Posted by: serrels | July 27, 2010

The House of Cards

Building a house of cards is no easy task.

It takes time. Patience. They’re extremely fragile. If one card slips or, worse, is torn out, the entire thing collapses underneath its own weight and inconsistency.

I often wonder about the nature of belief, especially the kind that leads to conclusions I find strange or illogical. Religion is attractive for a number of reasons – reasons that are easily understood. And so much of what is taught about religion remains relevant today; parables from the Gospel, the ten commandments, forgiveness. But how do Christians resolve the internal inconsistencies that exist in the bible, or rationalise the hurt their belief system has brought upon the world? How do they justify that which is completely irrelevant? The brutal, barbaric stuff.

I’ve watched plenty of Christians struggle with that burden – and I often think that the healthiest Christians struggle most – crisis’ of faith, unanswered questions, unresolvable issues. Abortion, rape, homosexuality, creation – taking the bible literally is dangerous, but treating it as anything other than the direct word of God is, for some Christians at least, a difficult pill to swallow.

Remove a single piece from the house of cards, and the entire structure comes tumbling down. Therefore it is up to Christianity to protect that structure. At all costs.

Plenty of Atheists will attack Christians for ignorance. They’re against Gay marriage because they’re backwards, they’re against abortion because they’re heartless; they don’t accept Evolution because they’re stupid.

Of course, that’s not (usually) the case. Christians are (usually) painfully aware of these issues. Far more than you or I. They struggle with these questions constantly. The bottom line is this: Christians are far from ignorant; they’re simply protecting their House of Cards. At all costs if necessary.

These guys: big ass house of cards…

Because building a house of cards is no easy task. The bigger the house, the more fragile it becomes. And if its foundation is built from half-truths and conflict, then that house of cards becomes more fragile still. Take out one single card, one single concept, one single tiny belief, and the whole thing comes tumbling down.

And this phenomenon is by no means exclusive to Christians – Atheists, Agnostics, Muslims, whatever, if they have a belief system, they have their very own House of Cards. The more bloated and inconsistent the belief system, the more fragile the house of cards; and the more vehemently said structure needs to be protected.

It’s the reason why certain debate topics are so emotionally charged – so much is at stake. Remove one piece from the house of cards and the entire structure becomes untenable. No one will abandon a single argument, or give any quarter, because to concede a single point would be tantamount to complete and utter surrender; the integrity of the whole would be in question.

And no-one wants their belief system to collapse; no one has the fortitude or time to rebuild.

Because building a house of cards is no easy task.

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  1. The Christian beliefs are founded on a rock of truth, not a house of cards. The reason you find inconsistency is because man is flawed, as God warned us we where. You look at fools, like those pictured from Westboro baptist church, and you mistake them for Christians.

    Unfortunately there are many people who do not study the bible before trying to tell people what it says. If you take the time to study the bible it is clear what it says and what it doesn’t say.

    I know you will not change your over all opinion because of my comment, but I hope that if you want to know more about the true Christian beliefs that you don’t ask a hypocrite. Go see what John MacArthur says or John Piper, these are men that have a solid understanding of what the bible says. They are not perfect, but they can give you a more solid understanding of what the bible says. Of course none of us will know all God tried to say through the bible until we see him face to face.

  2. Serrels, this is by far the most interesting read and most objective take on this issue I can recall. And as a Christian all I can say is you are 100% correct. Not one person can confidently and competently argue for or against any issue of the foundation of their understanding (or in this case, belief system) is flawed. As humans, we have an innate quest to understand everything, a task impossible to complete. This is why as a Christian, Athiest, Muslim… However you identify an element of faith comes in. I believe in an almighty God, yet I don’t understand Him. I must take a step in faith that an understanding is not important, rather a standing, a decision one way or the other is. This innate quest to understand and gain knowledge is not a flaw, but rather a gift to come to a decision, and a somewhat informed decision at that. I honestly think that my house of cards is shaky, however when those cards come tumbling down, I can refocus on my foundations and start building again – this time from something stronger than cards. You know what, my house of…whatever I build from, may fall multiple times, but it only makes me refocus and start the build again. The arguments and opinions of others may hurt, but it’s those same arguments and opinions that have made me come to a better understanding and more compassionate view of the world around me.

