10/24/13 Don, Matt early 20's
Don and Matt are “evangelical dropouts”. Now in their 20’s and out of college, they have abandoned the evangelical church culture and faith they grew up in and are searching for something different to turn to. They were at our local coffee shop, discussing this very thing when Jake and I reached out to them by introducing ourselves as members of a local church and asking if they would be willing to give their opinions on one of Jesus’ parables, the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. They both immediately recognized the farmer (Jesus), the enemy (Satan), the wheat (Christians), the weeds (unbelievers), and the harvest (final judgment). I went on to ask “Where do you fit in to this parable personally? What do you believe?” Matt said he has turned away from Christianity mainly because as an artist he feels church is too constraining on his creativity. He feels he would lose his sense of identity if he were a Christian. We talked about this some, then turned to Don, whose views I found to be more troubling. He said “I want to believe, I really do, but I just can’t. It’s not there. I’ve been active in church and leading worship in a Christian ministry during college, but to be honest I’ve never had any sort of spiritual experience. I just don’t feel it like other people do. I wonder if I’m one of the weeds in the parable. Some people are vessels made for destruction, others for a noble purpose (referring to Romans 9). Maybe I’m just not one of God’s elect.” (referring to the many passages that indicate God’s sovereign election in salvation) Jake and I had reason to believe Don was sincere and not just using this as a smokescreen for sin, blaming God for his lack of faith rather than taking responsibility for it himself. But why is it that some people have rich spiritual experiences, while others do not? “I know from Hebrews 11 that faith is what pleases God, and faith means believing in something that you can’t really see” I told him. “If we always required some sort of spiritual experience in order to believe and obey, then I’m not so sure that would be true faith.” I know Jesus chastised the Pharisees for demanding a miracle. I am also aware, for example, that the generations following the parting of the Red Sea had to experience that miracle second-hand, by hearing or reading about it rather than seeing it for themselves. I asked Don “What does God owe us? Do we have the right to demand anything from Him?” He didn’t hesitate - “Of course not, God doesn’t owe us anything” “Oh but He does” I said. “As sinners who have willingly broken his laws, He owes us the just punishment we deserve.” The miracle is that He withholds this punishment, that He shows us mercy that we don’t deserve. I wonder if Don’s inability to believe is simply the result of unrealistic expectations based on a man-centered theology, a theology that stresses what pleases us rather than what pleases God. And if faith is what pleases God, then people like Don, who don’t feel they experience spirituality first hand, have the opportunity to please God most of all.