These are taken from the notes I made as I heard Michael Ramsden speak at the Faith & Fantasy conference with RZIM. Parrs Wood, Manchester. last Saturday.
(this was definitely the highlight of the day, and in my opinion unfortunately the rest of the event went downhill a bit after it.)
Christianity is rooted in reality.
Oxford English Dictionary definition of philosophy = “use argument & reason to establish reality & truth”
BUT all those words, one by one, have lost their meaning to our culture, thanks to thinkers like Kant who contended that reality is what you make it. (Cf the Matrix)
The problem with that is, you are drawing a distinction between what reality is and the way reality appears to you. If you say everything is illusion, you may as well say everything is reality.
Establishing the category of truth when people believe there’s no reality becomes very difficult. Roger Scrutin’s response? ‘When someone asks you to believe there is no truth, they are asking you not to believe them.’
Wittgenstein said reason is a mathematical game. All is nonsense. So, philosophy is ‘patent nonsense.’Philosophy has simply become argument, so all you’re left with is fantasy.
In popular imagination therefore, faith has been reduced to “believing it that which you can imagine to be true.” (Dan Brown)
Consider the work of Umberto Eco. When he wrote, The Name of the Rose – the characters believe there is a truth, and set off looking for it.
But in another of his novels, Bordellino, it’s totally different. A main character is a man who forges letters to reveal the holy grail. Later, he sets off to use the made up materials, and the king observing this says, ‘you are insane.’ Why? You are following something you imagine to be true, with no relation to reality.
That’s how people see us, Christians, these days.
All Faiths are based in Thinking, Feeling or Doing (or any combination of all three).
In some religions it’s all about a pursuit of knowledge.
In others it’s an experience of getting in touch with the Holy
Or it’s a list – do these things and it’ll all make sense.
But Christianity is not at root a system of thought to be mastered, an experience to be tasted, or doing anything.
No. But Jesus Christ came into this world as God himself. Not just to give us new thoughts, feelings, or commands (although He does all those things!). But the Christian contends ‘I know WHO I have believed…’ Not What…
Jesus claimed equality with God. He died for that claim, it was considered so blasphemous.
Our faith is all about REVELATION. Hebrews 1.2 – He’s spoken to us in his Son!
So you’re not saved by getting it intellectually, believing however many ‘impossible things before breakfast.’ You’re not saved by doing certain achievements or by having particular experiences.
Our salvation is won for us, through the person and work of Jesus. it’s about receiving and trusting Him. We receive HIM. We become a new creation. We are born again. That changes who you ARE, which will of course change how you think, feel & act!
You’re part of a new family, and adopted in that family setting you now learn how you should think, feel & act. That’s why church is so important!
God reveals himself in Christ to show:
Who God is
Who we are
What the world is
And the revelation changes us!
Christian faith is not a state of mind, but a state of existence – it’s about who you ARE!
That’s why some who have been brought up as Christians end up floundering when they meet criticism as they enter the real world without having really known him for themselves. It’s also why we aren’t very good at defending what we believe because we present it on one of those three wrong bases: Therefore –
If people think Christianity is just an opinion (it’s what you think). Well so what?
If people think it’s just what makes you happy, ‘Well I’m happy anyway, thanks.’
Or if Christianity is just being a good person. “I know Hindus and Atheists who are better Christians…’
It’s more than all those things! It’s WHO you know.
If I say “I know Mary,” there can be two elements to the statement is a statement of reality: 1) she exists. 2) She’s TRUSTworthy.
We put our trust in a God who IS, and who is TRUSTWORTHY.
You can’t put your trust in one who isn’t there.
And faith is the only legitimate response to the God who is real, and trustworthy.
Questions Ramsden posed at the end – why not respond in your comments?
1) Can you answer the question, ‘Why are you a Christian?’ (not ‘How did you become a Christian?’). The answer probably has to be something about that you know Christ and its changing you.
2) Do you present Christianity as a system of thought, or feeling, or behaviour – or is JESUS truly at the centre of the presentation? The Goal of apologetics = that people trust HIM, not us.
3) Are you confident enough of why you are a Christian to tell others? The church has lost its voice, because we think we’re going to be shot down/ made to look stupid. Do you know who you are in Christ? We are not following cleverly made up stories!
All church heresy can be traced to a reduction of Christianity into what you think, feel or do.