I’ve slowly been writing summaries of my reasons for being a Christian using the three phases of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. This is the third post under pathos (emotions).
When it comes to emotional reasons for being a Christian, this one might seem the most unusual, but here it is: The idea of a cosmos teeming with purpose imbued upon it by an infinite intelligence within which a conflict of temporal and everlasting significance takes place is just damned interesting. Worldviews with cosmic level conflicts this sort can be found in most ancient cultures. That the Bible contains a worldview like those of the ancient shouldn’t astonish us, as it was written and compiled when the majority of people thought this way.
But what does astonish me about the Biblical version of the story is that mankind has a purpose other than slavery to the gods (image and likeness to God), that the gods didn’t spring from the world itself (one God made the world and the rest of the gods), and that the conflict in the Biblical story is about good and evil rather than about noisiness, disputes over authority and property, or some other such things.
On an emotional level such a worldview is satisfying. I love stoicism and see it as a powerful philosophical tool for controlling your emotions, gaining self-control, and enduring physical pain. But when the stoics counsel us to see everything which happens as good in itself, it falls flat for me. But the Biblical idea that “the god of this age” or “the ruler of darkness” is somehow in control of the earth or this section of the universe by some result of cosmic moral rebellion makes the evils of humanity much less excusable. Not only so, but imagining that God’s good world is under the temporary rule of a quasi-divine sociopath adds a degree of significance to our actions and some plausible deniability for inexcusable evils that happen for which a universe ruled merely by providence would offer no satisfaction.
Going further, the idea that I and those around me have some deeper purpose for existence than any individual temporal event could reveal is quite appealing. Indeed, it’s ennobling to think that we await the potential restoration of God’s glory to our bodies and minds in a way that is so unimaginably fantastic that ecstatic anticipation is the most reasonable emotional reaction. This constitutes a powerful stimulus to take life seriously, joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, work and rest, etc. Even more so, helping the needy, hurting, and ignored is a rebellion against that great source of misery who prowls like a lion to engorge itself upon the souls of hapless creatures buried in their petty disputes and hatreds. And because I’m a bit of a natural anarchist, the idea of rebelling against a cosmic being gets me going. Now, the flip side to that is that obedience to God is obedience to a greater cosmic being, but we’ll take about that in another post.
Now, I’ve presented no logical arguments here. And in fact somebody could be standing next to me who believes in a purposeless universe watching a tragedy unfold and we could try to help together without ever considering our beliefs on this matter or bringing them up.
This isn’t to say that my belief is untrue or that it doesn’t matter either way. I’m just saying that the belief is part of the symbolic and intellectual scaffolding that makes Christianity emotionally attractive to me.
 Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict (InterVarsity Press, 1997).
- The moral credibility of Jesus
- The moral credibility of Christianity’s best
- The power of Western Civilization
- Why I think God exists
- Why I think Jesus was raised