We start with a story of a child: Myself as an early teen.
The setting: a Christian youth conference with the goal of re-igniting the fire of faith in America's youth. I am standing up front with hundreds of other believers accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The worship music began to mellow and the lights stayed dim as dozens of conference staff poured across the crowd, laying hands on as many bowed heads as possible.
Some spoke loudly while others whispered. Some spoke in other languages while others spoke in movements.
My eyes were shut but I could feel a hand eventually make its way to the back of my head. This was it. I had heard about Christ and I knew that God was real, but this was the final moment.
The prayer started. "Lord please fill this boy with the holy spirit, let him know you are there, let him feel your presence. Let him know the joy of knowing you, and bring him into salvation through the death of your son, Jesus Christ..."
Inside my head the excitement grew. The dim light and powerful melodies echoing through the room ensured that this would be a very spiritual night. The creator of the universe was about to enter in to me, and I would be a new person tonight.
But instead of knowing that Christ was with me, I was left with a rather confused feeling. Did it work? Was I saved? Do I know Christ now? Did I do something wrong?
Around me tears flowed and sobs were heard. Everybody else seemed to be having a very emotional moment. Something must've gone wrong with me. Why didn't anything seem different?
Maybe I was over-thinking it, but this entire thing was ambiguous. Surely if I had just been filled with the Holy Spirit, I'd know by now, yes?
Questions and doubt suddenly filled my mind. Was everybody else just faking it? Or did I seriously just not want it enough? Was I not sincere enough to accept Jesus into my heart?
I left that conference that night with my group more confused than when I started. Surely that was not the goal of the conference.
What was missing? That's a good question. Impossible to know for sure. But why was it impossible?
There can be many explanations for my experience. Maybe I just wasn't truly ready. Maybe I didn't believe enough. Maybe I wasn't sorry enough for my sins.
Conveniently, the problem presented by Christianity is an unsolvable problem. It is a problem of vague degrees. What is it to be sorry enough? This question would torture me for a good portion of my childhood.
When everybody else can do something that you can't, you start looking within. What am I doing wrong? What's wrong with me?
The problem is that there is no objectivity within Christianity. Because there is no proof, there is no room for critical thinking.
Why would God give us the ability to utilize critical thinking, I often wondered, if we aren't to use it for the most important part of our lives?
It just never added up for me. It was a big chunk of change that never came out to the right number. Yet for a good portion of my life, I did spend a lot of time living a life that didn't make sense inside. We call this cognitive dissonance.
With the threat of hell hung above me and a set of instructions to "accept Christ" that never seemed to work for me, I was stressed, confused, and depressed. And what's worse, it just never made sense!
But maybe, in all my confusion, I ignored a certain logic. It's possible that the answer had been staring me in the face that night.
Did I want to accept Christ? Absolutely. I really believed he was real, why else would I have stepped forward that night? I was convinced that this was what I wanted for my life. I had faith that despite common sense, Christ was real, and I was ready to accept him into my heart.
So why would God decide not to enter my heart at that time? If he did, why would he choose to avoid letting me know? Why would the creator of the universe stay silent when I had done everything that was asked of me? When I had finally dedicated my life to Christ and wanted to make a commitment, why was the almighty silent?
To what advantage does God have for being silent in this predicament? Maybe because the objective proof I was seeking was that he didn't exist.