Finish this Post – A Fully Believable God

This post is incomplete. It’s not incomplete because I procrastinated or because I ran out of time. It’s incomplete because I honestly just don’t know what to do with it. Because when it comes down to it, I’m not sure I know how to answer my own question. And because I want your help. I guess this could be seen as another “long quote” post, but it’s more of a long post with a short quote. TTAF, though, is about community and learning together, so today I ask directly for your input.

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The other day I made a grilled cheese sandwich, cut it in half (diagonally into two triangles, of course), and shared it with my three year old daughter as she sat on my lap watching Bambi. Now, I don’t know whether or not you’ve ever seen Bambi. I have. In fact, I watched it for the very first time just the night before the two of us sat there with our grilled cheese halves. I wish I hadn’t, but I did. So I knew I was in for one of the saddest Disney movies of all time; that I was about to witness one of the most heart wrenching scenes in movie history. But my daughter loves Thumper and my wife needed us out of her way, so there I sat. And in the midst of my efforts to distance myself from the reality of the situation, I began to watch my daughter eat her sandwich, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

To better understand the situation, there’s probably something you should know about me: I just don’t really like to get messy.

I used to, for sure. As a kid, a mud puddle was an invitation. I was the baseball player who would slide for no reason. Playing in the rain is a favorite pastime of mine. But maybe I got it out of my system too early; because at this point in my life I do everything I can to not get dirty. When it rains I’m walking on the tips of my toes, jumping over instead of sliding into puddles. It takes me twice as long as it should to cook chicken, because I do everything within my power to not actually touch the uncooked meat while I trim it and season it. I enjoy our vacations to the beach, but the constant battle with sand, which has an incredible ability to find its way into places you never thought possible, can sometimes send me over the edge. When I discovered a “chimney starter” for my charcoal grill, that keeps me from having to actually touch the charcoal at any point in the fire-lighting process, you would have thought I’d just discovered fire itself.

Don’t get me wrong, if I need to get dirty, or if I know my day is going to be all around messy (yard work, camping, fishing, etc.) that’s fine. But if I’m otherwise clean and plan to remain that way, I just don’t like getting messy. It’s why I eat boneless buffalo wings, and its why I eat “around” my grilled cheese sandwiches. Anyone over the age of 4 knows what I mean by this: when approaching the sandwich eating process, the most logical place to take the first bite—whether the sandwich is cut in half or not—is on one of the corners. The second bite is taken off the opposite corner, and you continually work your way “around” the sandwich, with each bite isolating the piece that protrudes the greatest distance from the whole. This, of course, ensures that no part of your sandwich touches the sides of your mouth and serves the sole purpose of keeping your cheeks nice and neat.

My daughter is not over the age of 4.

When my daughter is handed a grilled cheese sandwich, zero thought is given to the potential “messiness” of the situation. She does not consider greasy fingers, dirty cheeks, or melted cheese spillage. She merely picks up her half, aims right for the middle and takes the biggest bite she can muster. Her second bite? Deeper, and again . . .right in the middle. She gets messy.And she loves every second of it.

____________________

I was recently reading the book Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann, and was absolutely gripped by a character in the novel named Corrigan. Corrigan is an Irish monk in a religious order left unidentified, who moves to New York City where he resolves to live in the Bronx, in poverty, and with a handful of prostitutes as his best friends. It is these prostitutes for which he provides shelter, food, comfort, protection, and a gentle heart. When Corrigan is first introduced, he’s a child still living in Ireland, sneaking out of his house in the middle of cold nights to offer his blanket to the homeless, contrary to his mother’s wishes. The narrator states:

“It was a simple equation to him—others needed the blankets more than he, and he was prepared to take the punishment if it came his way. It was my earliest suggestion of what my brother would become, and what I’d later see among the cast-offs of New York . . . all of those who were hanging on him like he was some bright hallelujah in the shitbox of what the world really was.”

Corrigan, throughout the book, makes a point to provide for, protect, befriend . . . love . . . the down and outs, alcoholics, prostitutes, pimps . . . the hopeless. He’s described as liking “those places where light was drained.” And it’s messy.

I’ve got to be honest; initially, I didn’t know how to take Corrigan. I still don’t fully. But as I read on, I came across this quote that has completely engrossed a lot of my thoughts lately (pardon me for quoting at length):

What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday. The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth—the filth, the war, the poverty—was that life could be capable of small beauties. He wasn’t interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey-soaked heaven . . . Rather he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, damaged and bruised, but a little light all the same. He wanted, quite simply, for the world to be a better place, and he was in the habit of hoping for it. Out of that came some sort of triumph that went beyond theological proof, a cause for optimism against all the evidence.”

A fully believable God.

