Monday, February 9, 2009

What I Believe

People always ask me what I believe about God. I think this is because they either want someone to agree with them and affirm their beliefs, or that they are genuinely interested in where my inspiration comes from. A lot of what I believe comes out in my music, so I think this makes people interested to hear an explanation. It's hard to explain beliefs, especially when they are spiritual, because you can rarely give a reason tangible enough for a skeptical person to understand. I know this because I am a skeptical person. I have come to the realization, however, that I do not know everything, that things beyond my understanding are possible, and that I should continue to search for truth regardless of how hard it is to find. Basically, I've followed my heart. You might read that and extract that I am a fool, but the truth is that my mind lines up with my heart. On behalf of my mind I have searched out much of the available evidence for and against what my heart believes. In summation, the evidence for my belief outweighs any natural doubts against it.

I believe in the God of The Bible. He is the only thing that makes sense to me. I am not a theologian or an apologetics professor or an investigative reporter. Here are some people who are, and they happen to have written some really good books about it:

Dr. Gregory A. Boyd - Letters From A Skeptic

This is a written back-and-forth conversation via mail between an apologetics professor with many degrees and his extremely intelligent, agnostic father. If you are a logical person, and you like "if-then" statements, this book is for you. If you are not, this book is still for you.

C.S. Lewis - Mere Christianity 

Known mostly for his children's book series Narnia, former atheist C.S. Lewis was in my opinion one of the deepest thinkers of the last century. He was a respected theologian and writer at Oxford University. If you like a classic British tone jam-packed with articulated meaning, this is the book for you.

Lee Strobel - A Case For Christ 

Lee Strobel was an investigative journalist and legal editor at The Chicago Tribune. When his wife became a christian he set out to prove her wrong. His findings proved her right, and in the end he became a christian himself based on the evidence he uncovered.

The Bible

While abused when in the wrong hands, it's message is simply Love. The Old Testament is a love story of a God who refuses to give up on His people, even when they turn their back on him with greed, selfishness and sin. The Gospels continue that love story with Jesus who comes to finally clear the tarnished name of people so that they could be in community with God. If you have problems with christians, it is probably because they weren't being anything like Jesus. If you want proof, read the four biographies of Jesus' life, written by some of the folks who followed him around. They are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They cover some of the same happenings from different perspectives, and some different happenings as well.

If you aren't a book person, and you want to hear an argument for theism that is intelligent and meaningful, you should listen to former atheist Ravi Zacharias' sermon entitled "Why I'm Not an Athiest." You can find it anywhere on the internet. I just saw a version on YouTube.

The above referenced sources are for the purpose of making what I am about to say below more understandable to the average agnostic. This is not to assume you are dense, but if you do not understand the basic principles of what I believe, it might be hard to see where I'm coming from.
If you are a christian, and you want to know what sort of doctrines I subscribe to, I should tell you that I have an indifference for religion and rules, and I do not subscribe to any denomination. The frequently controversial Bono once said, 

"I have this hunger in me...every where I look; I see evidence of the Creator. But I don't see it as a religion, which has cut my people in two. I don't see Jesus Christ as being any part of a religion. Religion to me is almost what like when God leaves—and people devise a set of rules to fill the space." 

For the most part I agree with that.

For Christians who would like to know where I stand as far as acting out my faith, or who wish to further investigate what a modern Christian might aspire to be, the books below are about what I believe that looks like in Western Society. On top of that, they're both very entertaining and thought-provoking reads.

Donald Miller - Blue Like Jazz

The Bible mentions it plenty, but the sad thing is people rarely hear this today: God is Love. When people see christians, they usually see God is judgement, God is anger, but they fail to see the most important thing that He is; Love. Christians believe that Jesus was the personification of God in the flesh. The essence of God lived out through a man. Jesus was characterized by Love. Every step he took was out of Love. When Jesus was asked in Matthew 22 by a religious expert what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied: 

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Here were a few very religious folks trying to trap Jesus with contradictory questions, and he just simplifies all the law of the prophets, the law that they strictly follow, into the sole commandment of Love. I can imagine it's because they didn't have much love for their neighbors. Jesus even goes on to say in Matthew 23:27 (Message):

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." 

