DATE: 12/24/2007 12:35:00 PM BODY:


Of the 900,000 or so words that have appeared in this space over the last year, most will disappear into the void within minutes, or hours and days at the most. Over the next three days, I'm going to post the four blog-posts I've written that, with any luck, might last a little longer. Here's the first, as part of my blogalogue with Sam Harris. It was first posted on March 14. I've taken the liberty of rewriting the final sentence, because in retrospect, it was too easily misconstrued as some kind of jab. But the rest I still stand behind. It's been a spiritually difficult year for me - after a tough several years. It's hard to write about, and perhaps important not to write about, but engaging with Sam was one of the highlights of my year, and this response is close to the heart of the matter:

First off, sorry for the dropped ball. Two reasons: mounds of other work and, if I were being completely honest, a bit of a block. I don't want to go around in circles, so I spent some time re-reading our entire exchange and trying to figure out what the core questions are that I haven't adequately addressed. I also found myself a little embarrassed in retrospect by the forthrightness of my claims to faith. I feel an unworthy apologist for Christianity in many ways. I'm not a trained theologian nor a priest nor even someone who thinks of himself as a good Christian. The Pope believes I live in mortal sin because I love and live with another man. But I remain a believer in Jesus and in the Gospels and in the church, and I agreed to start this, so I'd better continue. So here goes.

You argued a while back that my notion of God "doesn't have much in the way of specific content (apart from love)." I have indeed held back a little (although God-as-love is no small idea; it is an immense idea). What you have been driving at - rather effectively - is my refusal to say outright that because I believe that Jesus was and is the Son of God, the tenets of other faiths - Islam, Buddhism, Judaism - must be logically false. Mine, you insist, is a solid truth-claim that requires being addressed, especially because these mutually contradicting truth-claims are the source of so much conflict and dissension. You're right, I think, to judge me "a little evasive" on this score.

So let me get less evasive. As a Christian, I do deny Islam's claim that Jesus was not actually divine. I deny Judaism's claim that the Messiah has not yet come. I deny any other number of truth-claims held by people of other faiths. And you rightly point out that the nature of the phenomenon we're discussing - faith - has no universal rubric upon which to rationally decide one claim over another. You want me to engage instead in a discourse about the meaning of the universe that is based on more solid ground - the "real science" of cosmology, biology, chemistry, and ultimately neuroscience - as the key to understanding reality. Or you want me to be more consistent and take the gloves off and start pounding at the Muslims and Jews (and atheists, for that matter) for being so wrong about the most important issue we face as humans.

What is my answer to this?

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