Finding Faith---A Search for What Is Real [NOOK Book]

Overview

There have been times when you’ve felt that if there isn’t a God, there ought to be.

Swept up in the mystery of the night sky, you’ve felt the closeness of its designer. Nature’s extravagant diversity, unfolding in living color, has made you long to know the artist who dreamed it all up. Imagine what that might be like—to actually know God in a way that fills your heart and...
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Finding Faith---A Search for What Is Real

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Overview

There have been times when you’ve felt that if there isn’t a God, there ought to be.

Swept up in the mystery of the night sky, you’ve felt the closeness of its designer. Nature’s extravagant diversity, unfolding in living color, has made you long to know the artist who dreamed it all up. Imagine what that might be like—to actually know God in a way that fills your heart and whispers tremendous value and purpose to something deep within you.

But how can you experience a being you’re not even sure exists? Religious jargon and games can’t satisfy such a longing. It’s got to be real … or nothing at all.

A Search for What Is Real helps you sort through the questions, objections, and concerns that arise when you consider God not as some theological abstraction, but as someone you can actually connect with … and want to connect with, perhaps more than you know.

FINDING FAITH

The Finding Faith books A Search for What Makes Sense and A Search for What Is Real don’t try to tell you what to believe; they are guides in learning how to believe. If you think the spiritual journey requires turning your back on honesty and intellectual integrity, these two companion volumes will speak to both your mind and your soul.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310858683
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 7/13/2009
  • Series: Finding Faith
  • Sold by: Zondervan Publishing
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 658,708
  • File size: 656 KB

Meet the Author

Brian D. McLaren (MA, University of Maryland) is an author, speaker, activist and public theologian. After teaching college English, Brian pastored Cedar Ridge Community Church in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area. Brain has been active in networking and mentoring church planters and pastors for over 20 years. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings in the US and internationally.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

The Predicament of an Intelligent Person Seeking Faith

So here you find yourself at some point in your journey through life and you're seeking faith, which is another way of saying you're seeking spirituality, and God, since faith is the doorway into spirituality and the primary means of connecting with God.

Dimensions of the Quest

The search you have embarked upon is a quest of staggering proportions. Its dimensions are wide and deep, breathtaking at times, inviting you to the dizzying rim of some awe-inspiring vistas, leaving you wordless in humbled silence. Though a healthy faith is bigger than the intellect, the search for faith cannot bypass the intellect. The sincere spiritual seeker must engage the mind fully, even while transcending cold or calculating rationalism. This is a journey that will require you to think bigger than you ever have before, and then to think bigger still.

But the search for faith also involves non-cognitive parts of us -- emotions, longings, aspirations, dreams and hopes and fears, drives, desires, intuitions. It often forces us to face some ugliness in ourselves, some hard facts about life, requiring courage, honesty, and determination. Faith involves admitting with humility and boldness that we need to change, to go against the flow, to be different, to face and shine the light on our cherished illusions and prejudices, and to discover new truths that can be liberating even though they may be difficult for the ego, painful to the pride. The search for an authentic faith must be the most life-changing quest anyone can ever launch. It's no Sunday school picnic.

Whom Can You Trust?

Another challenge: To whom do you talk about this search? Perhaps you could go to a minister, pastor, rabbi, or priest. But don't they have a vested interest in the outcome of your search? Can you trust them to be unbiased, or might they push you, stack the deck, suppress some evidence and inflate other evidence, subtly making it hard for you to say no?

You might go to a counselor, but then again, the counselor may see your search as a pathology and try to cure you of it.

It's not always easy to consult your spouse, either. "Searching for God? I just wish you'd help with the dishes or clean out the car," you might hear. Or, "You don't have to become more spiritual, dear, just less grouchy." Or, "So now it's spirituality. I wonder how long this will last." A friend's response might be similarly discouraging: "Oh, great. Does this mean you won't play cards with us anymore? Are you going to make us hold hands in restaurants and pray before we eat? Will I have to apologize from now on if I say a four-letter word in front of you?"