These religious folk did everything right, they tithed down to a tenth of their spices! They were incredible keepers of the laws and rules of their religion, but here Jesus says they were dead inside because they lacked love. It sounds to me like Jesus was pretty anti-religion, and pro-love. No wonder peace-loving hippies grow out their beards and wear sandals.

1 John 4:8 says, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." That is a pretty convicting statement for those who wear the name of Christ but refuse to love. 

A while ago I received a chain letter in my email inbox. It was list of different historical figures who had apparently mocked God in some way, and then, to all appearances they had subsequently met their untimely deaths. The point of the email was to strike fear and reverence in the hearts of the reader. Its reference was Galatians 6:7, which reads: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

This bothered me. For some reason, some christians tend to focus on the wrath of God. Maybe it's because we all want justice... we want people who do wrong to experience the wrath of God so justice will be served. I think also, sadistically, we might like to see others get knocked off their high-horse. But when christians (I know from my own experience) start saying, "God is like this and like that, and when you do this, God will do this," it can lead to a sense of insulated security. It all sounds very tempting and simple and understandable. But I think these stories of the wrath of God inflicted on sinners can lead to a sense of smugness, at least in myself, so I am quick to guard my heart against it. Also, to say that God is a formulaic God, that if you do this, He does that, is very against the nature of God. Granted, He does promise some things to us, but to say that He follows a formula that we can understand, actually makes Him seem more human and less fearful. The thing that makes me fear God is the idea that an infinite, all knowing, all powerful and dangerous being is out there and who knows what He has planned next. Just like C.S. Lewis says, "He's not safe, but he is good." To say that God follows this cause and effect formula really puts Him in a box in my head. It actually takes away the REAL fear, the fear that is deeper than just the fear of untimely death due to my ever failing actions and words.

So when did Jesus show wrath? To religious people! People who represented His Father terribly by passing judgement on the poor sinners Jesus came to save. That is what we know about God; how he feels about these hypocrites who are like  "white washed tombs," as Jesus said. Also, when I read Galatians 6:7 in the context that Paul was writing it, I find that he was addressing a christian church, not gays or hippies or fascist leaders or pagans, but actual christian people who might have the propensity to mock God or use Him for their own purposes.

The reap what you sow argument? I see how folks can take that out of context, but when you look at Jesus, he has reaped it all on himself! 
Isaiah 53:6 says, 

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all."

In 1 Timothy 1:15, the Apostle Paul, a servant of God very humbly says, 

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst."

Isn't that amazing? One of the major fathers of the church not only admits his own faults, but says he is the worst! How many christians today would admit that? What's more amazing is that we have sowed and continue to sow sin in its various forms, and all Jesus sees is a paid debt. I believe there are physical and real consequences for our actions like distance from God, lack of hope and direction, suffering relationships, addiction and emptiness. But to say that if somebody says something blasphemous, especially somebody who is spiritually lost and has never met Jesus, to say that they will reap the wrath of God seems very careless. To say that God (the God of grace and love and forgiveness for sinners) has made an example of that person by killing them off... it just sounds a bit narrow, a bit presumptuous, and a bit ignorant (if I may say so in the humblest of tones).

When we look at Jesus, we don't see someone who killed off the people who mocked Him and even beat him, we see someone who saw the lostness in their faces and said these beautiful words: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

That is what we know about God. We know that no matter how much wrong a person does, God still wants to forgive. And that is why I think its important to focus on His Grace rather than His Wrath. His Wrath is always a last resort, and His Grace is always sufficient.

In fact, many of the passages of judgement in the New Testament are reserved for religious leadership. James 3:1 says "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." That's a scary thought for those church leaders who have abused their positions. Not only will they answer for their sin, but they will answer more harshly.

