The Scale of Faith: Evidence + Experience

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11-18-2020

About a year ago when I worked at Staples, I had a conversation on faith that was fantastic with one of the coworkers on my sales team. It was one of those moments you pray for and ask God for the awareness to know when one of those moments is happening. As Christians, we call this discernment. The ability to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and what he is doing in the present.

Oddly enough, this conversation was initiated by her when she rolled by my desk and asked a few questions about my faith. This was pretty common because she did this with everyone as an extrovert and loved chatting with everybody on the team, but the subject of our conversation was brand new. It was something we never talked about before and I was very excited to have this conversation because I’m always waiting for these moments to happen.

Unlike most people, I have a different motivation for why I go to work. It’s not for money or the type of work I’m doing necessarily, but rather comes down to a very simple question: what spiritually needs to be done here? That’s my motivation that guides everything I do at work and in life overall. Every day and every moment guided by that simple question. On this day during this moment, I knew what spiritually needed to be done. I needed to answer her question, but not the one she was asking.

When someone is searching their own soul, they tend to discover holes within their worldview. For my coworker, this hole within her worldview was related to her experience with Christianity as a person who grew up Catholic. Her being a Hispanic American that grew up within the family’s strong Catholic tradition lends credence to the idea that maybe her faith wasn’t genuine. Maybe this routine of rituals never actually meant a real relationship with God himself. Maybe the faith she thought she had with its rules and regulations never materialized in her adulthood into something real.

The Conversation

The conversation started with her asking, “You’re religious, right?” and I said yes. She then asked if I was Christian or Catholic. I said I was both, which compelled her to ask how I could be both. I replied that my theology is predominantly Catholic, but my convictions are predominantly Protestant. For instance, my theology is inspired by the Jesuit school of thought called Molinism, but I align a lot with the Anabaptist movement as well. I’m a clear mix of these two different sides of Christianity after studying both for myself.

This answer seemed to resolve her surface-level questions, but now it was my turn. I asked “You’re Catholic, right?” and she said yes. She explained that she grew up Catholic, but doesn’t practice the faith like her family does. I followed up with my next question, “Why not?” and that’s when the real questions came to the surface.

Here she shared how the showy stuff never clicked with her, but that she knows that there must be something like God because she has experienced him growing up. She heard that I was Christian and just wanted to know if what she experienced was real. This is a question we should all ask ourselves. Is what I’m experiencing God or is this something else?

The Scale of Faith

I don’t remember everything that I shared with her, but I do remember the crux of my point. Essentially, faith in God is a scale that’s balancing between evidence and experience. In general, the Christian life is a strange combination of undeniable evidences and unexplainable experiences.

Like my former coworker, we too experience things that we cannot explain and yet know intuitively that this must be God. Likewise, we also observe and measure things in life that logically lead us to God. We all in one way or another experience God and have evidence that God exists in our reality. The key is finding the balance between these two components for a healthy Christian faith.

An Evident God

When we focus too much on evidence, we drown in the rabbithole of not knowing enough. Put simply, you will never know enough about God or be able to define him anymore than he has defined himself for us. As King Solomon put it, “there is nothing new under the sun (2).” There is no secret knowledge that remains undiscovered about God that we can find.

He has intentionally given us all we need to know about him and yet leaves it hidden for us to discover for ourselves. Many avenues in fact from history to mathematics or philosophy and science, but none of them leads to the full knowledge of God. If we knew everything there is to know about God, then he wouldn’t be God. Like any person you come across in life, you will never know everything about them and the same can be said of God.

Then again, faith requires evidence. It’s demanded by our minds trying to make sense of the unknown in the best way that we can, so this doesn’t mean we throw out logic and reason. Instead, this just means we search until we find the edge of knowing God and admire the mystery that stands before us. When we know God and are known by him, then we will know who we are and what we were made to do.

