Responding to a Young Physicist

This weekend I responded on my friend Les' blog to a commenter who once attended a conservative Christian college where she went to chapel everyday, did Bible studies and the like. She is currently an atmospheric physicist and an environmental engineer. She had questions and comments like ...
  • I just can’t believe that the ONLY way to God is through Jesus. Oh, I understand my sinful status and that I need a Savior and that IS Jesus. But, it makes absolutely no sense that God condemned billions and billions of people to hell because they never heard of Jesus.
  • Then, there’s the problem of “Where is God?” when people call on him. Don’t give me that crap “In His time.” The Bible says straight away, pray and the prayers will be answered. And, it doesn’t say, “Oh, that answer may be, ‘No.’” I still pray, just asking for his peace, and all I have is anxiety.
  • I don’t want SIMPLE faith. I want faith based on reason, not simplicity.
These are good questions. Thought you might like to read my response ...

I love your comment! I too spent a lot of time in ultra-conservative churches that seemed to see everything in black and white terms. Life got better for me when I began to see the bible, and life in general, in grayer ways.

Your thoughts about Jesus being the only way and how billions of people will suffer torment eternally reminds me that Jesus is a lot bigger than our narrow understandings of what it means to believe in Him. For sure many embrace a formulaic approach to salvation – makes sense to people living in a black and white hallucinogenic state. But please know that there other views (like the one Billy Graham has) that deals with those billions of peoples.

Concerning your issues with what the bible says about prayers being answered straight away – I think that it is good to remember that a lot of things are written in hyperbolic language. In other words, all things are not really possible, literal mountains are not meant to be moved, not everything that we ask in prayer is answered. Many of the things written are over-emphasized simply to make a point.

It is hard for a one-time programmer like me to wrap my head around that though – I want gray things to be black or white. Yet the bible is not really about black and white. Genesis is about a bigger story than the nuts and bolts of creation. The scriptures weave an amazing story about God and His creation. We do not have to accept that everything written in it is God’s literal dictation to and through man – that really just cheapens the story and drags us through pointless arguments.

Better that we try to embrace a heart (i.e. grayer) view of biblical stories. I find that when I do I learn so much more about the ways that God interacts with humanity and humanity with Him. I think that the Book is all about the big stories and really not all that much about doctrinal stuff. The Jesus story, for me anyway, is unrivaled in all of history when we see it as a story of God visiting the planet instead of some heady doctrinal dissertation of some sort of dogma.

Regarding questions of why God does not give relief from fear or why people in need are not helped – perhaps humanity owns more of the answer than we want to own up to? Perhaps the love of God is resident in other people who can help us if we simply humble ourselves and ask them?

I am glad that you are not looking for simple faith. I have found that faith that does not struggle is not really faith but a superstitious and useless believer-ism that fails when times get tough. Watching my first wife die seemed to strip away a lot of that silliness from my life.

In closing I want to thank you for the genuineness of your comment and the reality expressed in it.


  1. When you mention that the loss of your wife stripped much of the black and white silliness away, that resonates with me. It's all fine and good to hold to a belief system, but when it gets REAL, we are kind of forced to get real, no?

    Many people think Billy Graham has apostatized in his later years (compromised, ear-tickling, and the like)and I used to think so, too. But I wonder if someone like him who has spent his entire life in trying to please God has not perhaps learned something...that we cannot KNOW for sure and God is bigger.

    1. Hard to beat Billy Grham Ma. My views also changed with age. Nice to know that I am in good company. ツ

  2. Appreciate your gentle, calm approach.

  3. I, too, have moved away from conservatism toward a "grayer" faith. Sixteen years ago, I was widowed at 43 with three teenagers. Two years later, I added my friends' teens to the mix after they both died. Maybe it was caring for 5 grieving teens. Maybe it was facing my own weaknesses. Maybe it was coming up against absolutes and being unable to make any sense of them. I left church (not my faith in God) for over 10 years and, during the past two years, I have found my way slowly back to a church that I find healing and kind and faith-filled. I am humbled to find my way back after all these years. Thank you for your blog. It helps.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Audrey! Interesting that I was widowed in my forties too. I think that we have similar stories.


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