I fear that I may have flirted to much with a tangent here. The topic, is "What I Believe," and perhaps I have only given you a small portion of that. Thinking about it now, it seems absurd for me to assume that I could place all of what I believe in one post. The rest, I suppose, could be for another post on another day. 

The intent of this post was not to debate doctrine or Biblical truth, but to look back on the understanding that I've acquired, to filter that into comprehensible words, and to hopefully inspire a dialogue about the foundations of spiritual belief.


  1. Great read.

    I love how the more we learn about God, the more unknowable and delightfully mysterious he becomes. I think the more we understand his character, the better. Justice, mercy, wrath, love; it all comes together to make the most thrilling picture...

    I believe filling our brains with "facts" about God can be dangerous (pride), but it can also lead to the discovery of new depths of his glory (when done in humility).

    Thanks for the awesome blog. Keep writing, and I'll keep reading.

  2. hey Matt, it is always interesting reading or hearing what you have to say on things like this (your interview with Jesus Freak Hideout especially). It seems that you have thought these things out pretty well and if you wrote this post from memory that would be pretty amazing, I'm pretty sure I would have had to google or use blueletterbible to find the verses I was looking for, I have a terrible memory for exact phrasing of things most of the time. I agree that the love of God is truly important (especially in line with what Jesus responded as the greatest commandment) and where the Word says that His kindness leads to repentence. However, I don't think we can truly brush aside any part of God, including His wrath. If there is no realization of the wrath of God, there is hardly a reason to seek His love. Without the thought of hell, there might be no reason for one to seek Heaven. If we weren't to consider it, it would have never been brought up, right? I'm not saying that it should be our focus, but I don't think it is something to ignore either. Also, if we are trying to lead someone to a faith in Christ, we would be remiss to not put an emphasis on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, as Paul wrote that he aimed to know or preach anything but the cross of Christ. Anyway, loving the blog, I hope you keep it up!


  3. Hey Tyler, great comment. I totally agree that God is infinitely faceted and we cannot truly begin to understand the depth of His character. What I believe Jesus shows us, however, is that He is mostly in the business of love. Love is the only reason we can have any communion with Him at all. What I'm saying is that it should be the primary thing that Christians represent, but sadly many people only see judgement and wrath from Christians in America.

    Also, I believe the Gospel of Love is more effective than the fear-mongering type of Gospel. A healthy reverence and fear of our Creator is natural when you attempt to understand His greatness. Proverbs is clear that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I will say this from experience; I was raised in a pretty fiery old church, one that preached Hell from the pulpit three times a week. I remember as a child, on my knees in my bed, begging for God to save me because I was fearful of going to Hell, and I was fearful of the rapture. I remember numerous times praying the prayer, out of fear, just in case it didn't work the other times. I think that may have been the first step in my faith, but it wasn't the biggest one. It was only until I accepted God's grace and felt God's love at the age 19 that I believe any sort of life-change happened. When I look back, my experience with God's love at 19 is my true conversion, not the other times, when I tried to save my own hide from the fires of hell by jumping through religious hoops. I had always considered myself a christian, I suppose, but it wasn't until my experience with the love of God that I felt any different.

  4. <3

    Good stuff.

    I love the fact that you've taken the side of love and abandoned the side of legalism. Religion has its place, to be sure, but love is the cornerstone of Christianity. High five!

  5. Matt,
    I think you touched on another important thing...grace. The Lord can save someone through them seeing the love He has for them and also in conjuction with the fear that they have of Him, but either way we know that it is by grace through faith that we are saved. However God does it, the key is that God is the one doing it. He gives us grace, He gives us faith, He gives us love, He gives us a fear of Him, He gives us a relationship with Him. I don't necessarily have a problem with a little bit of hellfire preaching, but if you are hearing it 3 times a week in church it makes me wonder if the preacher was ignoring the idea of "growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ". Its hard to grow in grace when a preacher is constantly evangelizing the church. The gospel is something both believers and unbelievers need to hear, certainly, but believers also need to be taught the Word of God so that they can grow spiritually.

    just some thoughts, I don't think we are really disagreeing on anything so please dont take it that way if it sounds that way, just offering some more ideas on the subject. God is too vast for us to narrow Him down into a few lines :)

    it looks like you have a bit of time to write these days...are you at home working on stuff for a new ep or lp or something?