Believable. This is the idea that has been turning in my head over and over . . . a believable God. Notice that what Corrigan asks for is not a proven God, or proof of God’s existence. Not a God that made sense or was logical, that could be explained or rationalized. What McCann’s character longed for was a God that he could believe in, even in the midst of the filth and grime, of the downtrodden and hopeless people around him. A God present in the real . . . messy . . . world in which we live. Because the “hard, cold truth” is that we live in a fallen world, replete with sin, selfishness, iniquity, and suffering. So the question is this:

What does a fully believable God look like?

Seriously, I want your feedback. No matter your faith perspective. Christian or not. What would it take for God to be believable to you? Or, how do you make God more believable to the world around you? What does a fully believable God look like?

Help me finish this post.

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14 Comments on “Finish this Post – A Fully Believable God”

  1. June 7, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    A fully believable God is a God who makes promises and KEEP them! A God who does what he says he will do! A God that loves us no matter what!

  2. Ryne
    June 7, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Was Christ not a fully believable God? Seems that Corrigan’s vision leads him down the same path that the Messiah walked.

  3. Michael Burchett
    June 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    I’m part of the problem, but one thing that frustrates me is that the God that we preach is NOT believable and it is our own faults. I don’t mean the evidence is not there, just that a “believable” God is one where His people serve Him the way they are supposed to. Is the Church serving the poor? Is the Church living like the saved? Well, yeah, but we are also waging a war against the world by holding up signs saying “God hates fags” and the like. To me that makes God not believable. After all, how can a group of people that are set apart and empowered by the Holy Spirit really live so contradictory to His desires? Is that even possible? Gandhi said the same thing, something like, “It is not that I don’t like your Christ. I love your Christ, it is Christians that I don’t like” (probably not exact, but you get the point)

  4. Michael
    June 7, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    The definition of belief is to hold something as true despite a total lack of evidence. So nothing is needed to make for a believable god…any god is believable if someone chooses belief without regard to evidence….me, I would like a god that did not require the blind, irrational aceptance of belief, one that made an appearance more recently than 2000 years ago and that did not require my belief to ignore a multitude of well supported facts about reality.

  5. Brian
    June 7, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    A believable God, the God that I serve, is a God of love. It sounds cliche, but I don’t think most people grasp what that means. When most people think of a God of love, they think of a God who does miraculous things for people, who is always doing something to help His followers. That is partially true, in that God wants to help His people. But love doesn’t always mean intervening in their lives, sometimes love means standing back. Just as a good earthly father will sometimes let his children do something stupid so they will learn and understand why they shouldn’t, often God does the same thing for us. Usually it’s because we don’t listen anyways and so the ONLY way we learn is by doing it and suffering the consequences. The problem is that we often do the stupid thing and then blame God for not stopping us, for not physically restraining us from doing that thing. But if He did that, then it would take away from our free will, and God loves us enough to allow us to have free will. Because God does not want robots who will worship Him when He wants, He wants people who CHOOSE to love and worship Him. So a believable God is one who understands who we are, knows and accepts that we are human and are flawed, but loves us anyways. And He does love us, so much that he gave His son to pay the price for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to.

  6. June 8, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    What does a believable God look like? Jesus Christ.

  7. Anonymous
    June 8, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    We really don’t have the option of choosing a believable god. What we have to do is come to terms with the reality of the God that exists. We may not like how he reveals himself, and we may not like or understand his actions or character, but that is really beside the point. All the evidence points to the existence of God, and his believability to us is really beside the point.

  8. joshacorman
    June 8, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    First of all, if you haven’t read LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN, do. It totally deserved its National Book Award.

    Secondly, I’d like to respond to Michael’s concept of believability. It’s a cop-out to define ‘believable’ as anything that someone, somewhere, believes in. Technically that’s true, but it ignores a big part of the quote’s spirit. The question about believability has to do with criteria (objective criteria would be best, but that’s probably not realistic). For example, if I say that Marlon Brando gave a believable performance in ON THE WATERFRONT, that means something more objective than just ‘Marlon Brando gave a performance that someone, somewhere, thought was believable.’

    In any case, God’s believability is one of the crux’s of Corrigan’s part of the novel, and I think the life he leads – impoverished, protecting prostitutes, uncompromising – is a reflection of his efforts to find meaning through service and ultimately come to terms with his (admittedly taxing) faith.

    And while I think that trying to find “empirical” evidence for God’s existence is of limited value, I think we can ask some questions of our lives that get at the notion of God’s believability. For example, if we accept that scripture lays out some ways for us to cultivate a relationship with God (prayer, meditation, fellowship, engaging His word), and we then ask, ‘Have these things demonstrably improved me (NOT the same as “made me happier/more wealthy/gotten me everything I think I want) and revealed to me something about God’s nature?’ Then, for me at least, the mystery of God’s believability is reduced considerably.

  9. Anonymous
    June 8, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Technically, nobody can define what “fully believable” or “truth” is, because our senses and intellect only provide us with their best possible explanation. We are stuck in relativism. We have to believe not what makes complete sense to us, but what makes the most sense to us. I think that is one thing Richard Dawkins, C.S. Lewis, or any philosopher would agree on.

