Over Thanksgiving break I had the opportunity to have multiple long conversations with one of my best friends, Michael, who happens to be an agnostic graduate student in medical physics at Duke. Michael, incidentally, was quite involved in the undergrad InterVarsity chapter at UNC when we were both students there. We’ve had many interesting conversations about religion and spirituality, specifically Christianity, and last week we had a quality conversation about history/the future, the problem of evil, and our place in the world.
Our current thoughts on the matter are remarkably similar. I struggle to figure out how to understand Jesus, his kingdom, and the Church in the midst of a broken world. Are we supposed to be seeing a positive progression in society because of the church’s influence? To some degree have we? Some would credit some of the positive elements of the Enlightenment as coming originating in Christianity. But why don’t things ever get too much better, even within the Church? And how do we understand Jesus’s absence and the lack of the consummation of the kingdom at this point? And what’s the role of persecution, etc. in all this? Since it’s said that Christians will be hated for the gospel, is it entirely unrealistic to expect anything but crap from the world around us?
And of course, there’s the classic problem of understanding why God doesn’t do more to fix things now. In many ways this was the Jewish problem with Jesus. Why, if Jesus is the Messiah, don’t we see the world behavior like its king is here?
In all this tho, regardless of what I find, I feel I’ll still want to follow Jesus. I mean, what viable alternatives do I have?
Michael’s approach used different terms, but the questions were almost identical. Where are we going? Does my life actually count for anything? Will things be better or worse at the end of the day? And why do I still want to live as if things will matter, even if I’m not so sure they will?
In many ways, that’s the life of a Christian with questions, as well. We may be coming at this from different angles, but each of us, regardless of what we end up thinking about evil or progress or hope or humanity or God’s role in all this, we have a story we’d rather be true. We both want to believe that someday things really will all be put in their place and that we can be a part of living out that future reality today.
It’s interesting to me just how alike many of us are in our questions. These are questions of our time, and of humanity generally, not just something agnostics or Christians or people of any other particular background struggle with.
So where do you find yourself on this journey?