You might consult a college professor of comparative religion or a historian conversant with the development of world religions, someone for whom the subject is purely abstract and intellectual. But might her very objectivity and professional detachment create another set of problems? Wouldn't you find yourself apologizing for taking this whole thing so seriously -- so personally -- in the first place? Wouldn't you find it hard to express your personal longings in the company of someone who studies those very personal longings as sociological or psychological or historical phenomena?

The fact is, thankfully, there are many ministers, counselors, friends, and professors who could be of real help to you in your search, who understand your desire for unhurried and unpressured guidance, who will not coerce you to conform your search to their expectations, who will offer guidance while leaving room for you to reach your own conclusions. I hope I can be of help to you in precisely this way. I am a pastor, but before entering ministry, I worked in secular higher education (as an academic counselor and college English instructor). And in each role, I have become more and more sensitive to the predicament of the intelligent adult who begins searching for faith, for spirituality, and for God. I can't pretend that I'm completely neutral, a totally objective third party. Here's my bias: I sincerely hope you find what you're looking for. Toward that end I am dedicating myself in these pages.

What Your Search Is Not

If I understand you and your situation correctly, there are two things your search is not. On the one hand, it is not an act of desperation. You are not in such a frenzied emotional state that you're willing to believe anything as long as it brings relief. Sadly, some people are reduced to this condition, and they jump on the assembly lines of cults and extremist groups, ready to conform, ready to make false confessions, ready to sacrifice their personal responsibility for the benefit of belonging to a group that is sure about everything.

No doubt there are things from which you seek relief, and conversely, things you desire: a sense of purpose for your life, perhaps; forgiveness and peace to replace the guilt and fear that nag you; an integrated philosophy or worldview that makes sense of life with all its grandeur and squalor; an explanation for the spiritual experiences that have come unbidden into your life. But these triggers to your search require something more than a desperate emotional placebo for you. You would actually aspire to know some truth. Your search is for a relationship with a God who really exists, and if no such God exists, then you want to know that too, straight up.

The Physics Lecture

On the other hand, neither is your search merely objective, detached, theoretical, academic. One of my favorite novelists (Walker Percy) loved to picture the difference between your search and the more objective, abstract type of search with a story something like this: Imagine a group of physicists and astronomers gathered for a lecture on cosmic background radiation. As the lab-coated lecturer drones on, the group is listening, taking notes, rubbing their chins, crossing and uncrossing their legs, maybe nodding a bit, occasionally mumbling, "Interesting," or something of that sort. Suddenly, a woman walks briskly onto the stage and whispers something in the lecturer's ear. He hands her the microphone and she says, "Ladies and gentlemen, a fire has broken out in the lobby. Please stay calm. Leave quietly and quickly through the exits on your left. Do not use the rear exits, as they are already smoke-filled and unsafe. Please follow me -- this way."

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Table of Contents

Contents Preface Introduction: The Predicament of an Intelligent Person Seeking Faith Part 1: Faith, Knowledge, and Doubt
1. Does It Really Matter What I Believe?
2. What Is the Relationship Between Faith and Knowledge?
3. How Does Faith Grow?
Part 2: God, for Logical Thinkers
4. Can I Believe in Atheism?
5. Which Form of Agnosticism Is Best?
6. If There Is One God, Why Are There So Many Religions?
7. Do You Seriously Expect Me to Think of God As an Old Man with a Long White Beard?
8. Don’t All Paths Lead to the Same God?
Part 3: Spiritual Experience
9. How Might God Be Experienced?
10. How Else Might God Be Experienced?
11. Can God Be Experienced Through Doubt?
Part 4: Help for the Spiritual Search
12. Why Is Church the Last Place I Think of for Help in My Spiritual Search?
13. Why Is the Bible the Next-to-Last Place I Think of for Help in My Spiritual Search?
14. What If I Lose Interest?
Part 5: Milestones in My Spiritual Journey
15. Tadpoles on the Kitchen Table
16. Jesus Anonymous
17. On a Maryland Hillside

