I came across a news story of someone who spent 30 years in prison even though innocent, after reading about other atrocities that have happened (black man killed in the South, a child being burned alive by a neighborhood bully and dying from consequent cancer 12 years later), and it’s compelled me to ask here a question that’s been bothering me recently, since I found myself speaking with Japanese people: How can I persuade people that they should become Christian? Atheism seems equally plausible, and during suffering and in light of evil, more plausible than Christianity. I have to be Christian in spite of my experience, not because of it.
Looking at my arguments for why I am Christian, they seem weak (“God of the gaps” theories: God is the best explanation, therefore God is the explanation). It seems more accurate to say that I am a Christian because “my parents made me one”, I’ve sought reasons to affirm it, and the continuance of my faith seems to be the consequence of hazing, i.e. going through painful experiences and then convincing myself internally that they’re worth it because their end is good. Like, I pray for faith, and pray to God, and attend Mass and sing my best every Sunday, and then I continue as if God exists because to admit otherwise would be to admit to a waste of my time and no hope for anything better than my current life, and admitting these things is psychologically abhorrent. (I do still have some hope that the Church is correct, though, so this is another reason why I am unwilling to admit those things.)
Going back to Japanese evangelism, I found my conversation astonishingly weak, and at that time had to phrase things generally to avoid sounding foolish, and was unable to progress the conversation, which soon turned to other matters. What I had said was something like, ‘If you study philosophy and history, there are good reasons to justify Christian belief,’ but what I thought was, “Something happened 2,000 years ago; we’re not really sure what, but the rumor is that this guy rose from the dead – therefore you should become Christian.” In other words, “Read these books that make these claims about history,” or “If you read a ton of books all arguing towards the same thing, you can persuade yourself to believe it.” It’s simply not convincing. I have been living as an agnostic Christian for years, and cannot persuade anyone to become Christian because I myself don’t see any compelling or convicting evidence. Perhaps my behavior is reassuring and instills faith in those who observe me, but I don’t see this as a useful means of bringing people to faith, because it seems to me secularists interpret my behavior through the lens of “that’s just what works for him” (relativism).
That is perhaps at the heart of my problem. I have been searching after God for a long time, even to the point of praying for the intercession of venerable and blessed Christians hoping for God to keep His promises regarding prayer. The Eucharist continues to resemble only bread and wine, God continues leaving me in the dark – though I have recently committed what I feel to be serious sin, after lapsing briefly into despair, so I cannot blame God for this absence (i.e. I’m not worthy to be in God’s presence, having done that which offends Him; hopefully I can go to Confession soon) – and I continue spending large amounts of time writing posts like these, trying to get help, when perhaps it would be better for me to “stop wasting time” and forget about God and focus on work (like the Japanese do).
What are your thoughts on these matters? How can I move from agnosticism to conviction? What is God waiting for? How do we persuade people to be Christian? Why hasn’t God given me more faith, despite so frequently praying for it? Why does God continue letting us suffer? Why hasn’t He returned yet?