Easter week tends to increase the opportunity to discuss matters of faith. Though my many secular friends and acquaintances have no use for matters “religious” and certainly not organized religion, they have had enough exposure over the years to know it’s an important week for believers. Often, this leads to a comment or a brief conversation. But these encounters over the past few days have left me a bit saddened, as so many skeptics, it seems, view Christianity as a form of superstition. A long-lived tradition, of course, with wonderful rituals, but superstition nonetheless. Modern “science-minded” people reject superstitions, and so “religious” beliefs hold no interest for them.
Brief conversations about Easter don’t really lend themselves to a full explanation of the Faith, and even if they did, the prevailing apathy would prevent the conversation from going deep enough to change anyone’s mind. That’s too bad, in my view, because historic Christianity has nothing to do with superstition. Sure, some who claim to be Christian may indeed be superstitious; the faith itself, however, is built not upon fanciful thinking but upon the bedrock of truth.
And truth matters. When it comes to things “spiritual,” modern sensibilities hold that what really matters is sincerity, not truth. As long as someone is “true” to his or her beliefs, and sincere about them, then all will be fine in the end. We’re all good people, after all, and who am I, or anyone else for that matter, to say that my “truth” is actual truth? Truth that applies to everyone; now, in the past and for all time to come? That belief systems have ramifications? Saying such things is intolerant, isn’t it?
That depends, I suppose, on what is under consideration. For matters of preference or opinion, speaking of actual “truth” is nonsensical. But for many other things – including I believe ultimate “spiritual” things – “getting it right” is actually what matters. Finding and following the truth is essential.
Consider the following analogy: imagine a person who is suffering from a medical disorder. One day he is fine and the next the disease begins the process of eventually killing him. Initially, he does not know he is afflicted. He “feels” fine. He continues to go about his business, concerned with the problems of everyday life and not suspecting that anything may be different, let alone dreadfully wrong. Eventually, symptoms begin to appear, but they are not particularly troubling to him. After friends insist that he have them checked out, he agrees to see a doctor. This is a big step for him, for he does not “believe” in doctors. He thinks that doctors are often wrong and that they rely too much on pills and not enough on just “living right.” He knows that others really believe in doctors, but he is “sincere” in his belief that doctors do more harm than good, especially when one doesn’t “feel” that anything is wrong. After running a battery of tests, however, the doctor identifies the illness and tells the patient what is wrong.
In addition to understanding the affliction, the doctor also has the means to provide the solution. The patient resists, however, insisting that he feels fine and that he doesn’t need any help. He views the surgery and medicines the doctor offers as “butchery” and “potions.” He sincerely believes that the doctor is practicing voodoo. Ultimately, the patient dies, blissfully unaware of his true condition, content in his belief that he was fine, and proud of his refusal to resort to talismanic remedies to fix something he did not believe was wrong.
As this analogy demonstrates, how the patient feels about his situation is not particularly relevant. Nor is the sincerity of his belief. He may feel fine, physically and emotionally, but the issue would be his actual condition, i.e. the truth about his disease. Christianity needs to be assessed on these terms. Either the Biblical claims are true – we are in a world of trouble, brought on by our rebellion, and only Jesus can save us – or they’re not. If they are true, how we feel about them is of little consequence. And ignoring and rejecting them will, in the end, not succeed.
Now some may object that doctors practice science, and so the analogy is misplaced. The patient was wrong not to rely on science. But science is simply one way of testing and developing knowledge. It is not the only way. While science can tell us about our physical bodies, it cannot tell us whether we possess souls and what happens to our souls when our bodies reach that point that even science cannot overcome. It cannot tell us if our souls are in need of salvation. Neither can science tell us whether improbable past events from the past – such as the Resurrection we are celebrating this day – actually occurred. The only way we can make that assessment is by considering the evidence upon which Christianity is based and becoming familiar with the philosophy that supports its claims.
But we must do so with an open and inquiring mind… for the consequences of ignoring our spiritual illness can be as devastating as the disease was for the unsuspecting patient.
Posted by Al Serrato