Wisdom and Compassion

Q:What makes the best ‘case for God’ to a skeptic or non-believer, an open-minded seeker, and to a person of … Continued

Q:What makes the best ‘case for God’ to a skeptic or non-believer, an open-minded seeker, and to a person of faith and Why?

1) The message of scripture?
2) The scientific evidence for an Intelligent Designer?
3) The ‘words’ that God has ‘spoken’ – Torah, Jesus, the Qur’an?
4) A compassionate lifestyle?
5) Personal, subjective experience?

— Karen Armstrong

I’m in Australia at the moment, where weekly church attendance is around 6 or 7 percent (compared to near 40 percent in many parts of the U.S.). Interestingly, over 60 percent of Aussies will affirm their respect or reverence for Jesus. One still hears the response, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual,” when one asks about matters of faith. I’ve heard it several times just in the last few days. So my suspicion is that for many people in the West, the issue is less with God than it is with church and religion.

Based on my experience with the open-minded spiritual seekers I meet in my travels, I’d say all of Karen’s elements play a part, but here’s how I’d rank them and why:

1. A compassionate lifestyle — Many good-hearted people are seeking God but don’t want to add to the ranks of the religious and bigoted, the religious and violent, the religious and elitist, and so on. So affiliating with faith in God means they need to find people who embody a compassionate lifestyle.

2. Personal, subjective experience — People begin to feel there’s “something more,” and that often leads to a sense of “someone more.”

3. The spoken words from God – I think Karen is spot on when she recognizes that for Christians, God’s ultimate Word is not a book, but a person.

4. Scripture – Although many people I talk with have deep questions about Scripture, people often begin to get a sense for who that “someone more” might be as they engage with the text.

5. Scientific evidence – I’ve often found this is helpful for people who have already taken a step of faith, more as confirmation than as persuasion, but I know that for many, until they can remove intellectual or evidential obstacles to faith, they don’t want to make a commitment to believe.

But again, I would say that the most contradictory evidence for faith in God brings us back to #1: believers marked more by arrogance than compassion or make-believe than wisdom.

Brian D. McLaren
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  • ThorsChild

    Mr. McLaren, “I know that for many, until they can remove intellectual or evidential obstacles to faith, they don’t want to make a commitment to believe.”Until you stop seeing and describing non-believers as defective (stricken with mental obstacles and plagued by a lack of ability to commit), your arrogance will continue to be a motivation for them to see your faith as more make believe than wisdom.

  • outragex

    Of all the Christian responses to this question I prefer Rev. McLaren’s, especially for the US culture. Goofy, narrow-minded, fundamentalist, and/or uncompassionate Christians have “tarnished the brand” in this country. In most cases, humble, compassionate servants just don’t draw the crowds like the controversial fire-brands. It’s hard to find anything not to admire about the life of Jesus, but easy to find plenty not to like about the evangelical old-guard that has dominated perceptions of Christianity over the past 30 years. I am thankful that people like McLaren are helping us reclaim the historical “good news.”

  • ztstar

    Brian,I have a question? Who is responsible for adding to the Church of JESUS CHRIST Our LORD? We who are followers of Christ were commissioned to go out into the whole world and preach the gospel, as a general call that the ‘elect’, those chosen of GOD may hear.True believer’s are being conformed to the image of Our LORD day by day, from glory to glory, by the HOLY SPIRT. We know that arrogance isn’t the way of Our LORD, and we are chastised by HIM if we ever go in that direction because JESUS is our example. HE, coming down from heaven, as I am sure you are aware, became poor so that we might become rich, i.e. salvation through HIM.Man does not play any part in his salvation, if he did, then it would not be all of GOD, but all of man, and then GOD wouldn’t be GOD now would he? We don’t bring anything to the table. GOD even gives us the ‘faith’ to come to HIM. A careful reading of the scriptures on the doctrine of election would give insight to anyone interested in actually knowing the truth.Was it not Our LORD, who said, according to the gospel of Matthew, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, (i.e. JESUS Our LORD) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it? Man is not responsible for adding to the Church of JESUS Christ (not to be confused with the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints – mormons), Our LORD and Savior JESUS Christ is. Granted, “Church” history is tainted with episodes that mar the representative picture, but more importantly, painted with the blood of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Christians, imprisoned, tortured, and martyred for the faith, going on right now in the world.If truth be told, and it isn’t, the true Church, HIS true Church, the ones that know who we are, and who we serve, do represent what it means to be a true Christian as evidenced by our personal walk with HIM. We are the sheep that hear HIS voice, we know HIM, and are known by HIM, i.e., HE knows them that are HIS.When the bible, which is the inerrant word of GOD by the way, is set aside and not read, or studied using good exegesis and biblical hermeneutics, or obeyed by those that call themselves ‘christians’, then true Christianity becomes fodder for the masses. Contrary to popular opinion, truth is not relative, there is only one truth, and it is GOD’s