He does have plenty of company. Christians are a popular target of ridicule these days. While our nation has a rich Christian heritage, we are now for all practical purposes a maligned minority. Our culture's influence makers—media, academia, politicians—seem largely agreed that traditional faith and morality are not only outdated, but a threat to society.
Sadly, they are responding more to a distorted caricature of Christianity than the real thing. They highlight examples of apparent believers behaving badly and paint all of us with the same broad brush. The demagoguery obscures the overwhelmingly positive impact that Christianity has had around the globe and across history. That's unfortunate for us, but but even more so for those like my friend who believe the inaccurate portrayal.
The mischaracterization prompts me to respond to you, my friend (hoping you will read this), and others inclined to disparage our faith. Everyone's entitled to an opinion, but I would urge you to have at least an informed opinion on such a weighty matter. So I'm asking you to give consideration to the following:
If you don't understand God...well, he is God. Doesn't it seem a bit illogical to dismiss God because he doesn't always make sense? I mean, what kind of God were you expecting—one no wiser than you? If he is all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipresent, does it not follow that he would be beyond our comprehending?
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
"Oh the depth of the riches, the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:33-34). Yet there are apparently many who would lecture God on how things should be.
It's been aptly said, "Any God small enough for me to wrap my head around would not be big enough to be God." But many seem to prefer a man-sized God, one they can figure out and even control. Here's one point I think we can agree on, my friend: If that's what God is like, he's not worth our devotion.
But thankfully God did not leave it up to us to create him in our image, but the other way around. And I'll gladly take a morsel of his power and wisdom over a full course of what humankind has to offer.
If you don't understand God...you don't know him. Although God's power is evident in creation, he would be a mystery had he not chosen to reveal himself to us. Yes, there are things about him that remain mysterious, but we can know what we need to know about him through his revelation: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever" (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Yet an important point that you and other skeptics miss is that being Christian is not simply claiming to know about God; it's about knowing him. He reveals himself not to satisfy our intellectual curiosity, but to draw us into relationship with him. Growing up in a church-going family, I knew about God long before I knew him. There is a gargantuan difference!
As in any relationship, it's necessary to know something about the other party. But that knowledge alone doesn't define the relationship. It is what is done and experienced together that makes the relationship. God is alive to me, not just because of what he wrote in scripture, but because of what he has done in my life.
He has been my provider, my counselor, my strength, my inspiration, my comforter. God has carried me through the darkest times. He has guided me through tough decisions. He has come through in remarkable fashion when there was nowhere else to turn. While I've not personally witnessed what would technically qualify as a miracle, I have seen God work in ways that defy chance or mathematical probabilities.
The primary differences between Christians and unbelievers are not philosophical or doctrinal, or even moral; they're relational and experiential. God's word comes to life through his interaction with us. So we Christians worship the one we know, while you belittle the one you don't know. And we're the irrational ones?
That's like the flat-earther who clings to his belief despite compelling evidence to the contrary, including the testimony of those who have sailed around the world or viewed the globe from a spaceship. "From what I can see," he confidently proclaims, looking out across the ocean, "the earth is unmistakably flat!" Of course, you're no flat-earther because you trusted others who have seen the evidence first hand.
If you don't understand God...you're listening to the wrong people. If you wanted to learn more on the sport of curling, to pick an illustration, wouldn't it be best to consult someone who actually knew something about it? To the uninitiated it probably looks silly and boring. But the sport is gaining popularity here in the U.S. and elsewhere because more people are playing it. Even NFL tough guy Vernon Davis is a big fan.
By contrast, many people draw their conclusions about God and Christianity from a distance, turning a deaf ear to the real experts and listening to others who know little about the subject. Christians, including Bible scholars and teachers, are routinely dismissed as naive and anti-intellectual. The more trusted sources are those who—in a bit of twisted logic—claim greater "objectivity" because they summarily reject biblical teaching (or cherry-pick it to their own liking).
Unbelievers place great faith in science, which among other things has supposedly disproved the necessity for a Creator. Science is the foremost source of "objective" truth for most people—well, at least if it produces the results they want. When Christian scientists find evidence favoring creation, they are discredited by the masses. Same for those whose research does not support global warming or a genetic predisposition for homosexuality, or any number of popular causes. If any truth were unpopular, do you really believe that mainstream science would ever discover it?
The fact is that science is not the objective arbiter of truth that many would like to believe. It is a human activity, and whenever people are involved, some bias is inevitable. There's even a scientific term for this: "confirmation bias." That's the natural tendency to favor information that supports one's hypothesis or beliefs. Add to that billions of dollars committed to specific research outcomes and the difficulty of getting minority viewpoints published in popular scientific journals, and it's hard to make the case that science is infallible.
Nor is there any basis for the charge that Christian doctrine is anti-science. On the contrary, there is abundant scientific evidence supporting the biblical narrative, drawn from diverse fields such as archeology, biology, physics, geology, astronomy, chemistry, and medicine. Yes, I know that most scientists will disagree. But that begs the question: Is modern science engaged in an uncompromised search for truth? Don't forget that most of the greatest scientific discoveries in history broke with conventional wisdom and were often harshly condemned by the majority. Sounds familiar.
If you were actually interested in investigating the claims of Christianity, you might be surprised at the wealth of scientific, historical, linguistic, philosophical, and apologetical research and exposition that validates what we believe. Indeed, you'll not find as much scholarly support for any other religion or worldview. That's why many accomplished skeptics over the years (C.S. Lewis being a notable example) have set out to disprove Christianity only to become convinced it is true. On the other hand, many prefer fault finding over truth finding.
If you don't understand God...you probably don't want to. By far, the primary reason people reject God is not a lack of evidence or lack of understanding; it's a lack of desire. Most unbelievers have already found their god—themselves.
The quest for self-rule is as old as the human race. The serpent (Satan) appealed to this bent in our nature when he tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, "God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God" (Genesis 3:5). She couldn't resist, nor could her husband. And humankind has mostly followed the same path ever since.
The results have been devastating. The world is full of broken, hurting people, many who redirect their pain towards hurting others. When skeptics ask, "How can a loving God allow all the suffering in the world?" they misplace the blame. There is suffering because people chose their own way instead of God's.
Yet most persist in pursuing self-rule despite the consequences. No, surrendering your life to God doesn't remove you from a corrupt, dangerous world. But it places you under his special care. It gives context and purpose for the trials you face, and the strength to endure. And ultimately it provides a way of escape, an eternal rest in his presence.
I don't expect you to find these benefits persuasive at this point. You'd have to look closer to see them. I suspect you more readily notice when we fail to live up to God's perfect standard. But you miss the fact that we have been perfected in God's sight, not because of our own righteousness, but his. If you think we've surrendered our freedom to enjoy forgiveness, you don't understand real freedom.
I once was much like you. I had no use for God. I wanted to be in control...until I realized I wasn't. And when the burden of living life my way became too much to bear, I yielded to Jesus' invitation: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). My prayer is that you someday come to the same realization as I did.
There's an old axiom that goes: "It's not how much you know that matters, but what you know." There's much about God and his word that remains a mystery to me. But what I do know about him—and of him—far exceeds what I don't in significance. To think that there are some who pass up and even denigrate this treasure I hold—well, that's something that's really hard to understand!