At the moment, my will for a spiritual life is strong, yet I am plagued by doubts. In particular, I feel that maybe all religions are an attempt to transcribe something unknowable to man. I fear that such thoughts are going to hinder my capacity to live an honest Christian life.
Yet I find secular humanism to be lacking as a way of life and ultimately leading to self-indulgence and narcissism.
Also, I find it hard to believe that God would allow children to be killed randomly by car accidents and disease. How can this be part of
his plan? I understand with murder that this is a result of free will. But random death of innocent people? How can he allow this? It makes
me think this God must have a streak of cruelty.
The abhorrent consequences of sin help men see the horror of sin and the radical depravity of mankind, upon which realisation they repent and turn to Christ. When you think about such things, read the ten commandments and the Sermon on the Mount and examine your sins. Realize you have been a rebel all your life. Then appreciate that it is because all men are sinners that we live under God's wrath. It is only when we aim at righteousness and blamelessness that we are stepping out of Satan's system of sin and suffering, to which we have all tacitly consenting by loving sin. As long as we are loving sin, we are contributing to the very thing you are complaining about. God sanctions this system as it is only the result of our own perversion. Mankind cannot be liberated from the consequences of sin without being free of sin itself.
I am also struggling a bit with understanding that the bread is literally the body of Christ (transubtantiation). It might be a limitation in my faith to fully believe this. I can intellectually understand it as symbolic, but it is a leap for me to go beyond this. Could anyone clarify this for me?
Transubstantiation is only one of the views of the literal presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's supper. In any case, let's take first what Christ said.
"Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.
” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood
of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:26-28
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His
flesh to eat?”
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this,
said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”
When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they
are life. But there are some of you who do not believe."
He says that his flesh is truly food, and is blood is truly drink. And then he gives His disciples bread and wine and says "This is My body" and "This is My blood." What is complicated about that? Eating His flesh and drinking His blood gives eternal life;
He says, and the Lord's Supper is His flesh and blood.
By saying that His flesh is truly food it is shown that His flesh is truly there in the bread of the Supper, etc. This does not contradict justification by faith, as you must believe that Jesus is God and all the rest that He says about Himself in order to believe that he inhabits the Supper truly.
If is quite interesting that He also says that, if this is hard for you to believe, what about the ressurection and the ascension? If you believe Jesus is risen from the dead and has exited the Cosmos in his glorified body, which now reigns beyond the visible universe,
how is it strange to you that His glorified body and blood can inhabit bread and wine at will? So indeed it is a matter of faith.
But the Divine Liturgy all in all is a peaceful and edifying experience, and I realized that this is how God ought to be worshipped, in contrast to the many Protestant worship services I attended that were just reduced into a larger Sunday routine of going to the mall in the afternoon or treating the church like a social networking club. There is no ego issue in the Orthodox liturgy, unlike in the Protestant "praise and worship" where the band singers and members try to show off their talents, or the pastors spent half an hour making an introduction and showing off their rhetoric skills. otoh the actions and words of the priest or bishop in the Divine Liturgy signify that he is just another tool or servant and that Christ is the real focus of worship.
More often than not, the priest has a script or outline for the sermon, but that actually means that his preaching is concise and straight to the point; I never experienced my attention span running out in comparison to the 90+ minutes of sermons by Evangelical pastors
Evangelicals who see this as an issue but to otherwise are still commited to the sufficiency of Scripture ought to really attend some old school Presbyterian liturgies (you can find many of these in the U.S.) or Confessional Lutheran, particularly those of Scandinavian origin in the latter (there are some of these in the U.S.). As far as I know, all of the Reformed churches of Puritan origin (many in the U.S.) have reverent liturgy, albeit without images.