I've begun my Summer Writing Project, and thought I'd share an early draft of the introduction. Feel free to let me know what you think of it.
Imagine if everything you’ve ever learned was placed in three-ring binders.
All you know about math, history, the Internet, video games, the stock market. Everything. Some thick volumes, some thin.
In binders stacked all around the room, each one labeled with the subject matter.
As you look around, you see a folder labeled “Faith,” and you pull it out from its stack and open it.
Sure enough, it’s your faith journey, whatever it has looked like so far.
For some of you, it’s Bible stories you learned in Sunday School, for others it’s blogs about the harmful effects of religion on society. Legalistic codes or free-flowing emotionalism. Racist rants or pleas to bring justice to the oppressed. Whatever has had the greatest impact on your view of faith, it’s all there.
But then you notice something: Almost none of it is in your own handwriting.
Some is in your mom or dad’s handwriting. Some might be in your pastor’s or youth leader’s or priest’s. The idea that religion breeds ignorance is in the handwriting of a television talking head or popular blogger or author. The paragraph exhorting you to love your neighbor, in the shaky scrawl of your grandmother.
A few brief, indecisive passages in your own handwriting, but the overwhelming majority penned by others.
Here’s the thing. This is normal.
Most of us absorb our faith from the people around us. As we reach our late teens and early twenties, we often find that the view of faith we possess isn’t really our own. It’s the one given to us by others—or the one we built reacting against the views of others. And if nothing else happens, that inherited view of faith is the one that we carry throughout our lives.
But whether you now consider yourself a person of faith or not, if you are reading this book I’m going to assume that at least a part of you is drawn to the concept of faith. And whether you are wanting to find a reason to accept faith, a guide to increase your faith, or a final push toward a permanent rejection, the thing you want most is for the final conclusions to be your own. You don’t want your faith—or lack thereof—to be something you inherited from others.
Whether the decision is pro or con, you want the answer to be in your own handwriting.
And that’s one of the primary purposes of this book. To honestly examine faith, specifically the Christian faith that I claim, to see if it makes sense at a logical and emotional level; to strip this faith down to its essence, see what it really means to be a Christian; and if you come to believe that it does, to give you the tools to write your personal faith in your own handwriting.
The first section of the book will look at the logical, historical, and emotional basis of faith. It’s not an exhaustive (or exhausting) argument for Christianity. Books that focus on that area of faith fall into the category of apologetics and can be highly valuable. But in this book we’re only going to (hopefully) show that Christianity makes sense, and that it does a pretty good job making sense of the world around us.
In the second section we’ll be looking at the faith itself, the beliefs that make up what I rather arrogantly call Authentic Christianity. We’ll see that a lot of the beliefs that you may find offensive about Christian faith aren’t integral to the faith, but are actually just the way some people have personalized their own faith (or adopted and adapted the faith of others). Don’t worry, there is still plenty of offensive stuff in Christianity, but there’s not nearly as much as you may have heard. Again, this section will not be exhaustive or exhausting. People who dig deeply into this type of material are called theologians and their books are called theologies. But I believe it will be comprehensive enough for us to move to the final section, the one we’ve built toward from the beginning.
In that the third section, we’ll talk personalization. How to take the basics of the faith, add in what we learn about that faith both on our own and in community, identify our (I believe God-given) passions, and fuse it all into a faith that each of us can call our own. A faith we can live with. And ideally, a faith that can give us a reason to live.