The Almighty Big Box Store

Wal-MartFor those of you who know me, you know my life has been in flux as of late.  A job change, along with a move from Washington state to Montana, selling a house, trying to find a new place to live, and splitting up from the rest of my family for a few weeks seem to have put a lot of pressure on my sense of security.  For the past week I’ve felt somewhat jobless and homeless, though never in need of income or shelter.  It’s funny where, even as Christians, we derive our sense of security though.  I’ve been in a foreign town in a foreign state for all of 36 hours now.  I find it a little scary and lonely without my wife and kids by my side.  I know, intellectually speaking, that I ought to derive my sense of security from the creator of the universe who can both give and take away.  However, in practice, it seems that I fail miserably at this.

First, it is probably no surprise that my wife is my crutch.  Not crush mind you (although she is that too), but the one I lean on for all manner of support.  From friendship, to financial planning, to fashion advice, if you take her away from me I become somewhat paralyzed.  I can overcome these things, but I feel lost without her.  Now, in my defense I could make a biblical case that this sort of leaning on each other in a marriage is a good thing.  Hopefully there are some things where I am a crutch for her as well.  We rely on each other, but answer to God first.

However, I discovered today, that it turns out that big box stores offer some odd measure of security for me as well.  I walked into a Walmart this morning and immediately noticed I felt somewhat relieved.  Things were suddenly familiar again.  That sense of nothing making any sense seemed to fade a little bit.  It felt somewhat like home.  The reason, I suppose, is that no matter where I go, places like Walmart and Costco look pretty much the same.  I literally thought to myself something like, “This Walmart is oddly comforting.”  They say home is where the heart is, and apparently the heart is at Walmart ($19.99 in the Shoes and Accessories department I think).

After deriving some sense of comfort in troubled times from the almighty Walmart, I came to the sudden realization that I could easily be compared to those foolish people in Exodus 32.  My wife (Moses) was back in Washington (up on the mountain) and in my panic and insecurity I appealed to Sam Walton (Aaron) to build me a Walmart (golden calf) to which I might appeal in my time of uncertainty.  Luckily I realized it before I got to the part where I was burning sacrifices before Walmart.

Once I realized it, I was able to somewhat refocus my sense of security back on God where it belonged.  Fortunately, through Christ I have a path to forgiveness for such corruptness, and can even chuckle about it.  Some people say “God is a crutch” as a means of defaming theists as being weak minded.  However, with the exception of the malice with which the comment is generally intended, I agree with those people.  God is a crutch.   We all have our crutches; those things that provide peace and security in our lives.  For some it is things like successful careers, big houses, fine automobiles, stacks of money, the dream of power, lust, or popularity.  For the follower of Jesus of Nazareth the pinnacle of security, upon which all other securities rest, should be the triune God, but is it?

When life gets complicated and uncertain, what is your crutch?

Fideism Makes Me Barf

It’s been a while.  I guess the weather has just been too nice or something.  There’s nothing like learning a new word to give me something to write.  My wife thinks these words make me sound arrogant, but I’ve read that most congresspersons have only a 10th grade vocabulary, so I’ll take the risk.  Apparently our lack of vocabulary isn’t getting us anywhere!

The word “fideism” is only interesting to me because this past week I had a couple of conversations about the role of evidence as it pertains to Christianity.  One was with a group of adults who had a lot to say over 1.5 hours about evidence and how it builds trust/faith.  It was a fun conversation.  The other was with a group of mostly Jr High kids, who seemed to meet the question with mostly blank stares.  They’re the ones that concern me the most, since this is about the age of my own kids now.  I’m concerned we’re letting our kids down, teaching them to be fideists, because that’s what we are.

The word fideism comes from the Greek word fides, which simply means “faith”.  So fideism is simply faithism.  In short, it is the idea that faith and reason are contrary to one another, and that faith is the better mechanism for arriving at real truths.  I find this absurd.  It seems clear to me that Christian faith and reason are complimentary.  In fact, Christianity in general has a long tradition of appealing to both physical and spiritual evidence.  Personally, I cringe when I hear Christians say that we just need “simple” faith.  I don’t think classical Christianity has ever been a simple faith other than the fact that aligns itself nicely with the reality we observe around us.  Doctrines of other religions (including anti-theism in my opinion) require you shut off your mind and ignore evidence in order to accept them.  Somewhere along the way after the Enlightenment, Christians got the idea that reason was at war with faith, so it was best to “just have faith”.  This certainly wasn’t true for the Jesus, the Apostles, or early church leaders.  They spent vast amounts of time reasoning with people and defending the rationality of their faith.  We should be no different.

I love evidence, and I love that Christianity, in my opinion, is reasonable and evidential.  History, archaeology, theology, science, philosophy…it can all be leveraged to support the claims of the Biblical narrative God->Man->Fall->Jesus->Resurrection = Salvation.  This gives me proper justification for my belief, rather than just having blind faith, or faith based primarily on certain feelings like LDS missionaries have encouraged me to put over external evidence rather than in combination with external evidence.  On the contrary, I think belief without evidence is foolishness!  If a person says they know something, but can’t say why they know it, I can’t see why I would believe them.  I’d guess pretty much every worldview out there can present a membership who “feel” that they’re correct.  I can no more accept that fideism is a proper epistemological theory than is the scientism professed by today’s new atheists.  Both views are deficient.  Faith needs evidence, and evidence, or rather the conclusions drawn from evidence, need faith.  Any scientist that tells me this isn’t so, must prove to me scientifically that science works!

We all have faith in something, it’s merely a matter of whose faith is more rational.  If you can’t explain to somebody why you’ve placed your faith in something, whether it is Jesus, Buddha, Allah, science, etc, then you can’t actually claim to know anything.  We must get to know God, and teach our kids to know God .  We need to renew our minds(Romans 12:2), not shut them off.  We need to be prepared to give a reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15)!  Blind belief is just fideism.  This is why kids are walking away from the Church in droves when friends and college professors present their arguments for why all religions are the same…simple fairytales to explain former gaps in science.  We’ve got to train ourselves and our kids why it is we have good reason to believe Christianity is true.  Fideism isn’t acceptable.  If you think it is, don’t be surprised if you, your kids, or your grandkids end up buying ocean front property in Arizona (or some magic golden tablets in upstate New York).  Fideism makes me barf.