faith and the secret admirer

March 8, 2009 at 2:00 pm 7 comments

secret_admirerYesterday I was blessed, so to speak, by a couple of honest conversations with christians, one with new friends and the other with an old friend. Really enjoyable, as they are people on a journey away from a conservative christianity they once held to and into something with a lot more mystery and more open to questioning as a way of practicing their faith. So I can relate with them, even if they have a faith which I do not. Very fulfilling conversations to me. The second conversation was the result of a chance encounter in a supermarket. I found out that since I had last spoken with him he has been following a similar path in his faith, shifting leftwards, or whatever you might call it. Even more unlikely, his mentor in seminary is the author of a book which had just been recommended to me earlier in the day.

I used to see these seeming coincidences as “fingerprints of God.” And honestly, these events did seem beyond the likelihood of random occurrences. It would be especially easy to attribute them to God because they were conversations about religion. Now I know something I didn’t know about when I first became a christian; confirmation bias can lead us to see coincidences as divine miracles because they confirm what we already believe or want to believe. But we then don’t attribute similar weight to other information which is presented to us each day. Like when we pray to find our car keys and thank God for the miracle of answered prayer if we immediately find them, but we don’t see it as chance occurrence the other 10 times we don’t find them right away. Statistics vs faith?

I’m not saying no coincidence could ever be a miracle. Miracles are certainly a logical possibility if God exists. Being married to a believer, I don’t find it necessary to clash on this issue, to the extent that I am not required to believe coincidences are miracles. Because at the end of the day, I can’t prove they are not miracles, I can only believe what I believe.

I consider it unlikely I will ever believe in God again because of seemingly un-random coincidences. I’ll be thankful for blessings provided by chance circumstances when they arise, like meeting an old friend at the supermarket. But I consider it unlikely they will “prove God” to me. Christians seem to want to believe that about the random things in life. But if God wants to reveal himself, it doesn’t have to be in the way of a secret admirer, who doesn’t want his real identity to be known. Or in the way of a secret admirer who wants to make a person feel more loved because of the intrigue of not knowing the secret admirer’s identity.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with little love notes, but a relationship is based on knowing someone is real, not in mustering up a confidence they are real, and not in finding confidence in what we can really only guess about that person. If we fall in love with a secret admirer, we don’t really know who we are falling in love with, do we? Else their identity would be known to us, and they would no longer be a secret admirer. Some christians will say that we can know God this way. But I say that we can’t know God this way, we can only guess at God this way. If that is what faith is, guessing who God is, that’s fine, but let’s call it that. We can know for certain there is a strong possibility we delude ourselves this way, by believing something we want to be true.

Just like the secret admirer. Sometimes he is a future lover, sometimes only a flirt, and sometimes a cruel hoax. But all the time, he is only an image of someone, the substance having been more made up than who he really is.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul, says, ”Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” That can be a nice way of looking at God (although that is not what Paul is actually referring to there). But again, how dimly do we see? Is it faith in someone real, or in someone we make up? Nobody can be required to firmly believe in something because of something only dimly seen.

Paul in the next verse says faith hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love. I’ll stick with love, I know that is real, the faith part isn’t so clear to me.

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Entry filed under: faith.

when faith is stripped away prayer disconnect

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dick W.  |  March 9, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Yep, as the old Simon and Garfunkel song The Boxer goes “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”. I know people who absolutely say they have a “relationship” with god, and that he talks to them, etc. And of course, it’s all built up into certainty be these statistical random occurrences.

    I agree with the last part about the greatest of them being love. And if more of the Christians I know would show a little less faith and more love, the world would be a better place.
    Dick

  • 2. atimetorend  |  March 10, 2009 at 2:05 am

    It is one of those things that can needlessly cause stress. Rather than simply enjoying the small blessings of life they have to prove something to us to fit someone’s agenda. Have to be strong and enjoy them anyway.

  • 3. Lorena  |  March 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Like when we pray to find our car keys and thank God for the miracle of answered prayer if we immediately find them, but we don’t see it as chance occurrence the other 10 times we don’t find them right away.

    Being a woman, I am a subject matter expert on losing my car keys. I find that now that I don’t waste praying for the keys to be found, I find them a lot faster. I am able to focus on the task at hand, retrace my steps, and find them “miraculously” fast.

  • 4. Lorena  |  March 12, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Ahhhhhhhhhhh! That was “waste time praying.”

  • 5. Joshua  |  March 16, 2009 at 2:32 am

    This is a brilliant post.

    I may have told this story before, but one of the epiphany moments I had while at Moody Bible Institute was while riding the elevator. A lot of students would continually press the “Close Door” button over and over to try and get the elevator moving.

    Over time, I had discovered the button really did not do anything, but if a person continually pressed and did not give up, the door would eventually close anyway. This would, of course, confirm to the person that pressing the button did work.

    Suddenly a horrid thought popped into my mind: that’s exactly like prayer.

    I’ve never been able to view prayer the same since.

  • 6. DagoodS  |  March 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Joshua, just so you know, I am SO stealing the Elevator button the next time I want to point out the reliance on preferred results when I comes to pray. I will try to remember to give you credit. *grin*

  • 7. Joshua  |  March 24, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Your welcome!

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