Some of the things that make me question my faith is the Church. He once thought about writing a book called “How my faith survived the Church.” Someone responded to this by suggesting writing a book about Yancey “How the Church survived your faith.”
There has been a history of lies that the Church has told, and Yancey grew up in a Church that told him lies: that people of colour were inferior, and they misrepresented the nature of God.
There is a special place in God’s heart for people who didn’t get it: Jacob, Job, Thomas.
6 mins Yancey went to a Christian college where he didn’t fit in, and when he speaks in Christian colleges he tries to address the 10% who don’t fit in.
8 mins There is not a single argument against God, from the philosophers – Voltaire, Hume, Bernard Shaw, which is not the scriptures. It impresses me about God, that he lets these things into the scriptures. God not only gives us the freedom to reject him, but also includes the arguments we can use against him in sacred scripture.
9mins 50 Sometimes faith gets harder rather than easier. Most Christians, when they have been at it long enough, they go through this phase when they wonder if it is true.
Things learned about doubt:
– sometimes the Christian life gets harder than easier. Your prayers are more likely to be answered if you have been a Christian for 3 months rather than 3 years.
– There is a spiritual principle, which isn’t in the Bible, but which Yancey believes, and it goes like this “God is nicer to newcomers.” (10’26”)
A friend did a research on the saints, and every one of them seemed to find it harder, the longer that they were at it.
Look at the experience of Teresa, who privately hadn’t felt God’s presence in decades.
Takes an illustration from Frank Schaeffer, who talks about some military missions which need the troops to undercover for months, without any resupply or contact with head quarters.
John Claypole, who had a daughter who died of Leukaemia, and who wrote about Isaiah 40:31, which talks about rising up on wings, running, and then walking. Claypole used to think that the order in this was wrong, but then realised that this is how things are in faith, that we begin by rising, and end up walking.
Pilgrims Progress is a good illustration of the Christian life. Christian always goes for the bad fork in the road, and Christian faith is about falling down, we all fall down, and it is about learning to get back up.
There is an important thing though, that we need “stick-to-it-ness”
Talk to the oldest person you know, and ask them the question “What is the most meaningful time in their life.” They will probably mention a time of hardship and of struggle.
Londoners talk about the most important time in their life, blitz. These are the times that give meaning. Marriages fall apart when people fall apart too soon.
Ways to cope with doubt:
1. 21 mins Keep Jesus at the centre.
Talks about reading a very small Oxford English Dictionary and having to read it through a magnifying glass. You only can read it if you keep a small area focussed in the middle of the lens. You have to keep Jesus focussed, and at the middle of the lens.
How did Jesus deal with pain – he cried, he moves to heal them
Look at the answers to Jesus prayers:
– 12 disciples, and look at who he got
– I pray that they may be one – 34,000 denominations in the world;
– Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
– Let this cup be taken away from me.
When we are flummoxed by our own unanswered prayers, we can take comfort from the fact that Jesus had the same experience
Bishop Ramsay “In God there is no unchristlikeness at all”
“If you want to know what God is like, then look at Jesus.”
You need to point that magnifying glass at Jesus. If your magnifying glass is not pointing at Jesus, then you need to clean it up.
2. 27mins To find doubt companions.
The Church is often not too good at this – if you have doubts then you might be looked down upon.
The Church doesn’t seem to have nearly so much tolerance for doubters as God does.
Find someone who will reward you for your doubts.
Jesus was not resurrected as an American, he’s not a very good marketer. He only appears to people that already believe in him. He would be back on Pilates porch on the Monday morning, “Remember me. I’m back”
Jesus only goes to people who already believe.
The experience of Thomas. It is interesting that they do not keep Thomas out the room. Church is a safe place for doubters. They wouldn’t have let Thomas back in the room, if he had been part of the Church down the ages. Church can sometimes be a safe place for those waiting for more light.
