Yesterday was a hectic day but I finally found the time, late last night, to pen the following to my son in response to his questions yesterday:
There's so much to say in response to your questions... it's hard to know where to start...
The first thing I think I should do is just acknowledge that I think it great that you're thinking these thoughts and that you're essentially asking the most important of all questions.
Using words like right and true in the context that you used them suggests that you're still clinging to the notion that right and true are knowable things. I'm relieved. Damned relieved. You're in an academic culture where the predominant mindset is that right and true are concepts that can only be decided upon by the individual and that what is right and true for you may not be right and true for anyone else.
That, frankly and bluntly, is bullshit. But I think you know I'd say that.
The problem here is that in essence, from my perspective, you're asking for proof of faith which I liken to asking... oh... for proof of water's dryness... or proof that green has a square root... we're just not going to get to one from the other...
In the end, I can only opine that in my view proof and faith simply mix not. Probably an answer that doesn't leave a pleasant taste. But it's the best I can do given the knowledge I've gained over the years.
You know well that just a few short years ago I'd have gone to the Bible and quoted you one verse or another to try to prove the rightness of what I believe. I can't do that with integrity now. It's not that I doubt that the Scriptures are authoritative nor is it that I doubt that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I believe both those things. Firmly. What I doubt is that I can in some way awaken your faith, strengthen it, embolden it, absent God actually doing the work.
For a good while, I thought I could. I thought that if I prayed enough, or went to church enough, or was "Godly" enough, or became a priest, that I could show you, and Ryan, and Mom, and all those I love, that Christianity was right and true and that the proof was in the person I would become. But I would fail time and again, in one way or the other, to pray enough, to go to Church enough, to be "Godly" enough, to become a priest, and for a time I thought that my failures, some of them rather visible to you and Mom and Ryan, would in some way cause your faith and the faith of others I loved, to falter. I was straining to become someone I could never be because I thought that in that becoming, others would come to a stronger faith.
Somehow, by experience and ultimately a dogged weariness, I learned that I couldn't muster up faith for me, much less anyone else. I learned that in fact faith had an external source, a source I have no control over. I don't completely understand it all, and that's frustrating, especially for me, but the bottom line is that I've come to believe that faith is something God simply grants. And I think he tends to grant more of it the more you realize that you can't generate it on your own.
The rightness of my faith in Jesus Christ, in the end, is something I'll never be able to prove to anyone. I could probably still argue about the reasonableness of certain aspects of the Christian faith. And I think that maybe, for a short time, you might find those arguments persuasive. But sustaining faith, especially in the face of those times when things are simply not going your way, is something you'll not have as the by-product of persuasive arguments. It'll be something you simply have because God has decided to give it to you. And again, I think He gives you more of it the more you come to the realization that you can't muster it up on your own.
Lots of words here son. Some of it may not make much sense. My advice, at this point, is for you to focus less on proof of the rightness of your beliefs and more on simply seeking Him to grant you more faith. He'll know your sincerity and honor you.
In fact, I think your questions are proof that He's already doing so.
Love you son.
Thanks to all who've responded thus far and thanks to you son for making us think. My prayer is that God tangibly manifests His presence to you soon and often.