  6. Thanks for the input, I agree with you fully.

    We've been home a couple months and it turns out that for once I do have some spare time. I have been writing and demoing new songs in addition to writing on this blog, and we'll probably head into the studio as early as summertime. Thanks for caring :)

  7. I've got to agree with Tyler in the fact that it's very important to make sure you're in love with Jesus. ALL of Jesus. And Even though Jesus IS, at his very essence, love....Love isn't always kindness.

    Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, but he also said that he didn't come to bring PEACE, but he came to bring a SWORD.

    Mark 13:12-13 says "Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents anad have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved"

    I think it's important to realize that Jesus Christ is the truth, and you have to stand for what he says, no matter what. And I beleive you do that in love, so that those who see you may understand the truth, and embrace it.

    I also differ with you on the point of Church(which, I don't think you ever said anything directly about church, but I get the feeling that it falls under "Religion")

    Hebrews 10:23-25 says "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithfull. And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near."

    I believe that it's important to belong to a body of believers who is Active not only in worshiping God, but serving the world in love. And, with that, you HAVE to have a sense of Doctrine. You have to know what you believe about God, Christ, the Trinity, how you're supposed to live.

    Matthew 5:13-16 says "You are the salt of the earth. but if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven."

    It's important to have doctrine in your life, for the main purpose that Christians are called to be set apart from the world. They're supposed to be different .

    "Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God-what is good and well-pleasing and perfect" Romans 12:2

    Although, I believe that a church's doctrine, as well as an individual's should be loose, but strict.

    And what I mean by that, is it should be strict in the sense that the individual or the church should follow that doctrine completely. Yet, at the same time, if they ever find ANYTHING in the Bible that says something different, it should be changed IMMEDIATELY.

    All doctrine should come from the word of God. And if there is doctrine that DOESN'T come from the word of God, then it's wrong.


  8. Here's a sad story that about sums up my attitude toward "mainstream" Christianity (e.g. Bible Belt christianity): B used to attend a Christian college, Tennessee Temple University, in Chattanooga. The school has strict rules that the student body has to adhere to. One of their policies is to expel students who get pregnant. Around a year ago, a girl at that school got pregnant. She was so afraid of having to admit it to her school that she hid her pregnancy. She also ignored her own health and as a result, miscarried at around 5 or 6 months. The baby needed emergency medical care, but instead, the mother stuck the baby in a drawer in her dorm room. Hours later, her roommate discovered it and called an ambulance. The baby had been born alive but died in the drawer. The school declined to comment on the whole affair. A short while later, the girl miraculously "got saved" and the school worked something out with the local police because charges were never filed. I'm not sure if she was ever expelled, but she never faced any legal repercussions.

    In short, she essentially willfully aborted her baby through negligence. The school's policies obviously created an atmosphere in which she felt like she couldn't seek help for her situation. You can Google this story and it's about the saddest thing I've ever heard. Instead of expelling students who get pregnant, how about extending a little grace? How about establishing some level of support so someone doesn't arrive at the conclusion ignoring a pregnancy is a better option than addressing it? It strikes me that what concerned the school more was their image: a support network for single mothers wouldn't "look" good. Therein lies my issue with the incessant splitting of doctrinal hairs/legalism: if after 2000 years you haven't figured it out, you're probably not going to. What happened to the actual practice of faith and extending God's love to those (a.k.a. sinners) who need that demonstration the most?

  9. Matt,
    First and foremost: I randomly came across the classic crime about a year and a half ago and have been hooked ever since then. It's rare to hear a band with musical skill and carefully designed lyrics.

    Also a well thought out blog, especially the post on getting a wife, having been married for coming up to 6 months I can definitely agree I'm learning give and take like never before!

    But this post has given me a good opportunity to bring up a point. On the silver cord during the beginning you sing "'Cause every time I'm close to the holy ghost, I always seem to let her go.", are you referring to the holy spirit as a her?