The God Experience

With experience, we find ourselves in the murky waters of the abstract and what has been felt in the fleeting memories of our unique moments with God. It’s not meant to be explained because these moments are to be lived in and felt with all our being. It’s the knowledge of being there that counts and not the incalculable details of the moment.

Why do some dream of Jesus and immediately become Christian, despite every reason to remain a part of their current faith? We don’t know and that’s because it’s not our experience to explain. It’s not our story to tell, but their honor to tell it as a critical piece to the unfinished puzzle that is their life in Christ. These experiences with God are once-in-a-lifetime and at the same respect unforgettable.

Conclusion

Her experience could very well have been God. She didn’t need to doubt it per se because only she would know if it was genuinely a God moment. With discernment, I believe what she shared was a God moment and affirmed it as such to her by the end of our talk.

What I left her with was a challenge: “You seem to know what it’s like to experience God, but is God evident in your life? Before you write off God or your faith from your childhood, look at it again and see if there’s anything to your faith. Could this really be true? You experienced it, so now it’s time to find out if there’s evidence.” Our boss walked by and that’s when we got back to work, but I still hope to this day that she takes the time to reevaluate her faith.

Was the experience truly God or something she made up? Could God be evident in her life? If Jesus is a real person, then is what he said true? Those are questions that only she can answer for herself.

I can’t change minds, but I can compliment critical thinking with the best case for the Christian faith. That case starts when we examine the scale of faith to see if evidence and experience meet at the cross of Christ. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB)

Mentors That Made Me A Man: Kevin King

Updated: 5/27/2019

In life, mentors get overlooked for all of the hard work that they do in our lives. So today I want to take the time to write about a constant mentor in my life that has now become a good friend of mine. This mentor is Kevin King and he loves coffee. But more than coffee, he loves Jesus.

When trying to remember when exactly Kevin and I met is hard to say, but I do know that it was about 2007 – 2008. Growing up, some of us called him “California Kevman” since he’s native to California and is considered the spiritual uncle to most of the kids that grew up at Calvary Chapel Aurora. If the youth group was planning an event, then chances were likely that the King family was going to be there.

A lot of those events were concerts. We went to a lot of them and saw dozens of musicians like The Whosoevers, Kutless, Fireflight, TFK, KJ-52, The Letter Black, Disciple, Lecrae, and a ton more through the years. Although we always went and saw Skillet if they were in town because that was the favorite growing up. In fact, for one Skillet concert we waited hours outside in below freezing temperatures just to see them live.

As I progressed in age Kevin would become not just my Dad’s friend, but my friend as well. He also loves movies, comic books, and always memes. Whenever the latest comic book movie would arrive in theaters, we would gather together and discuss every detail for hours on end. Kevin is also known around town as the most faithful Transformers fan you may ever meet in your life and also for his theological prowess that he learned mostly from being a self-taught student in apologetics. That in itself is an impressive feat for a guy who knows so much, yet is so humble when you encounter him.

It was his influential mentoring that led to my love for apologetics as he was the one who introduced me to William Lane Craig and later on to the Christian school of thought called Molinism, which I now have adopted fully into my systematic theology. Especially in my high school years, Kevin has been there when I have wrestled and been challenged with the toughest questions I have ever encountered in my faith with Christ. And he has done the same for all those kids that he has always been the spiritual uncle to as they matured into adulthood.

Through the years, some of our best memories were when we would gather around the dinner table at one of our friends or one of those students houses, and just talk about what was on our hearts. It could be funny, it could be uncomfortable, or even depressing, but nothing was really ever left unsaid. There was always an unmatched honesty in those late night conversations that I will always treasure. It was those late nights that gave me some of the most spiritual insight into the world around me and strengthened the relationships of those I loved like family.

