On Christmas day I had a lively, though-provoking theological discussion with one of my best friends, a man who possesses a keen intellect and a good heart. He is an agnostic, I am a Christian, and this difference in belief leads to many late night debates. We respect one another, so there is no hint of rancor or accusation.
We discussed the nature of free will, which is something that always makes my head hurt. If all things work for God’s good, then how does sin affect outcomes? How does evil work for good? Mankind is doomed to sin because it is inherent to our nature. God knows we will sin, when we will do so, and how that works out for us in the end. In my extensive experience with sin, short term bliss leads to pain at some point. How does this serve the greater plan? I have no idea.
I told my friend “Everything happens for a reason, and sometimes the reason is that we make dumb choices.Yet even these bad decisions transform into good in the end. Maybe not for us, though. There are infinite choices, and a myriad of outcomes… some are better than others within our own lifetimes.”
My friend wasn’t buying it. “What about a greater scale, then? Let’s take Hitler, for example. How does Hitler’s existence work for the greater good? The death of six million of God’s chosen people, along with Americans, Russians, English, French, Japanese and Germans? Explain that to me, please.”
“Well,” I replied, stalling, “Hitler chose to be evil. He murdered millions, which was clearly contrary to the will of God. The suffering Hitler unleashed will reverberate for centuries. But on a grander scale than that, perhaps there was a reason we cannot perceive.”
“Sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. We are too close to a thing to see the truth in it.”
“We’re not talking about trees. We’re talking about living, breathing people. Women and children. The truth is they died.”
“There were better possible outcomes,” I said, feeling the hollowness of the answer. “But in the end…”
“I wish I had your easy faith,” said my good friend.
“It looks that way to me. You retreat into your faith when logic fails.” True.
Hebrews 11:1 says “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith is the cornerstone of Christianity. Without it, nothing else matters. We trust because we must. Because without that leap of faith, the world feels gray and mean, drained of color and life. Faith itself defies logical thinking. Yet our propensity for faith is as great as our vulnerability to evil.
We are the race of Mozart, Shakespeare, Rembrandt and Einstein. Creativity flows through our veins, itself a kind of faith, a force which propels us to seek the truth beyond what we see before us. Faith is a reward in itself, for it makes the world a brighter place.
Faith is not easy.
Clashes of faith have been a bane of mankind’s existence, and I think God’s least favorite words are “Holy War.” Faith should not be a weapon, and when it is used as such, it makes the world darker and harder for those of us who cling to our beliefs in the face of hardship and doubt and the rampant evil in this place.
My friend is right, though. I do retreat into my faith. I remember the connection I have felt with the creator, moments that I cannot explain in any other way. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve watched the sun rise over the Rocky Mountains, felt the kiss of joy on an endless blue ocean, and witnessed my sons born into this world. Faith is a singing feeling in my chest, a smile in my soul, and when it is strong, it is glorious.
I stumble and fall too often and my steps are not sure, my path unclear, and I lose my way in the forest. The truth surrounds me though, and just because I cannot see a thing does not make it less real. When the darkness presses in upon me, it is then I need my faith the most. Perhaps for me, having faith is indeed easier than living bereft of hope.