Perhaps I didn't help things by quoting someone at the end of their Trilogy. The first book "The God Who is There" laid the foundation for his claim that he was confident that there is a God there, as opposed to not being there. If one reads the whole body of Schaeffer's work, there was a very disciplined attempt to put forward his case in a rational way.
He was an interesting man, an agnostic (didn't really care one way or another whether there is a God or not). But as he studied the world religions, he began to see that Biblical Christianity answered all the philosophical questions, where the others couldn't at times, and he became so convinced of it that it changed his thinking and his life. He realised that he didn't have to trade in any part of his reason to have faith. His second book, "Escape From Reason" looks at the way western man (male and female) has moved away from reason in the area of spiritual matters - and gives the historical background of how it happened. He argues that we need not escape from reason at all. He never asked anyone to make a decision on a leap of faith basis. L'Abri always encourages honest questions and encourages the individual to ask as many questions as they need to in order to make a reasoned, rational decision. But challenge thinking they do! They make you account for your statements and reasoning and try to shine a spotlight on inconsistencies.
So I do apologise if I quoted him out of context and caused confusion.
I agree that once the "Is God there?" question has been settled then the Bible does present the answers.
As for you disillusionment with organised religion - I have to say I'm inclined to agree with you. Though I think I'm perhaps a little too harsh. Afterall, any religious gathering is a gathering of human beings, faults and all, and the greater the gathering, the more the faults. I'm a part of that and bring my own faults into the group.
I don't know that I can think of a situation where I felt I was encountering empty symbolism - because symbolism usually, well, symbolises something. So you may be able to give me an example. I think it's very important that religious groups have something for visitors which explains their ritual and symbolism.
I agree with you completely about the money grubbing - it's utterly appalling and makes me furious. I have absolutely no problem with ministers/pastors whatever, being paid for their work, and they should be paid well. The ones I know work at least 60 hours a week, most weeks. They can be called out at all hours and have a pretty intense job to do. Tithing (giving 10% of one's wage) is Biblical and I don't have a problem with it, but it should always be voluntary. I see no Biblical precedent for hunting down individuals and making them pay. But there are groups that just turn every meeting into a funds drive - and they use all kinds of so-called spiritual teaching to manipulate people to give. It makes me furious. I think it makes Jesus furious too. He DID overturn the tables of the money changers in the temple and drive them out with a whip - way to go!
I think one advantage of finding a group that pushes the money issue is that you can make an instant decision about whether or not to join them - DON'T!
I've been searching for a church for years. I'll never find a perfect one, and perhaps I'm too picky, but there always seems to be something I consider serious enough to keep me back. I suppose I'm charasmatic / pentecostal in orientation, but I can't find a charasmatic / pentecostal church that I'm even slightly happy with, though I know heaps of wonderful individuals within those groups. I've found over the last 20 years or so, they have grown obsessed with male domination (and I have no trouble with male leadership), but I've seen them throw away the talents of some amazing women - just because they're women. And they seem to be becoming increasingly obsessed with power and money. It's un-Biblical.
At the moment I'm hanging with the Presbyterians - they're good thinkers, but anti-pentecostal. The Pressies in my town are particularly lovely Christians, humble and searching. So while I disagree with them over some things, I know they're journeying like me, and they're humble enough to think and pray issues through. So considering how faulty we all are as humans, I don't see that I can ask more than that. There's a few too many things in that denomination that I find weird at the moment, so I don't see myself ever becoming a member, but do I have to? I have been greatly criticised by some Christians because I don't conform to one group or another, but I see all believers in Jesus as being a group simply because they all believe in Jesus. Isn't that group enough??? I think it can all get too legalistic, though I do see a point for having some kind of faith-base where you can be held accountable for your actions. Christianity is definately a community based faith. I think the trick is to look for humility and sound thinking. Avoid the dogmatic who can't give a reason for their statements. I'm not saying I don't belive in objective truth, in one way being right over another, just that there should be a sound explanation for requiring something of someone - no blind leap of faith for me. These issues are too important.
As for some of the other atrocities in the Church, paedophilia in particular: it is a crime of crimes and should be dealt with severly and immediately!!! A paedophile is not only a sinner - he or she is totally sick and needs help. Such people have no place in leadership of any kind and should not be allowed anywhere near children. The disgraceful conclusion of this year's meeting with the Pope ("Well, I guess we'd better do something about the serial paedophiles - never mind the ones who've only done it once or twice") was beyond belief!!! If it's proven - throw them out of leadership immediately - never to be re-instated. There is a place for ever sinner in Christianity, but only the exemplary should lead. And yes, I do know some humble, hard working, exemplary Christians. They're not perfect, but they're leading by example.
I suppose my encouragement to anyone would be to continue to ponder the first and most basic of questions; Is there a God, and how can I know? I think it's serious and important enough to be worth pondering. The finding of a place of worship comes later and is no easy task, I think.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with me.
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