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First Chapter

Introduction The Predicament of an Intelligent Person Seeking Faith So here you find yourself at some point in your journey through life and you’re seeking faith, which is another way of saying you’re seeking spirituality, and God, since faith is the doorway into spirituality and the primary means of connecting with God.
Dimensions of the Quest The search you have embarked upon is a quest of staggering proportions. Its dimensions are wide and deep, breathtaking at times, inviting you to the dizzying rim of some awe-inspiring vistas, leaving you wordless in humbled silence. Though a healthy faith is bigger than the intellect, the search for faith cannot bypass the intellect. The sincere spiritual seeker must engage the mind fully, even while transcending cold or calculating rationalism. This is a journey that will require you to think bigger than you ever have before, and then to think bigger still.
But the search for faith also involves non-cognitive parts of us — emotions, longings, aspirations, dreams and hopes and fears, drives, desires, intuitions. It often forces us to face some ugliness in ourselves, some hard facts about life, requiring courage, honesty, and determination. Faith involves admitting with humility and boldness that we need to change, to go against the flow, to be different, to face and shine the light on our cherished illusions and prejudices, and to discover new truths that can be liberating even though they may be difficult for the ego, painful to the pride. The search for an authentic faith must be the most life-changing quest anyone can ever launch. It’s no Sunday school picnic.
Whom Can You Trust?
Another challenge: To whom do you talk about this search? Perhaps you could go to a minister, pastor, rabbi, or priest. But don’t they have a vested interest in the outcome of your search? Can you trust them to be unbiased, or might they push you, stack the deck, suppress some evidence and inflate other evidence, subtly making it hard for you to say no?
You might go to a counselor, but then again, the counselor may see your search as a pathology and try to cure you of it.
It’s not always easy to consult your spouse, either. “Searching for God? I just wish you’d help with the dishes or clean out the car,” you might hear. Or, “You don’t have to become more spiritual, dear, just less grouchy.” Or, “So now it’s spirituality. I wonder how long this will last.” A friend’s response might be similarly discouraging: “Oh, great. Does this mean you won’t play cards with us anymore? Are you going to make us hold hands in restaurants and pray before we eat? Will I have to apologize from now on if I say a four-letter word in front of you?”
You might consult a college professor of comparative religion or a historian conversant with the development of world religions, someone for whom the subject is purely abstract and intellectual. But might her very objectivity and professional detachment create another set of problems? Wouldn’t you find yourself apologizing for taking this whole thing so seriously — so personally — in the first place? Wouldn’t you find it hard to express your personal longings in the company of someone who studies those very personal longings as sociological or psychological or historical phenomena?
The fact is, thankfully, there are many ministers, counselors, friends, and professors who could be of real help to you in your search, who understand your desire for unhurried and unpressured guidance, who will not coerce you to conform your search to their expectations, who will offer guidance while leaving room for you to reach your own conclusions. I hope I can be of help to you in precisely this way. I am a pastor, but before entering ministry, I worked in secular higher education (as an academic counselor and college English instructor). And in each role, I have become more and more sensitive to the predicament of the intelligent adult who begins searching for faith, for spirituality, and for God. I can’t pretend that I’m completely neutral, a totally objective third party. Here’s my bias: I sincerely hope you find what you’re looking for. Toward that end I am dedicating myself in these pages.
What Your Search Is Not If I understand you and your situation correctly, there are two things your search is not. On the one hand, it is not an act of desperation. You are not in such a frenzied emotional state that you’re willing to believe anything as long as it brings relief. Sadly, some people are reduced to this condition, and they jump on the assembly lines of cults and extremist groups, ready to conform, ready to make false confessions, ready to sacrifice their personal responsibility for the benefit of belonging to a group that is sure about everything.
No doubt there are things from which you seek relief, and conversely, things you desire: a sense of purpose for your life, perhaps; forgiveness and peace to replace the guilt and fear that nag you; an integrated philosophy or worldview that makes sense of life with all its grandeur and squalor; an explanation for the spiritual experiences that have come unbidden into your life. But these triggers to your search require something more than a desperate emotional placebo for you. You would actually aspire to know some truth. Your search is for a relationship with a God who really exists, and if no such God exists, then you want to know that too, straight up.
The Physics Lecture On the other hand, neither is your search merely objective, detached, theoretical, academic. One of my favorite novelists (Walker Percy) loved to picture the difference between your search and the more objective, abstract type of search with a story something like this: Imagine a group of physicists and astronomers gathered for a lecture on cosmic background radiation. As the lab-coated lecturer drones on, the group is listening, taking notes, rubbing their chins, crossing and uncrossing their legs, maybe nodding a bit, occasionally mumbling, “Interesting,” or something of that sort. Suddenly, a woman walks briskly onto the stage and whispers something in the lecturer’s ear. He hands her the microphone and she says, “Ladies and gentlemen, a fire has broken out in the lobby. Please stay calm. Leave quietly and quickly through the exits on your left. Do not use the rear exits, as they are already smoke-filled and unsafe. Please follow me — this way.”

Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Faith Discovery Quest

    McLaren explores the ways in which people "experience God." In this book he addresses those who have not yet come to belief, who have not yet come to experience God. His stated goal is to help the reader discover how to believe.

    This book is not for a person who has decided they have already figured God out. McLaren takes God seriously and leads us to explore God in relational terms that draw us into the actual life of God, not just an easy dogma. McLaren takes seriously the inner turmoil and uncertainty many of us have when moving into faith or progressing in the rich and uncharted depths of the Faith-Life.

    This sensitive writer is clear that he has beliefs and that these are basic to his identity. But he understands his task to be not telling others what to believe, how to believe or how to experience God. Rather, he takes the approach of an advocate, a partner in the search, and steps back from his own experience to explore how various people of his personal acquaintance have come to experience the reality of God and to come into relationship with God.

    In the process, he shows no fear as he additionally reports on personal experiences, problems and challenges that have led to his own insights and awareness of the reality of God. He speaks of experiencing God in various situations and coming to constant awareness of God's presence and working in his life.

    McLaren does not set out to give answers to common problems. This book is not another of those popular books in the vein of "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About God and How to Believe in Him." No, this thoughtful and sympathetic book takes seriously people's inner experience of life and its complexity. As in previous books, McLaren takes both Faith and his readers seriously, inviting the reader to engage the topic and explore the possibilities.

    In this focused, personal and readable book, McLaren encourages exploration, and leads us on a journey through the real experiences of people who have experienced God and come to understand life in Faith. He illustrates 12 common ways that individuals come to faith through their experiences and thought processes.

    He then spends one whole chapter on an additional possible way to come to faith. Chapter 3 asks "Can I experience God through Doubt?" He then proceeds into two areas: Help for the Spiritual Search and Milestones for My Spiritual Journey. As usual, McLaren does not waste time on useless philosophies or abstract ideas. This is not a rationalist presentation of abstract intellectual constructs.

    This is a practical guide, with a friendly tone and an understanding heart. McLaren's little volume will be a helpful and non-threatening aid for those who have the feeling there is something in the reality beyond us that holds value for us, but who are tired of the silly and judgemental trivialities usually presented as the way to find the spiritual reality we call God. McLaren is nobody's fool.

    This book could be considered a contribution to the topic of Faith and Life. Because McLaren reports on actual case studies, it could also be considered a commentary on the challenges of contemporary American culture, from a dynamic spiritual perspective.

    McLaren is a friend and guide who helps clarify common questions and suggest situations and processes for discovering and exploring the spiritual reality of God in personal faith.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2012

    Good book, not for everyone.

    This book might be for you if you are interested in searching for a church or a little guidance on how to experience God in your life

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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