As a widower for several years now, Kevin has had the opportunity to be there for those who are hurting most as he can relate in a very real way to their suffering. He has suffered through the years as a single father whose children, Alex and Cassie, I grew up with in my upbringing. In another respect, he also knows the reality of isolation as he is both an apologetics man and a single father. If anyone knows anything about apologetics, it’s that the apologist is in absolute surrender to the truth in their pursuit of God. In contrast, they are surrounded by lukewarm Christians who favor comfort over Christ. Kevin always seemed to choose Christ over comfort every time.

Kevin showed me how to bring Christianity back to the intellectual powerhouse that it once was in the days of Origen or Thomas Aquinas. Due to our passion for inconvenient truths, we stand isolated from the masses that just want to hear what feels good, instead of hearing what is the only good thing: God Himself.

Above all, Kevin has a vision to reach out to foreign countries and teach apologetics to pastors who are not educated enough to suit the needs of their local congregations. His zeal for the missions field is inspiring and uplifting to all who know him as a faithful brother in the Lord. He is huge on apologetic-evangelism, active service within the local church, and investing in the youth as we are the future of the church here on Earth.

I’m thankful for the impact he has had in my life both in helping course-correct me in personal devotion to God and instructing this theologian in the making on how to be a coherent, yet caring Christian apologist. As he has repeatedly said to me over the years, “I believe God has put me in a position to train up the next William Lane Craig and I believe that Adam (a mutual friend of ours) and you could be that guy.” So whether Adam, myself, or the both of us become the future of apologetics down the road, then I hope that Kevin realizes the great influence he has had on those he has mentored in his life. Those he has pointed right back to God when they came to him for answers to their puzzling questions.

Kevin, like other notable godly men of the past, is a man of prayer and this makes him an absolute sin-slayer as he can rightly divide the truth from the lies that creep in from every side. The lies that may turn one away are the very lies that Kevin cuts down with the truth of the Gospel and the Bible with the methodology of a well-skilled apologist. It’s kind of awesome just watching God use him to draw the thinker to belief and the believer to think. All in all, Thank you Kevin for being a mentor that made me a man. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Why I Am Not A Calvinist

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

 In the first installment of my “Why I Am” series, I will be giving three brief reasons as to why I do not adhere to the Judeo-Christian school of thought known as Calvinism. As I have studied and read about Calvinism, there have been many sources I have used to write this blog-post. Some of these sources were Norman Geisler’s sermon called “Why I Am Not a 5 Point Calvinist” (2), George L. Bryson’s book on Calvinism (3), and Tim Stratton’s 4-part series “The Petals Drop” on his website (4). There were other resources, but these were the main three that inspired me to write this blog-post.

So what is Calvinism exactly? Calvinism is a type of Christian doctrine created in the 16th Century by the French Theologian John Calvin to answer how God’s Sovereignty and Humanity’s Free Will coexist together. There are five main parts to Calvinism. According to gotquestions.org (5), Calvinism can be summarized by the acronym TULIP and is defined as the following:

  1. Total Depravity: “Every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin; therefore, human beings are unable to come to God on their own accord.”
  2. Unconditional Election: “God elects individuals to salvation based entirely on His will, not on anything inherently worthy in the individual.”
  3. Limited Atonement: “Jesus only died for the elect.”
  4. Irresistible Grace: “When God calls a person to salvation, that person will inevitably come to salvation.”
  5. Perseverance of the Saints: “A person who is elected by God will persevere in faith and will not permanently deny Christ or turn away from Him.”

In other words, a Calvinist is a Christian that sees everything with an over-emphasis on God’s Sovereignty, which entails either a deterministic or compatibilistic philosopical view of the world. Here is a quick illustration that I made to put into perspective where Calvinism stands in the grand spectrum of the issue of God’s Sovereignty vs. Humanity’s Free Will within Christianity:

God's Sovereignty & Humanity's Free Will- 6 Stances

One last thing is that when I refer to a Calvinist or Calvinism, I am referring to a 5-Point Calvinist. Not those that claim to be any combination that is short of a 5-Point Calvinist like a 4-Point Calvinist or a 2-Point Calvinist. But the whole point of the 5 points of Calvinism is that they are supposed to work together like the pillars to a building. By removing one point you fracture the legitimacy of the other four points and the foundation of Calvinism in general because they were designed by John Calvin to work together, not to work independently of each other. With that said, let’s look at my objections and see why I am not a Calvinist.

