Does Christianity Make Sense? – Modern Koans

Posted by in Modern Koans, Writings

The following is an exchange I had with a kind gentleman on Quora.

Question: What are some concepts in Christianity that don’t make sense to you? Maybe I can help you understand them.

My Response: Let me try to be specific with my answer, so you can respond. These concepts – by way of the Nicene Creed – form the foundation of Christian faith.  They also make no sense to me.

  1. There is one God – why not many and why not zero?  I’ve never – ever – not once, experienced God as described in the Bible.  Since making sense implies that there is a sensory experience, I am unable to “make sense” of this.
  2. God is the creator – If everything is created, what created God? My senses tell me that cause an effect is the “mechanism” behind creation.  I don’t have any experience with an unmoved mover or anything like that.
  3. The Immaculate Conception – this never happens. Not one in a million.  Not one in a trillion.  The Nicene Creed requires acceptance of this as fact – not poetic license, not allegory, not anything else but fact. I’ve never been witness to nor have read about in a reputable source the occurrence of such a thing.  This doesn’t “make sense” to me.
  4. How is it that Christ = God and Christ = Man.  Gods don’t die.  Of course they fade away (Zeus,  TezcatlipocaDažbogLir, and so on), but they don’t die.  If Christ died for 3 days and Christ is God, What happened?  Setting aside my confusion, what use is this idea?
  5. If baptism remits for all my sins, why worry about sin? If Christ took on all my sin? Why would I follow the rules?

I’m sometimes asked “What would it take for me to adopt the Christian faith?”  I think the answer to that question would be a non-circular validation of these concepts and their benefit.

I’m not sure if you’re going to be able to “help”.  Greater minds than ours have struggled with these issues and have been forced to rely on faith instead of solid proof.  Perhaps we should just accept the dictum that we can rarely change the minds of others.

I received this response. 

This is what I feel

  1. There is one God– Why can there not be only one God? Though I cannot demonstrate this, no one can demonstrate it’s impossible.
  2. God is the creator– If every creator had to be created we would move in an unending inexplicable loop which is equally as impossible to comprehend.
  3. The Immaculate Conception– If there is a God who could bring everything in existence to being by just his will why would this be beyond his power even a thing that never seems to happen?
  4. The belief of the death and resurrection – what is written is that Christ didn’t die, so as to cease to be but he descended into hell. He did this for a purpose, some say to lose those who prior to his resurrection had no stake in heaven from their waiting.
  5. Baptism – If you can only enter a house when you’ve been washed clean and you dirty yourself again, will you not need to be washed clean again?

And I don’t disagree with you, I cannot nor do I intend to demonstrate that Christianity is true, I thoroughly believe it but all we believe no matter what it is, is with faith because man cannot with a 100% surety say he can comprehend every aspect of the infinity that is existence. I put my faith in this, we are asked to in these letters written and I hope this helps even a little bit.

My Response: My sense is that all of Nicene concepts are utterly incoherent. In your effort to explain these concepts, you’ve offered an array of logical fallacies. These fallacies don’t betray you as a liar, but as someone who is trying to apply logic to metaphysics. It’s just the wrong tool for the job. The concepts are all strictly out of reach of our senses and sensibilities. But I think that this is by design, and a clever one I might add.

I just got back from a nice hike in the woods.  On the trail there were several downed trees.  There was one, so large, that people had created a new path to circumvent it.

I see an analogy between the Christian creed and the obstacle this massive tree created. The creed is clearly a barrier to logic and scientific exploration.  It is impenetrable to reason.  It doesn’t make sense.

To the traveler, this forces a pause.  If there is a map to consult, we pull it out. We look for other ways to reach our destination.   If we find one, we move one.  If we don’t, we start speculating, shifting from the rational to gut instincts or intuitions. The more desperate we are to reach our destination, the more likely we’ll stray from rationality.  It’s the difference between turning back, forging a new path, or saying what the hell, I don’t care if that tree is too big, I’m going over it anyway.

What’s interesting is that I bet some people make it over the tree. Not because it was the best way.  Not because it made more sense to do it.  They make it over for any number of reasons.  It could be hard work. It could be luck.  Maybe they got half way up and fell over to the other side.  They might have twisted an ankle or scraped their knee, but they made it over.

The decision to adopt Christianity is tradeoff between understanding and salvation in a time of urgency. I see a lot of good reasons to make that choice.  I have many friends who have turned their lives around or found what they needed, when they needed it, in Christ. For this reason, I see value in the institution. But none of those reasons have applied to me.

I have found another path which allows me to remain skeptical and find great wonder and sacredness in the world as it is. Perhaps you and I have both arrived at the destination, just in different ways.  I don’t need proof that you got here and you don’t need proof that I’ve done the same.  We’re both standing here chatting on a lovely day. What more proof would we need?

Good for us! We managed to unlock the door to liberation.

What’s your take on religion? Does it have to make sense? What about people who feel you need to accept their beliefs as true? 

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Modern Koans is an ongoing series that recognizes that good questions are often more important than their answers.

The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man. ― G.K. Chesterton

Dialectic Two Step, Modern Koans, Verse Us, Say What?, and Minute Meditations all copyright Andrew Furst

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Andrew Furst

Author of two books, Poet, Meditation Teacher, Buddhist blogger, backup guitarist for his teenage boys, lucky husband and technologist
Andrew Furst
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