    It would be foolish to only inherit your faith and blindly accept its truth. Doubt is not only healthy, but necessary. Like antibodies that strengthen your immune system against another attack. Wrestle with your doubt and you will find certainty.

    As we are seeking certainty in relativism, the key to building our beliefs is to seek evidence. As Josh pointed out above, we can find extraordinary evidence for God from our efforts to cultivate our relationship with him. And ultimately, the more we seek him, the more evidence we will find of his existence.

    As Timothy Keller eloquently puts it, “Reason can get you to probability, but only commitment can get you to certainty.”

    • Michael
      June 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      Working to build a relationship with god or reading scripture is not evidence of anything except your ability to do what you think your god wants you to do and the ability to read. Neither has any weight beyond the walls of your own skull. Requiring evidence that can be independently verified is not slipping into relativism…it is the basis of any two people coming to the same conclusion. The reason we will never. One to the same. On Luzon about god is not about the limitations of the human mind, it is about the lack of evidence that can be laid out for any given religious claim. If the evidence through personal relationships and scripture were so clear, we would not have hundreds of denominations of Christianity, let alone other who religions with other gods. We only have one gravity or one cell theory because anyone can examine the evidence and come to the same conclusion. You do not have to believe what can be shown to be true. Our court system recognizes this…holding up scripture or saying an action was god’s will is not evidence and will not get you aquitted.

      The quote about commitment and certainty…jihadist have 100% certainty and commitment. That does not make them right. The high probability (as close to 100% as reason can bring us) of their actions being wrong, well I am ok with that….

      • Anonymous
        June 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

        I understand what you’re saying and I don’t think we are proposing such different ideas.

        Obviously, our efforts alone don’t constitute evidence for a higher being. It is the fruitfulness of such actions that supports scripture’s claim of the Holy Spirit and therefore serves as evidence for scripture’s validity.

        “If the evidence through personal relationships and scripture were so clear, we would not have hundreds of denominations of Christianity, let alone other who religions with other gods.” This exemplifies the idea of subjective relativism. Since nobody knows a certain truth, different people take different paths and follow different interpretations of evidence. Variation is inevitable.

        Things like gravity lack varied interpretation not necessarily because of its “independent verification.” I could levitate a ping pong ball with a non-visible fan and a pre-Newton individual wouldn’t know what to make of it. Even our interpretation of gravity, though seemingly simplistic and obvious, is relative. Now of course we demand more substantial (and thus more complicated) evidence for something we devote our lives to, but people coming to common or different conclusions is not empirical truth or verification itself.

        “You do not have to believe what can be shown to be true.” I disagree, as once again, belief or truth is entirely subjective to an individual’s interpretation of evidence. Who is to say that an action was not God’s will? It’s only true to the people who interpret the evidence that way.

        The comment about Jihadists is a valid point. Their commitment does not make them “right,” no commitment makes anyone necessarily “right” except in their own eyes. Inconveniently, this pertains to any belief or proposition, because what is the only means we have of saying another idea is wrong? Our own ideas and interpretations, which doesn’t have “any weight beyond the walls of our own skull.”

      • Anonymous
        June 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

        This illustration may convey the point better…

        “‘I hate to tell you this, but quit wasting your time, because I happen to know there’s no God.’ The priest asks how. ‘I am an explorer in the north pole. I was caught in a terrible storm once. Freezing. I was blinded, freezing to death and I prayed, ‘if there is a God, save me now.’ God didn’t come.’ The priest asks ‘What? How’s that? You’re alive. He must have saved you.’ ‘No. God never showed up. An Eskimo came along. Took me back to his camp and saved me.'”

        Same evidence, different interpretations, each seems right to its respective author.

  10. Chuck
    June 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    That evidence that worked for Corrigan makes lots of sense to me. I have personally experienced some crazy against all odds happenings. If I had filmed them and shown them to a skeptic they would surely have accused me of somehow faking it and being a lier. Those experiences opened me up accepting that the biblical miracles could be true. I think that my own experiences had to do with the power of the subconscious mind and not what we’d usually call a miracle. I believe that the mind can and does create much of reality. How much control one can have over this I don’t know.

    That said what makes me believe in God goes along with Corrigan’s search. I see a world where a day doesn’t pass without nasty stuff happening and yet am amazed we are still here, that the human species has not destroyed itself. There is so much bad and so much misery, disease and weapons of mass destruction, hate and greed and self loathing and yet we make it, millions may be wiped out in a holocaust but the after math is a people being returned to their homeland. We survive, some even thrive in this world that so often seems to be against us.

    I am a Christian but that is not enough for me and so it is the light in all this darkness that makes God believable to me. Corrigan’s experiences go way beyond mine but I’m thankful for the sharing of them as they speak so much better than I can and help me to refine my thinking.

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