Christian ThinkTank?

An Oxymoron?!!

Strangely enough, I have found that when people learn that I am a Christian, I automatically get "docked" about 30 points of IQ! I can just see their minds squirming to say this (oz.mp3)

Now, to be honest, I am not sure I fault them for this...I think it MIGHT be a general cultural stereotype or something. I remember thinking the same basic thing, even as I became a Christian back in college...

(visualize, if you will...a fuzzy flashback scene inserted here:

It was a chilly night, in more ways than one...that Wed. before Thanksgiving break. I was at the end of the most torturous date of my life. It was a double date, me the driver, and my skeptical buddy in the back. Everything had been abysmal. We picked our dates up later than usual for the fraternity party, for they were attending a Christian meeting of some type BEFORE the party (some famous traveling Christian 'intellectual' or sub-species thereof was speaking on the factuality of the resurrection or something). They were beaming with that 'glow' that I had already (even as a College Junior) learned to associate with fanaticism...I quickly lowered my expectations for how 'wild' a time I would have that night.

But I was a sensitive, non-combative type of fella, and anticipating that my sweet date (she really was a sweet-spirited and warm-hearted individual) would be 'high on Jesus' (and perhaps vocal about it), I asked my aggressively skeptical close-friend to kindly AVOID the subject of the interests of diplomacy. He agreed and promised not to pick a fight with them about the faith.

How fickle the fortunes of the fumbling! Upon picking the ladies up at the meeting, I politely asked my date in the front the distancing and closed-ended question 'was your meeting good' hoping to get a mild, low-volume 'fine' and maybe a few more non-incendiary syllables from her. But no...she was 'on fire'...she talked about the speaker and the empty tomb and the converted skeptic and on...and on. And eventually (sorta like 120 seconds in) my diplomatic friend in the back piped up "Did I hear someone mention the name Jesus Christ?"...and the subtle, but sardonic fireworks began between the other three people in the car...

Me? I began shrinking into that black hole of despair and resigned quietness I had learned as a defense technique, carefully designed and built to keep a world clamoring for my responsibility, conviction, and arm's length.

Well, the night got friend eventually got the conversation around to the prophecies of the antichrist--a prophetic figure known to be brilliant, persuasive, aware--and I could imagine my self-confident friend in the back beginning to wonder if HE might be the antichrist (oh, the optimism of college youthfulness)!

I guess the real issue that cut so deeply was the way she saw the sky so differently than I that night...a night charged with meaning and disclosive of patterns of love-communicating to us...for me, only stars that seemed as cold, as distant, and as pointless as I.

With this wasteland experience in my hand, we went to take our dates back to the dorm. At the door, the crowning blow was delivered...she handed me a religious pamphlet..."Jesus and the Intellectual"...I could not believe it...I stumbled back to the car, dropped my friend off, and wallowed around in the darkness of the soul for hours and hours.

Somehow...3 days later...I stumbled out of this cognitive fog and fell into the arms of Jesus Christ...

I had so little cognitive content about what it was I was 'supposed to believe'...I had no teachers and was embarrassed to ask other 'visible' Christians--I just couldn't have handled the sudden attention I would have gotten as a recent 'convert'...but I did ask Jesus Christ to come into my life and do whatever needed doing...MY efforts weren't 'working'. This was one of the best things I ever did--my focus was on a relationship with a Person, not simply an intellectual acquiescence to a set of propositions.

In my case, nothing dramatic happened. No waves of euphoria, no instant victories over self-developed personal limitations, no burst of success. (I have since learned that many people DO experience some newness in this process.) Just questions. I started to think questions that I had never thought about.

(I remember quite vividly a week later, when I told my friend that I had just become a Christian. He laughed out loud and said that I was smarter than that, and that the bible was full of errors and contradictions and couldn't possibly be trusted. I told him to prove it--and he took me straight to the "old standard" 'how many times did the rooster crow/how many times did Peter deny Christ' problem! I was blown away...I stumbled around, had no answer, and was shocked...but I kept trusting this Jesus-person to do something in my life...maybe He had an answer to the problem.)

Six or so months pass...I was still afraid to ask questions of other, more traditional Christians (I was a bit counter-culture in my fashion expression during this time!) I began to assume that faith was somehow opposed to reason, data, logic. I do NOT know where this assumption came from. But I slowly grew to believe that before entering the room called 'Christian', one had to take off one's hat AND head, and leave them outside! In other words, thinking had to go!

Well, I ran into the "Jesus Freaks" that summer and found a lifestyle I was much more comfortable with, and planned to drop out of college before my senior year and just live with them. But my very Active Manager wouldn't have it...Doors closed and I had nothing else really to do except go back and finish my degree in Comp.Sci...

But a new factor was developing. New friends began giving me books about Christian 'apologetics' and 'evidences' and Christian 'philosophy'. And I read them, and analyzed them, and pondered them, and argued with them.

These were what I call now 'Level 3 books'. I liken the point/counterpoint discussion about an issue to  levels or rounds of discussion. So a level one discussion is simply where someone says "A" and the 'opponent' says "~A" with a set of contrary evidence. Then level two--the original A'er responds with criticism of the counter-evidence and perhaps some additional SUPPORTING evidence. Then Level Three--the argument gets more detailed, more assumptions are exposed, more criteria for judgment become explicit, more semantic cores become precise. And this back-and-forth refinement of the argument gets past the polemic and standard textbook Q&A around level 3-4, and you REALLY GET to understanding the issues and data around level 6...(This is on a grid of a max at 10).

So...a level 3 work gives good data, but often won't let you know where the weaknesses of the evidence lie. (They let you discover this in your first debate with a level 4-5 antagonist!!). But it was enough. The data was generally convincing and very little of it seemed contrived or self-serving. It was largely of historical issues (e.g. the NT documents, the empty tomb, fulfilled prophecy) and the few books that talked about the 'deeper issues' of presuppositions, criteria of meaningfulness, paradigms and worldview--I just frankly didn't understand at the time.

But the damage was done...and the proof came in the spring of that senior year. One weekend I had a particularly emotionally "assaultive" time(!), and I was ready to 'throw in the towel' and give away my faith (I still don't see how I made that connection between the two!) In the quietness of my dorm room, as I began to pack my bibles and books away, the still small thought came to me as I picked up those apologetics books: "If you say this isn't true anymore Glenn, how are you ever going to be able to consider yourself an honest man again?" Nailed! Intellectually trapped! For now I would have to reverse-explain all the data I had become convinced of...and at this point, the alternatives (such as conspiracy theories and legend-growth theories) seemed SO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT to support from the data than did the historic Christian position!

It would be easy to attack the 'fortress' of the Christian case on many, many small-medium points, BUT TO CONSTRUCT AN ALTERNATIVE SYSTEM that would be able to withstand the same caliber of intellectual examination on as many fronts, I put well beyond the practical realm of feasibility.

Thirty+ years of questioning and study and increasing honesty with the data (good, bad, and ugly) later, I have a worldview that has been confirmed in so many ways--intellectual, experiential, spiritual. I have so MANY MORE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS NOW than I did then, but I have had SO MANY "Tough Ones" answered already, that I have a "justified belief" that my core worldview (although very corrigible) is nonetheless basically on track.

There is no complacency herein...I still agonize over some issues, and 'fret' about others and analyze scores more...but I have learned that it is the God of Truth himself who drives me into the questions and who 'stokes the fire' in my pursuit of truth.

And so I pour this cauldron of questions, and answers, and findings, and research directions...into this Web.


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