Category Archives: Doubt

SO SIMPLE, SO NEGLECTED

Watching the video I posted yesterday reminds me of a simple, yet widely neglected truth: Christians must wrestle with the beliefs of their faith.  We are now embarrassed to say doctrine and theology.  Sounds too impractical.  If people come to that tragic conclusion, it is either the teacher’s fault or it could be the student’s fault.  But it is never the subject of vibrant and life-giving theology.  And notice how I felt compelled to modify theology.  Maybe I am too defensive!

What happens when we mainly attract people to church with the social benefits, yet they don’t really understand much of what the Christian faith is about?  Well, if they get troubled and want to ask probing questions, they might be told good Christians don’t struggle with such things.  I’ve heard my share of such horror stories.

Christianity is true, but rightly understood it is beautiful, compelling, worth everything we are and have.

GRAB A STRONG CUP OF COFFEE

Warning, and I am serious: Make sure you are ready spiritually to listen to the eighteen minute clip below.  Bart is the son of the famous, Christian speaker Tony Campolo.  Bart started many ministries, but recently became the first secular humanist chaplain at USC.

Below is the article followed by his short talk.  This is the kind of stuff that motivates me to put together a new seminar called “Listening to Skeptics and Doubters.”  Here is the brief description of that course/seminar.  If you know of a church or any organization who would be interested in having it, drop me a note at davidgemoore@gmail.com.

As Christians we understandably are quick to answer the questions raised by detractors of the gospel. 

In this course/seminar/talk (all options are available), I will certainly offer responses to the objections raised by those outside the Christian faith, but I seek to do something more. 

My approach follows somewhat in the spirit of Christian philosopher, Merold Westphal.  He patiently allowed Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche to bring their various cases against Christianity.  Then he did what most Christians don’t: he conceded that some of their concerns were valid.  Professor Westphal offered answers, but first he gave ample time so these three “masters of suspicion” could speak freely.  

We will look at five challenges to the Christian faith from the nineteenth century.  All five challenges remain with us today:

*Critiques of Christianity from writers like Emerson and Melville along with the serial doubter, poet Emily Dickinson.

*New challenges due to immigration of moving from a largely Protestant nation to more of a “banquet” of religious options.

*Processing the carnage of the Civil War, numerically a 9/11 every day for about seven years!

*Attacks on the Bible from radical scholars which caused many to lose confidence in the Christian faith.

*A new paradigm of origins thanks to Charles Darwin.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/september/deconversion-some-thoughts-on-bart-campolos-departure-from-.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IDoNAWOC5g

PASTOR TURNED SKEPTIC

A short time ago I read an article about a former pastor who became a skeptic.  The post 9/11 world did not make sense to him.  He figured there could be no God in such a world.  This kind of struggle of course is nothing new.

Andrew Delbanco has famously said Americans went from believing in the providence of God prior to the Civil War to believing in luck after it.  Too much carnage took place for one to keep believing in a God who is both good and in control of all things.

I also struggle to make sense of these realities, yet I am perplexed by those who choose to bail on the Christian faith.

The Bible makes it clear that we are living in a broken world where the most hideous things imaginable will take place.  Make sure to digest that important truth.  If “delicate women” will boil their own children for food (see Deut. 28:53-57), we know there is the capacity for all kinds of evil.

Further, if God had not made it clear that I will not understand many things this side of heaven, I also would consider bailing on the Christian faith.  However, God has made it clear we will only know in very small part.  There is quite a bit in Scripture on this truth (for example Deut. 29:29; Job 38-42; Isa. 55:8,9; I Cor. 13:12)

Luther, like the Psalmists (note plural) struggled with the silence of God, even the God who seems to hide Himself at times.  We should be glad for the candor of Scripture, but also chastened to remember we only now see in a “mirror dimly.”

So I wonder what Bible the pastor who bailed was reading.

IS JESUS GOD?

The man in the picture is biblical scholar and agnostic, Bart Ehrman.  His story of leaving the Christian faith is well-known.  His books are widely read and vigorously debated.
In my own correspondence with Ehrman I found him quite candid about doubt.  He admitted that how one chooses to look at the evidence for the Bible’s reliability greatly influences what conclusion one comes to.  For one scholar who came to a wholly different conclusion than Ehrman:

WH AUDEN AND GOD

“…in later years he made a point of quoting Georg Christoph Lichtenberg: ‘There is a great difference between still believing something and believing it again.’ All his beliefs were beliefs again.”

As one who has experienced some severe seasons of doubt about the Christian faith, I definitely resonate with this quote.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/dec/06/auden-and-god/?pagination=false

DOES GOD STILL SPEAK?

Noted Stanford anthropologist (technically a psychological anthropologist), Tanya Luhrmann, has written a fascinating book. In it, she describes hanging out with various Charismatic Christians to determine whether they are actually hearing God speak or perhaps crazy.

Luhrmann’s account shows the limitations of saying one is a “detached observer.” Yes, she does serious academic work, and yes she seeks to be objective, but let’s face it, this is a decidedly subjective issue.

Luhrmann’s graciousness and even sympathy for those involved in her study moves her own beliefs some. Read and see what I am talking about, but more importantly, whether God is still talking today.

EMBRACING A CONFIDENT FAITH

Michael Wittmer’s new book has many commendable qualities.  Allow me to list six of them:
*It is accessible without being superficial.
*There are wonderful illustrations throughout.
*It is compassionate towards doubters, yet showcases how we can be properly confident (HT to Lesslie Newbigin) in the Christian faith.
*It is grounded in solid, orthodox Christianity, but is winsome in doing so.
*There is much help in understanding the difference between doubt and unbelief.
*There is a study guide at the end which actually includes thoughtful questions.