God, grant me thy Holy Spirit that I may repent and amend my life, grant me contrition, grant me resolution for the sake of Jesus Christ.  For his sake have mercy on me, O God, pardon and receive me.  Amen.  –Samuel Johnson, 1757