..."I spent the majority of my life believing and pursuing this religious faith, Christianity," Jack said. "And to get to this point in my life, I just don't feel like I believe anymore."Where shall I begin? I guess with the last quote, "everything I'd been taught to believe..." I assume 'Adam' was taught what to believe both during his upbringing in the church and by his subsequent seminary education. It's pretty clear that he wasn't also taught (either at church or at seminary) how to think. Those 'new atheists' whose arguments he found so persuasive trade in logical fallacies, historical inaccuracies, and rhetoric that embarrasses real philosophers, even atheist ones. And it is very likely that Adam was taught a lot of nonsense that has nothing to do with historic Christianity. ('Jack' referred specifically to the 'story of Noah's ark.' Yes, as told by many modern evangelicals, that story is quite absurd, involving as it does a global flood and pairs of every species of animal that has ever lived. But that, of course, is not what the Bible teaches, but only a modern, superficial interpretation of the passage.)
"The more I read the Bible, the more questions I had," Jack said. "The more things didn't make sense to me -- what it said -- and the more things didn't add up."
Jack said that 10 years ago, he started to feel his faith slipping away. He grew bothered by inconsistencies regarding the last days of Jesus' life, what he described as the improbability of stories like "Noah's Ark" and by attitudes expressed in the Bible regarding women and their place in the world.
"Reading the Bible is what led me not to believe in God," he said.
He said it was difficult to continue to work in ministry. "I just look at it as a job and do what I'm supposed to do," he said. "I've done it for years."
Adam said his initial doubts about God came as he read the work of the so-called New Atheists -- popular authors like the prominent scientist Richard Dawkins. He said the research was intended to help him defend his faith.
"My thinking was that God is big enough to handle any questions that I can come up with," he said but that did not happen.
"I realized that everything I'd been taught to believe was sort of sheltered," Adam said, "and never really looked at secular teaching or other philosophies. ... I thought, 'Oh my gosh. Am I believing the wrong things? Have I spent my entire life and my career promoting something that is not true?'
Yes, many of our churches and seminaries are failing us, both by teaching bad hermeneutics and bad theology and by failing to teach people how to think. But there's a more basic problem that surfaces in this article. And it has to do with the nature of Christian belief.
For these men, belief in God and Christianity seems to be a weighing of the evidence, which is (apparently) only slightly tipped either in favor of or against the Christian worldview. These men of the cloth seem to accept the idea that belief in God is a purely academic exercise. In truth, Christianity claims that the Creator has revealed Himself to us throughout the creation, through history, through Scripture and His Son come to Earth, and in personal experience. That is, true believers are not those who merely weigh all the available evidence to see if God's existence is the slightly likelier option. Those of us who are followers of Christ are such because we have encountered--and fallen in love with--our Creator and Redeemer.
To be sure, saving Christian faith is reasonable and based in evidence. The evidence of God's existence, design, and love are all around us, and it is the task of the apologist to point these out. But may God save us from pastors who have never had a personal encounter with the living Lord, and who moreover don't have the critical thinking skills to spot the absurdity of the arguments of the likes of Richard Dawkins.*
*I understand that true followers of Christ can go through periods of doubt, times at which God seems far from them and they question for a period the reality of His presence in their lives. But when such times come upon pastors who have truly experienced a relationship with God, the response is not to carry on in secret but to go on sabbatical, having first honestly shared with and asked for prayer from one's elders and mentors. The cases of 'Jack' and 'Adam' are like those referred to in I John 2:19, "They went out from us, because they were not of us" except that, for reasons purely of self-interest, 'Jack' and 'Adam' have not gone out from us but shamefully remained as leaders of their congregations.