1) Calvinism is Great Exegesis Without Hermeneutics

In general, with the Calvinistic perspective on Scripture, there are massive misinterpretations of certain passages within the Bible. Most notably, Scriptures such as Romans chapters 9-11, John chapter 6, Ephesians 1:1-4, and the list goes on. In contrast, there are Scriptures like 1 John 2:2, Romans 1:16-17, or 1 Timothy 2:3-6 that explicitly go against Calvinism. Put simply, context is key and exegesis without context is like a madman with a sword.

2) Calvinism Makes Sharing the Gospel Logically Incoherent

If you think about the Gospel from the Calvinist perspective, Jesus only came to save the elect, only the elect will go to Heaven, and only the elect will get saved. So then sharing the Gospel becomes useless and pointless because those who are predestined to go to Heaven will go to Heaven and those who are predestined to go to Hell will go to Hell, while at the same time you have no say in the matter.  As Bryson put it in his book, The Five Points of Calvinism, “You will be saved or damned for all eternity because you were saved or damned from all eternity.” (Bryson, 121). Although some of the most prominent preachers have been Calvinists like Charles Spurgeon, their actions are not logically consistent with determinism. It is the equivalent of preaching to tombstones because no matter what some people are just doomed to damnation because it somehow glorifies God.

3) Calvinism Makes God the Author of Evil

If God is completely sovereign, then from the Calvinistic perspective God is the author of evil because He brought it into existence. This goes against everything that characterizes God as worthy of worship and completely good. How can a perfect being bring about imperfection? Only through the Calvinistic perspective is this possible because God is the cause of everything that exists including evil, instead of Eve and Lucifer bringing sin into God’s creation by going against God in their own free will. Philosopher William Lane Craig on the subject of Calvinism once said “according to this view (causal determinism and compatibilism), the way in which God sovereignly controls everything that happens is by causing it to happen, and freedom is re-interpreted to be consistent with being causally determined by factors outside oneself (6).”

So since God is ultimately the first cause of everything, God is therefore the author of evil and good. Something that is completely contradictory to the Bible and Judeo-Christianity as a whole. There are even Calvinist’s that affirm that God is the author of evil. People like R.C. Sproul Jr. affirm this idea of God being the author of evil several times throughout his book (7) that deals with this issue.

Now these are just 3 of many objections I have to Calvinism and are just reasons as to why I do not affirm to be Calvinist. Other objections I have include sin being excusable or God lying to people in the Bible, but that would take awhile to explain every objection I have to Calvinism, so for the sake of time I only chose 3 objections. Hopefully, this helps you with understanding this issue and maybe one day you can decide where you stand on the issue of how God’s Sovereignty and Humanity’s Free Will interact together. My advice for those of you do not understand this issue quite yet is to just believe what the Bible affirms: 1) that God is Sovereign and 2) that humans have Free Will. This is the safest stance concerning this issue because it is strictly Biblical avoids the gridlock nature of philosophical schools of thought like Calvinism among others. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://restorethegospel.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/a-conversation-about-calvinism-and-arminianism/
  2. https://youtu.be/fPpkSiO1Ci
  3. The Five Points of Calvinism, George L. Bryson
  4. http://freethinkingministries.com/the-petals-drop-why-calvinism-is-impossible/
  5. https://www.gotquestions.org/Calvinism-vs-Arminianism.html
  6. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism
  7. http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/09/taking-calvinism-too-far-rc-sproul-jr%E2%80%99s-evil-creating-deity/http://amzn.to/2xM4F1Q
  8. Disclaimer