    • Really like your comment Josh. Good one.

  3. I would hope that my belief was stronger than a house of cards. If everyone’s belief’s were only as strong as a house of cards do they really believe?

  4. I don’t know if you’ve read “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell, but creates an image that I find really helpful as a Christians who thinks/struggles with issues etc. He contrasts ‘doctrines’ as bricks in a wall (where if you remove one, the wall falls down) to springs on a trampoline – something that helps you jump higher and closer to God, but is not going to make the whole thing fall apart if it stops working or is removed…

  5. I like the posting. However, I think that the idea of belief as one card in a fragile house of cards covers only a small part of society – those that do not really truely believe in anything.
    I think that the Gen X and Y and most of those that have come through their formal education where they are taught to “question everything” do not get the chance to really believe in something.
    My point is this: It does not matter what you believe in, it is the ‘belief’ that makes it true. Ask why a teenager in Iraq can strap on a belt filled with explosive and blow themselves up … belief!

    It is not what is the subject of the belief that is the house of cards it is the strength of the belief itself that is weak.

  6. A House of Cards “glued” together will behold the strongest winds.
    The nature of belief is based mainly on your own personal experience. And certainly this is something which is limited by your own understanding of things. Our limited minds and short sited eyes are not always able to comprehend fully what is the true nature of the spiritual realm. This is why we create analogies, like your analogy of the “House of Cards”. Very clever indeed, however, there is one flaw which is not intentional I’m sure. If we use the House of Card’s analogy to explain our belief system, we conclude easily that there is no unity in them. It’s build with separate and not cohesive materials. If you take one card off the whole structure will collapse. Surely this is not a solid structure. The cards represent just separate pieces of truth. But belief is more than that, it is an organic structure, it’s alive and constantly renewing itself with more understanding that comes from experience. If one peace doesn’t fit, as we try to explain things from a human perspective, eventually the rest will bring more understanding to the whole system. I’ve learnt not to give up, nor to brag about how much I know, because we all have just a partial understanding of the bigger picture.
    Consider the following analogy: In an ancient village, a parable tells, all the people were blind. One day while walking on the road, six men from that village came upon a man riding an elephant. The six men, who had heard about elephants but had never been close to one, asked the rider to allow them to touch the great beast. They wanted to go back to their village to tell the other villagers what an elephant looked like. The rider agreed and led each of the six men to a different part of the elephant. All the blind men touched and stroked the elephant until they were certain they knew what the animal looked like.
    In great anticipation they returned to their village to report their experience. The villagers gathered around to hear about the elephant. The first man. Who had felt the animal’s side, said, “An elephant is like a great thick wall.” “Nonsense,” said the second man, who had felt the elephant’s tusk. “He is rather short, and smooth, but very sharp. I would compare an elephant not with a wall but with a spear!” The third man, who had touched the ear, took exception. “It is nothing at all like a wall or a spear,” he said. “It is like a gigantic leaf made of thick wool carpet. It moves when you touch it.” “I disagree,” said the fourth man, who had handled the trunk. “I can tell you that an elephant is like a giant snake.” The fifth man shouted his disapproval. He had touched one of the elephant’s legs and concluded, “An elephant is round and thick, like a tree.” The sixth man had been allowed to ride on the elephant’s back, and he protested, “Can none of you accurately describe an elephant? Clearly he is like a gigantic moving mountain!”
    To this day, the men continue to argue, and no one in the village has any idea what an elephant looks like.
    People describe God in many different ways -because He is experienced in many different ways. For us to understand the foundations of our belief system, we must be aware of our own limitations. We don’t see or understand the whole picture. We’ve labeled it and think we know it best. But wait, experience will show you things can be different. Whenever we perceive only one view of God, or one view of the truth, we are likely to be misled. I prefer the elephant analogy than the house of cards, iIf one part collapses the rest will still be standing.

  7. Welcome to the nature of logical landmines of a church. Put on some blinders and be civil or have fun crossing that field.

  8. If Xtians play the card ” in adam all sinned” and then build the next card “thus in jesus all redeemed” then the fact that the garden of eden is myth and there was NO adam – the entire house of cards falls down..

    • What proof do you have that the garden of eden is a myth?

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