Agnostic Christianity

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”
1 John 5:13
When unexpected tragedy happens in your life, where do you turn for guidance? When, in the words of Fantine in Les Miserables, “Life kills the dream you dreamed,” where do you turn for hope? What can happen to many of us is that great doubts and suspicions towards God suddenly arise in our hearts. Suddenly, all the Sunday School stories you learned as a kid can seem so fake. What can happen is not a direct move into atheism—denying the existence of God, but rather a slow and subtle move into a silent agnosticism—denying that truth about God can be known, denying that certainties about God exist, thinking that no one can be confident about spiritual or religious truth.

Agnosticism: This is what happened to 19th century biologist Thomas Huxley who coined the term 'agnostic' (meaning without knowledge). An agnostic does not take a stand and deny that God exists; he or she denies that knowledge and certainties about God and the spiritual life are possible to rationally maintain. Today, it seems like a form of this agnosticism has crept into many Christian circles where the confident Christianity that the Bible describes has been replaced by an agnostic Christianity in the name of "humility." Someone might say, “Yes, I still hold to many of the teachings of Jesus and what he did for me. That is what seems to help me in life. That’s what I gravitate towards, but at the end of the day, who really knows?” The motto of this agnosticism is, “Who can say for sure?”

Confidence: Contrary to this intellectually flabby approach to spiritual truth, the Apostle John wrote to the church "...that you may know." Notice, he said "know" not "wonder." John was addressing Christians who were living with uncertainties and taught them how to live with confidence in their walk with God no matter what was happening in their lives. What this shows us is that a person may in fact be a genuine Christian, but this does not guarantee that he or she is living with the type of confidence and assurance that is possible.

For example, two people may be sitting on the same plane together and experiencing the same turbulence. Yet, one of them could be sipping their drink in confidence while the other one is gripping the armrests in much panic and worry. Both people are on the plane, but their internal experience of that flight is completely different. You might say that John wrote his letter so that Christians would let go of the armrests and pick up their drink. He wrote his letter so that, instead of an agnostic Christianity, believers would experience a confident Christianity. But how does John do it? Where does this type of spiritual confidence and knowledge come from?

Evidence: If John said, “I write these things...that you may know,” then we need to ask, “What things?” And if we go back to the beginning of his letter, John began by recounting his very scientific credible eye-witness experience of Jesus. Here’s why that is so important. Often times, faith and science are seen to be at odds with one another. Science deals with things that you can touch, things that you can see. Yet, people tend to think that faith in Jesus deals with nothing but the unseen and unverifiable. Yet, what did John say? “We saw him, we looked upon him, we touched him” (1 John 1:1-3). John was pointing out the scientific evidence of seeing Jesus before his death and seeing Jesus after his death. John was helping his readers to understand that the Apostle’s testimony was scientific and verifiable. In other words, John was helping people to see that Christian faith is not based on wishful thinking; it’s based on the historical credible eye-witness reports of the men and women who saw Jesus physically alive and back from the dead.

Faith: The root of many uncertainties about God can be a misunderstanding of how knowledge and faith work. It seems like when people talk about "a person of faith" today, they speak of faith almost like a form of wishful thinking, sort of like the Disney movie type of faith—if you believe it with all your heart, your dreams will come true. That is not the faith of the Bible and Christianity. Faith, according to the Bible, is receiving the credible testimony of God that he’s given to us. Faith is taking God at his word. That’s why the Apostle Paul said that, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

We might think of it like this—why do people believe that George Washington was America’s first President? It’s not because they were there and saw him; it’s because they are trusting the credible reports of others who did. Or if people are in the market for a used car, they don’t typically inspect under the car and check under the hood before they buy it. No, what do they do? They trust the CarFax report. It's interesting that people aren't agnostic when it comes to these things.

I would argue that what we do in so many other areas of life, we just need to do the same thing when it comes to the Bible and Jesus. If we trust the testimony of others all the time (and we know that people are prone to lie or exaggerate), why not trust the testimony of God who never lies? The Bible was written so that we could know God, trust his word, and live with a confidence in his character and promises no matter what is happening around us. Which means, if we're not feeling confident in our walk with God, then let's go back to the reliable source of our knowledge and faith to begin with, the Bible.
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