Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Choose to Have Faith in Miracles

One of the challenges with being a religious person in this modern age of scientific advancement and its trend toward secularism is that at times you have to figure out how to hold onto crazy stories that contradict whatever you learned in science and history. It would be an interesting project to dig into why nearly every religious tradition has these crazy stories sitting at their foundation. Perhaps it stems from ancient tradition before science was well understood when there was a tendency to mix superstition with a desire to understand the world. But come on, there’s some crazy stuff. I don’t know a lot about the tradition stories of other religions, but I know my own, let me give a few examples:

From the Old Testament, Jonas was swallowed whole and then sat for three days in the belly of a whale as punishment for failing to preach to Nineveh. When he finally consented he was spit out onto the shore so he could convince the cities inhabitants to repent.

Or God created the earth and the water and the animals and then Adam and Eve in a garden where they would live forever in a state of innocence. Until, of course, Eve partakes of an apple that brings to the world sin and death.

Or of course, Jesus born to a virgin woman, lives a sinless life, healing the sick, turning water to wine, raising the dead up until his own crucifixion, when 3 days later he, himself rises from the dead and from this event starts a world wide religion that would sweep the earth.

Or later, in the 1800’s, an uneducated farm boy, Joseph Smith, guided by an angel, finds gold plates in a hill near his house. Then in a period of 3 months, produces another book of scripture detailing the events of Christians living in America spanning 1000 years before, during and after the life of Christ. And then in his lifetime, he produces another book revealing new revelations from Abraham’s life.

So, why not a belief in Santa Claus as well?

How do I as a Christian make sense of this? For one, my course of life has not really forced me to reckon with the craziness too much. I don’t study evolution in my day job; I’m not a physicist, nor really a scientist. I’m in software, I build stuff; I solve real world problems, making the mundane a little easier for people. That’s where I spend most of my day. I can go to church on Sunday, pray day and night, read my scriptures and just accept the possibility that a being in another world with more power than my mind can imagine cares for the daily mundane problems of my life. So, I accept these stories at face value because at times I have to. I just cannot believe that I’m left to my own devices to face the world alone. It feels so much better to believe I have a God who loves me and is willing to help me navigate the world.

But you know what, I love these stories. But what’s more, they aren’t just stories. Scripture describes both science and history in ways that make a mockery of both. It’s almost as if God said, I’m going to make it as hard as possible for some to believe just so I can make it as easy as possible for as many people to believe as possible. The creation story is breathtakingly simple. And through the story, a theology of the fall and the need for a Savior and an explanation of sin and grace and justice comes out of it. We learn why it’s important to work and why we have trials. It gives us a reason for the weeds in our garden or cars that break down or software with bugs or periods of unemployment or rejection. The existence Adam and Eve make no scientific sense, but it gives our lives meaning in a way that evolution would never be able to.

Apologists and Mormon academics have tried to find archeological proof of the Book of Mormon. Skeptics point out the lack of  DNA evidence that would show an ancient American link to Jerusalem. But the Book of Mormon turns Christianity into both an ancient and global religion. The book explains that the idea of Jesus was known not only to those in Jerusalem but also to those in America. And as a result provides a second testimony of the resurrection and shows that God loves all those who inhabit the earth.

There is actually historical evidence that contradicts the crucifixion and resurrection story of Jesus. But it’s the resurrection that is at the heart of Christianity, showing that through it, death will not be victorious and that through it we will all live again.

I love the story of Santa Claus. My older kids have lost their faith in Santa, sadly. Our young kids still believe. My son is right; Santa is really hard to believe in, the story makes no sense, as you get older. He doesn’t believe because how in the world could Santa travel to every house in the world in a single night. It defies physics. But he thinks he might believe because would his parents really buy that many presents for him and his sisters (we have a history of going a bit over-board). So, Santa is difficult, but still worth believing in perhaps.

But you know what I love more? A God who is also my spiritual father with a capacity to love and look out for me, his child and that this God would send His son to save me, a sinner, providing hope for change and growth. As a father myself who feels the very real weight of four children to care for, it’s good to know that I have someone with both the capacity and the will to help me.

None of this makes sense scientifically.  Evidence points in the opposite direction. I choose to believe anyway.

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