It is also interesting with Thomas, that the only time that he is addressed as God is when Thomas does this.
31 mins Acts as if it is true.
Behavioural therapy; AA – act like a soberperson.
Athletes the last thing I want to do is train, but I do it.
Augustine on time – To live in the present, sometimes you have to live in the past.
“Don’t forget in the darkness what you learned in the light.”
Or look into the future, believe that there will be a future.
Talked about praying through a book of prayers, a book of the hours.
Talks about difference of experiencing grief if you loose a child – it still really hurts, but if you have a faith, there can be a hope that you will be a future.
Think about heaven, 1 Corinthians 15, if we don’t believe in the resurrection, then there is really no reason to be a Christian.
Unamono – had a deistic belief, that there would be no heaven, he met a peasant
“This God you believe in, has not heaven”, “No”,said Unamuno
“then what good is he” said the peasant.
If this life is all there is, then God is not the God of the Bible
He’s not a God of justice, not a God of fairness, because this world is not just, this world is not fair
This God justifying himself.
42 mins Ernest Gordon was a Scot, a naval officer who found himself sailing around Singapore in 1942. This was not a good place to be in 1942 and he was captured by the Japanese.
Ernest Gordon was put into a prison camp, it turned out to be one of the worst prison camps that the Japanese had.
The Japanese were trying to build a railroad, so they could invade India,
And it meant building a railway through Thailand, and Burma, and meant going through this terrible swamp, which had these terrible diseases.
And so they flooded this swamp with prisoners, because it was dirty hard labour.
Ernest Gordon estimated that 80,000 men died in the building of that railway, 393 men per mile.
He was an officer, and was not meant to be used for manual labour, but they had not signed the Geneva convention, the Japanese, so he was made to work. He caught malaria and dyptheria, and dyssentria.
The dyptheria was so bad that it burned away the back of his throat. When he tried to eat rice it would come back up his nose, his legs were paralysed, so they took him down to the death hut, where they lined up men who had only a few days to live, head to toe in this area. Several hundred men were in the area, waiting to die.
At this time, something very strange happened in the camp.
The healthier soldiers and sailors went out to dig, and every day they would come back in to the camp, and they would counted back, and all the spades that they had used, they too would be counted back.
You did not want an unaccounted shovel in a prison camp.
On this day, there were only nine shovels, when there should have 10 shovels.
The officer started shouting at the men, but the men said nothing.
If you don’t tell me who stole this shovel, I will kill everyone of you.
He cocked his rifle and pointed it the first man in the line. At this, another officer stepped forward and said “it was me who stole the shovel.” At this the guard went berserk and took his rifle butt and hit him with the butt, and he stabbed him with his bayonet, and kicked him, long after he had died.
Then the men went back to the camp, and they found the missing shovel. This officer hadn’t taken the shovel at all, he had given his life to safe that first man, and possibly more of them.
That night the men were talking and one of the soldiers said, “I remember this verse from Sunday School, greater love have no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
And the Japanese have won, because we have become like animals. If there is a gristly piece of meat floating in the soup, then we all fight to take it, so that you don’t get it. It’s beast against beast. We’re not like that, we can’t let them win. We have got to change.
So they said, “There’s a chap here who has studied philosophy at Cambridge University, perhaps we should appoint him chaplain. What’s his name?”
“It’s Ernest Gordon”
“Oh, I’m sorry he’s already in the death hut.”
So they went down, and they found Ernest Gordon in the death hut, waiting to die, and they said to him “Is it true that you studied philosophy at Cambridge University”
“Well we wondered if you would be our chaplain”
“Well, I’m not sure if I really believe in God.”
“Well, that’s okay but will you be our chaplain.”
So they took him out of the death hut, and they built a special bamboo hut for him, and a Methodist and a Catholic came each day, and they massaged his legs, and they found ways to force food down him, and they brought him back to health.
