Hi Dojo readers,
As most of you know, one of the primary ways I do ministry is through social media interactions, mostly Facebook. Facebook, for many people, is a modern-day version of the agora (marketplace) in the time of the New Testament. People hang around sharing stories, news, rants, pictures, artwork, products, etc. And like any crowded marketplace, it can be a great experience…or it can get really annoying really fast.
However, taking my cue from the Apostles in the book of Acts, I believe the marketplace is where Christians have an opportunity to live out the Gospel in a genuine way among people of all backgrounds and beliefs. My Facebook feeds can be mentally draining at times, but I have had more people tell me they enjoyed something shared on my feed more than any other form of ministry I’ve ever undertaken–with the exception of, perhaps, Bible for the Rest of Us.
Today a good friend of mine tagged me in a very thoughtful post in which he basically said “I was raised Catholic, but I don’t really have a personal belief in a theistic God. I’m open to searching for religious truth. Where do I begin?”
It was a sincere post and, having known him since he was a kid in high school (I feel old!), I can attest firsthand that he’s a genuinely honest and humble guy. I was honored that he’d tag me in his post and I thought I’d share my response here on the Dojo blog in case anyone reading this is in a similar spot–or knows someone who might be.
“I respect your honesty and I have had such conversations with young adults and college students for pretty much the past 20 years (not exaggerating). I have studied and befriended people from every faith tradition (including atheist/agnostic) that I’ve had a chance to and have constantly exposed my theological beliefs to the most rigorous intellectual critique I know of…and continue to do so. All that to say…
If you’re really wanting to get to the heart of truth, I would invite you to explore the historicity of the life, death, and more than anything else, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. To over a third of humanity, he is the central figure in human history and according to his own claims, he is the point at which the God of the universe stepped in to human history in a tangible, flesh-and-blood way that was utterly unique for all time.
I have a literal library from which you are free to study whenever you get back, man. My faith is not a blind one…I believe there is no virtue in “blind” faith and God never calls his people to check their brains at the door of the church. Some of the greatest scientific, philosophical, artistic, and literary minds in human history have found the God you are open to finding. Isaac Newton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Gregor Mendel, Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, G.K. Chesterton, Alvin Plantinga, Francis Collins, C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig… the list goes on into the hundreds.
I would start by tracing some of their footsteps to see how they got there, if I were you (as I started doing when I was not much younger than you, actually, and have been ever since).
These are four of the most influential books I have ever read on the subject, which I have recommend to many, many people who were looking to explore a robust, adult religious worldview (as opposed to the “folk-theology” found in many churches and the “wiki-skepticism” found online):
1. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis (Hands down one of my favorite non-fiction books of all time. I have read and/or listened to the audio version of it over a dozen times, literally)
2. Basic Christianity – John R.W. Stott (I have recommended this little book more than any other book besides the Bible, honestly)
3. The Jesus I Never Knew – Philip Yancey (Written by one of the best reflective authors of our day, who was raised in a very conservative fundamentalist church and walked away from the faith for a long time as a result)
4. Can Man Live Without God? – Ravi Zacharias (Ravi was an atheist from a Hindu background in India who, after encountering Jesus, became one of the leading philosophical voices in modern Christianity)
5. Simply Christian – N.T. Wright (This is a book by the most prolific modern New Testament historical scholar alive today. It is his attempt at doing what Lewis did with “Mere Christianity” for a 21st century audience by exploring themes of truth, beauty, imagination, art, and the spiritual longing we all feel at our deepest most foundational level)
All of these are available incredibly cheap in print (used on Amazon or Alibris.com and you can find copies for only a penny plus the price of shipping!), or digitally through Kindle or iTunes.
If you are serious about the most fundamental truths in human existence, these are a few of the places I’d start. If for some reason you can’t track down any copies, let me know and Disciple Dojo will gladly get some to you.