    I think christian's spend far too much time arguing over small details, but this one seemed quite big to me and stopped me enjoying a great song. Can you clarify this?


  10. Phil what does it matter if the Holy Ghost is referred to as man or woman?

  11. I'm pretty sure he's reffering to his life there.....

  12. Its supposed to be a double meaning. The Holy Ghost has been called a her before to explain it's grace; 'descending like a dove' etc. The truth is humans experience peaks and valleys, and no matter how spiritually stable you feel one moment, with everything in your grasp, the next you might let "her" go. We all slip.

    That's one meaning, the other is from the road... that "when I'm close to Holy Ghost" I can let my worries of home go, I can let my wife go in a sense that I no longer have to be effected by the distance, I no longer have to obsess and miss and be disabled by it. I am free to do what I am there to do.

  13. Matt,
    It's great to see the thought processes that goes into the lyrics, thanks for taking the time to answer the question.

    Great blog post, personally I like psalm 100's summation of God's character: "For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."

    - Phil

  14. this is a fascinating blog... almost everything you said i agree with completely... i LOVE blue like jazz and the irresistible revolution, and many parts of mere christianity... now i'd really like to read "letters from a skeptic", since i guess i'm kind of skeptical myself...

    i often get really ticked off at how religious "christianity" is, or has become, i should say... because- as i think you mentioned matt- the whole reason jesus came was to get rid of religion, and from the very beginning people have made it just that- religion. which is kind of ironic...

    i'll second what phil said in his first comment- i also rather randomly found tcc a year and a half ago and have been hooked, it's so rare to find people who put thought and emotion into music, and then also write lyrics that resonate- with me, at least- so well... and all the intricacy, emotion, random (or not so random) connections, like between god&drugs and we all look elsewhere, a bunch of hidden biblical references, in the music and lyrics, as well as album art... excuse my little rant but it drives me insane i love it :D

    interesting about the double meaning in the beginning, i never thought it could be referring to the holy spirit there... :)

    so stoked for anything new coming. i will definitely be at the showbox on 3/21… all of your stuff continues to inspire me, more and more the better i get to know the music. never stop doing what you do.


  15. Matt,

    Wow, amazing blog man, i totally agree with a lot of things you said. i was born in a small but growing town called Chesterfield, Virginia (which is right out side of Richmond) and my family was a typical christian household, but our church reminds me a lot of the one you talked about, where the preacher spoke of hell and the wrath of God 3 out of 3 services a week, and i can remember kneeling at my bed, as a kid, think i am an awful person how can i be saved, not focused on how much God loves me and has forgiven me for all my sins that i have and will commit. He is an amazing God!

    So i grew up and my parents put me in a christian school which i feel helped and hurt me. It kept me for the most part out of trouble but i was almost stuck in this christian bubble of people who said they believed in Him but rarely did anything about it or show love to people. we were shallow and dumb thinking we knew things that we had no real knowledge of. In some instances attacking teachers for their certain believes in a topic. We as christians go for the throat of other christians so often that it's no wonder the world looks at us and says why would i want to be apart of that.

    I now go to Liberty University, and i know different people have different views on this school but i can say from my experience we are the closes christian university to showing God's love like you said.

    And this is a reply to GreenieWeenie's post; that story is awful and it kills me that the University would not show, to their students, that they care more about their well-being then some rule that they have put into place, but do not let that turn you off to christians because a lot of us want to show the love of God but we still make mistakes every day, i would never claim to be perfect i am no better than any other person. Liberty has a God-Parent home that takes mom's who are thinking of abortion and gives them money to have the baby and puts it up for adoption. They also work with their students and we have rules but they are slow to judge, and quicker to show God's love.

    Finally, i just want to say Matt your Lyrics are amazing and yall are my favorite band, can not wait to hear new stuff, hurry up and come back to Richmond, we love you here on the east coast.

    Also just a little FMI (For My Information) Who are the girls that sing in "Far From Home" and do they have any albums or songs out.