So here goes.
There are so many different perspectives from which I have initiated this discussion that it is difficult to decide which is most appropriate. For now I will start with faith.
The concept of faith has always seemed complicated to me; I even remember writing a blog entry on it a while back. There was a time when I wavered between two schools of thought; either faith is a decision that a person makes (Hebrews 11:1), or faith is something that God simply grants (John 6:44, 6:65). This conundrum could also be posed as the probably familiar "free-will versus predestination" paradox.
Recently however I have come to believe that people, using myself as anecdotal evidence, come to faith based on the "personal evidence" they have encountered in their lives up to that time. By personal evidence I don't mean evidence in the sense of apologetics, I simply mean something that someone is willing on which to base a conclusion. When I came to commit myself to Christ the evidence before me was this:
- I believe in God because the wisdom in the bible seems to ring true to what I have seen in my life.
- Although I believe in God, I am not certain of the practical aspect of devoting my life to God because, let's face it, I'm not impressed with the people that I have seen so far who already have.
- My life doesn't seem to be working the way I think it is supposed to, i.e. I am lonely and unhappy.
- Here is a group of people (Church of Christ) that is actually getting something done and whose members are really serious about following the bible.
Since that time I have gone through many ups and many downs. During this time, and especially the past three years or so, I added the following to my body of "personal evidence":
- It turns out that the "getting something done" part of church was really probably the authoritarian and charismatic leadership — cult of personality, if you will. Without that, explosive (numerical) growth is absent.
- The remainder of the benefits I feel that the church has to offer can be attributed to the community aspect of the group. In fact the most useful lessons on cultivating this community I learn from books by Cloud & Townsend. While they are biblically based, I find it is their psychological training that lends the most value to their perspective.
- I have experienced and have seen in others an interesting state — believing or knowing intellectually that God loves me, yet not feeling it. How does this state come about? If people simply read a book that tells them God loves them, it may indeed impart that factual knowledge; however it requires real love from real people to be able to even conceptualize what God's love feels like. But that opens up a large loophole in my mind — if what people need is love from other people, why need God?
All this to basically state, I don't think of myself as "falling away" or "giving up", but more than the rules have changed and I am trying to reconcile my concept of God with the evidence I see. In some sense you could probably frame this as "[working] out [my] salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). For now I will leave it at that and perhaps I will elaborate in future posts.