What happens when an opinionated young Christian and an equally opinionated Eastern Mystic meet? One of the best religious conversations I have ever had.
I had the pleasure of meeting Austin tonight at a friend’s house, and the subject of religion came up soon after my friend went to bed.
So there I was with a guy I had never met before who was prompting me to describe my religious views. I described my Christian faith and background, and he described his conversion to a kind of Eastern Mysticism.
The debate started after he suggested that all religions are really just descriptions of the same god coming from different cultures. The conversation soon turned to everything from New Testament authorship, the comparison of different religions, metaphysics, quantum physics, and the basic tenets of logic itself.
In the course of this late night intellectual frenzy, I picked up on a common theme which somehow made the whole thing navigable.
We each wanted to know why the other person believed what they believed. Neither of us was satisfied to hear that the other person felt that their beliefs were true.
He challenged me to describe why I believe the words of Jesus from the New Testament, and in turn I asked Austin why he believed that introspection and experience justified his religious beliefs.
At the end of it all we sat back, stepped out of the maze of a debate we had created, bro-hugged, shook hands, and said good night.
Neither of us converted or tried to convert the other. But we each gave the best reasons we could for our religious beliefs in response to each-other’s endless barrage of questions aimed at the other person’s religious justification.
The key question which came to the forefront on both sides was “Why do you believe that?”
I fear that all too often, people of all religions shun and even lash out at such a question when applied to their deepest convictions. But when two people are willing to lay it all on the line, we end up with the pleasant, sincere kind of debates I was privileged to experience tonight.
I don’t just want to brag or gloat about how great my experience was. I want to help change the culture of religious dogmatism which leads to fruitless and often resentful stalemates.
Christians need to be able to answer why they believe in Christianity if we ever want any hope of keeping up with the Austins of the world (who certainly gave me a tough run for my money).
But at the end of the night, Austin thanked me for being willing to “go so deep” when so few others would. He even expressed willingness to look into the evidence I presented for the historical truth of Christianity.
So I’m leaving tonight’s conversation challenged to pursue an ever-improving understanding of why I believe what I believe, and I hope Christians who have not yet done so will follow me on that endeavor.
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