Why We Believe, Vol. 9

March 28, 2008, 9:00 am; posted by
Filed under Articles, Featured, Kaitlin, Testimonies  | 16 Comments

Please welcome our newest Bweinh!tributor — Kaitlin! Hers is the latest post in our testimony series.

I am a reader. This is appropriate, since I am also a literature major. Through books, I relate to the world. I take the commonality of the human condition as a given ”” we are all essentially the same; we all want essentially the same things in life. So when other humans have painstakingly distilled their own lives and beliefs into a finely crafted text, I think it only right that I take a sip.

And so I have tried to taste widely and conscientiously. At times I have spit out bitter mouthfuls of bad philosophy, or set down lukewarm cups of tepid thought. But occasionally I find a refreshing glass of clear, lucid wisdom.

I have often wondered whether it would be intellectually reasonable of me to assume the mantle of Christianity as so many others have, adhering to it unquestioningly, merely out of tradition. And then I found that G.K. Chesterton had already thought of this. “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” If we truly are all the same, why couldn\’t the answer that Pascal or Aquinas or Luther or any other of the millions of thinkers throughout Christian history had found be the same one to satisfy my own yearning?

But what about those who hadn\’t accepted this explanation? One of the most condemning objections to Christianity from its inception has been the “problem of pain,” as C.S. Lewis described it. We\’ve all asked these questions. If there is a God, why is there so much suffering in the world? How could a truly good God allow such horrendous things to happen?

Lewis contends that for God to create a world in which there is both freedom and the absence of suffering would be inherently contradictory. “It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets with an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”

Feodor Dostoevsky explored this theme in The Brothers Karamazov. One character, Ivan, imagines Jesus returning to earth in Spain during the Inquisition. There, the Grand Inquisitor accuses Christ of allowing suffering by refusing to dominate humans. He refused to cajole belief by enticing followers with stones turned to bread. He refused to force belief by throwing himself off of the temple. He refused to demand belief by assuming control of the kingdoms of the world through bowing down. “Instead of taking possession of men’s freedom, Thou didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with its sufferings forever. Thou didst desire man’s free love, that he should follow Thee freely, enticed and taken captive by Thee. In place of the rigid ancient law, man must hereafter with free heart decide for himself what is good and what is evil, having only Thy image before him as his guide.”

Do you know what these works tasted like? They retained the flavor of another book I had read, one that had told me that behind all these words, there was the Word. There is little that has become more true to me than that I must work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. I want to understand what I believe, that I may indeed always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks me, a reason for the hope that I have.


16 Comments to “Why We Believe, Vol. 9”

  1. Connie on March 28th, 2008 10:37 am

    I enjoyed your piece, Kaitlin. It will be fun getting to know you. Have you met my son, Tom?

  2. Tom on March 28th, 2008 12:02 pm

    Why does she assume that all women versed in the theory of human suffering should be forced to have some practical experience?

  3. Connie on March 28th, 2008 12:07 pm

    See, he’s funny too.

  4. Steve on March 28th, 2008 12:11 pm

    Indeed, a chance meeting with Tom has driven many an innocent woman to solace in theodicy

  5. Job on March 28th, 2008 6:58 pm

    Outstanding stuff, K-barr

  6. aaron.guest on March 29th, 2008 9:43 am

    Enjoyed this article. I, however, am against the oxford comma.

    Props for the Chesterton quote though. I love that guy.

    Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est

  7. Marcus on March 29th, 2008 10:59 am

    As a Catholic and a rhetorician, I’m a big fan of both tradition and the Oxford Comma. As the President of the Hair Club for Men, I’m also a client.

  8. David on March 29th, 2008 8:17 pm

    Wondeful article. Welcome to BWEINH! Give her some time Tom.

  9. Erin on March 30th, 2008 9:26 am

    Welcome and well-written, Kaitlin. Oh, and you get about a hundred points for mentioning “working out one’s faith in fear and trembling” (i love that verse) ;) I look forward to getting to know you!

  10. Kaitlin on March 30th, 2008 6:51 pm

    Thanks for all the feedback! I’m honored to be a part of such an illustrious group.

  11. Mike on March 30th, 2008 10:31 pm

    Well, well! Dropping Dostoevsky in your first piece here! Heavy stuff. Good to have you aboard. :)

  12. Steve on March 30th, 2008 11:13 pm

    Sounds like we need an Oxford comma clash. Or at least a mini-clash.

    I’m staunchly in favor, as you may know, if you are a faithful visitor, a careful reader, and a punctuation nerd.

  13. Tom on March 31st, 2008 5:16 pm

    Few writing habits annoy me as much as overpunctuation! Liberty, equality and ambiguity!

  14. Brian on March 31st, 2008 7:41 pm

    Tom, your history here on Bweinh! has been mixed. In How a Gecko Changed my Life and Rant, you use the Oxford comma while in Bweinh! Soundtrack — Death Cab for Cutie you do it both ways in the same post.

  15. Steve on March 31st, 2008 7:44 pm

    In Tom’s limited defense, his original punctuation choices might not be reflected in the published versions of articles.

  16. Chloe on March 31st, 2008 11:42 pm

    Or maybe Tom is one confused hombre.

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