And in the meantime, as he is resurrected, he starts reading the Bible from cover to cover, beginning at Genesis, and he becomes a believer.
And the first thing he does is he says “We’ve got to have a proper chapel”
So they build a chapel at the highest point at the swamp.
And they say we’ve got to have a proper burial for each man who dies, because when they die we just throw them in a pit. And when they die, we must give them a proper burial, because it has to be made known that when they leave they create a hole in this place, they leave a hole in the universe, they matter.
And as he started doing these things, the whole moral of the camp changed.
This was in the 1940s (when people did these things at school) and they discovered that there was a knowledge of nine different languages amongst the men in the camp: Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German, Russian, Spanish, French…
And they started this camp university, and the men would go out and work in the railway, and then the would come back and study. And they would take classes. At first the Japanese thought this was crazy, and they were alarmed by it, but they saw that the men were happier and better workers.
There was a soldier there who had served as the libriarian for the London Symphony Orchestra, and he had photographic memory, and he wrote out every note of every symphony by Beethoven and Schubert and most of Mozart, and they carved instruments out of bamboo and they had a prison orchestra and they started giving concerts and they had a theatre troop, and every one of these men said
“We hope that this is not all that there is.
“We hope that we do not spend the rest of our lives in this place which is like Dante’s inferno
“I hope that I can get back to the heather covered hills of Scotland
“I hope that I can get back to the parks of London
“I hope that that’s where I spend the rest of my life
But as long as I am here, I will act like a Scot, I will live like an Englishmen,
I will live out by the values of my world, even in this hellhole.
As it turned out, Ernest Gordon enjoyed being a chaplain, soon the allies came and liberated the camp.
The prisoners pled for the lives of the guards who had so brutalised them – don’t kill them, don’t murder them, treat them justly.
And Ernest Gordon came to America, he served there as chaplain until the year 2002 when he died.
This is a good image of the Church. We are called to live in the present, to live in the future, to live on earth as it would in heaven.
God’s will will never be done in our lifetime, as it is in heaven. But we are called to establish little pockets of the kingdom, even in the middle of a swamp, and to trust that one day we will be back in those places, in the park, on the hills.
50 mins When you boil it down, the only way to combat doubt is to learn to trust.
My wife and I do pretty well on co-ordinated time schedules. She has a 5-10 minute range after the time which doesn’t count as being late.
There is always a time, that Philip is looking at his watch, and she is 10 minutes late then he does not worry.
If she is an hour late, Yancey’s response is not “What an irresponsible wife, she doesn’t care about me, I will never trust her again.”
Yancey knows that if she is an hour late, then there must be a good reason. She will be a lot more upset about it than I am. Yancey has learned to trust her.
It is important that we learn to have the image of God, in whom there is not unchristlikeness at all.
52 mins A man who stood up in Church and said, “I get so tired of all these people who say after a plane crash, I missed the flight and I was spared,”
What about the people who died?
Why do we always give God credit for the good things, and not the bad things?
But as we get to know God, we learn to do that more.
There are also power streams of evil, which oppose everything God stands for, he doesn’t smash them in unsubtle ways, but deals with them through people like us.
54 mins There is a saying from Jeremiah – there are places in the world which does not have rain, and has sun and heat.
“There is a bush planted by the desert soil, and only the bushes which have roots which go down way deep will survive the drought times.”
If you have a beautiful lush bush during good rains, it will look great. But the next year it will shrivel it up.
But you will have bush which has roots which reach down to the water table, and it will survive during the drought.
Bill in Chicago went through a time of burn out. I have nothing left to give. I feel like a pump. Everytime someone comes along they pump, and I have nothing left. And he went to the spiritual director and he thought he was going to get some nice sympathy.
But the director, well Bill, you know what to do when a well goes dry don’t you, you dig deeper.
Talks about the well at his house that has been filtered through 640 feet of granite.
If the well goes deep enough, the bush flourish even during dry times.