Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mike: Response to Rami's 3/31 Post

You know my love for classic science fiction, so you'll not be surprised that your take on God inevitably jogs my memory and calls to mind Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Heinlein probably did more than anyone else to introduce the idea of "Thou art God" and so is everyone and everything else to mainstream American culture. (And,yes, as you know I'm aware of the ancient roots of the perspective!)

Were I not Christian, I suspect I would adopt such a view.

That being said, I want to turn to your specific question: why I believe what I believe. You phrase my belief as "Jesus is God." That's good shorthand, but of course what I believe is a little more complicated. That being said, though, let's take up your question.

Experience drives my belief. For example, during my childhood the stories of Jesus which I read caught my imagination. I experienced God through Jesus. Looking back, I regard such experience as preparation.

An intense experience during my sophomore year in college strengthened my conviction. While minding my own business in my room, in fact while working on a paper, I suddenly felt myself in the presence of something far greater than myself. At first it felt as if a great weight lay over the entire room, including me. Then the weight lessened. I felt small, unworthy, more than a little frightened (think Isaiah 6:1ff). Then something changed. I felt known yet loved. I had never before felt that anyone knew me to my depths, and I had always believed no one could love me if they actually knew the real me. Now I found myself known and loved without condition, though all the help I might ever need to become more fully myself was offered freely. I relaxed, I let down my guard, I surrendered to the embrace of the presence. Subsequent experiences have not been as dramatic, but they have been real to me, reinforcing and informing the initial experience.

Afterwards, as I reflected on the experience I found my mind returning to the stories of Jesus, and I realized I saw in him the presence I had experienced. I think that's when I decided firmly and for myself the Incarnation had happened, was real. Obviously, all this can be written off as a typical young adulthood matter or as being solely conditioned by religious culture. In my own case, I think not. My inner skeptic is alive and well and always has been.

Jesus has proven to be the focal point or lens through which I continue to experience the presence, love and guidance of God. Its fair to say that experience drives my belief. The stories of Jesus help shape my response to experience, both in terms of my private life and my life in community.

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