Dee and Deb at Wartburg Watch have posted an article by ‘Eagle’ in which he shares part one of his road (back) to belief. It’s a bit longer than what we run here, so click this link to read Eagle’s story. (Check back with their blog for part two; we’ll try to run the link here as well.)
What I thought important in his story was the list of things that confounded him as he considered the elements of faith. These are the things that get people thinking that perhaps God isn’t real, or, if there is a supreme being He (for lack of a better pronoun) is unable or unwilling to intervene in our affairs. You’re better to click the link above, but if you don’t, here’s his story already in progress:
The Second Adam
I often wondered about the evangelical definition of sin as portrayed in the second Adam. Why was I held responsible for another person’s sin which took place long before I was born? Why did this issue “taint” me? What kind of loving and forgiving God would allow and hold sin against me – even when I didn’t commit it? And why couldn’t God just forgive that sin? Also why did Jesus have to die? Is God a sadomasochist who took pleasure in murdering his son…especially when this infinite and sovereign God who created the world and brought order to it could have simply said “I forgive you”?
Genocide in the Old Testament
I realized how screwed up Evangelical Hermeneutics can be. You read about this God of wrath in the Old Testament. Then suddenly, you are to “turn the other check and forgive your enemies” in the New Testament. It appeared that God was schizophrenic. Add to that, the massive loss of life in the Old Testament with the flood, the destruction of the Canaanites, etc. It made me wonder….how is this genocidal God any different than Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot?
The Prosperity Gospel
It was obvious to me that this “gospel” did not square with the Bible. I was shocked at how widespread this thinking permeates evangelical groups, both overtly and also insidiously. My analysis is that 90-95% of Christianity struggles with prosperity theology in some context.
The Problem of Pain and Suffering and End Times Theology
…It seemed to me that Christians were not allowed to be disappointed and angry with God. Why is it that, up to this moment, all I mostly heard was this “happy clappy” God is good, etc. I came to realize that I had never really heard any ministry leader openly talk or teach about their disappointments or frustrations with God.
I began to question the serious flaws in some evangelical perspective on disasters and end times theology. So many events like September 11, the Iraq War, Iranian nuclear weapons program, and the current Syrian conflict are placed as proof of an end times perspective. When this happens, there can be devastating effects. I would even go so far as to say that Hal Lindsey and John Nelson Derbyshire have brought great harm to American Christianity due to how their teachings have led some Christians to view horrific events of war, terrorism or natural disaster to be construed as being “good news”. Why? Because it means Jesus is coming soon, and the rapture is around the corner. Instead of empathizing it has led some Christians to have this perverse sense of glee in other people’s suffering.
This brings up an important question. When an evangelical minister claims that events in the Middle East “prove” the End Times are upon us and nothing happens…how is that minister any different than Joseph Smith or Brigham Young? It’s just a thought….
The Eternal Destination of Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel
I began to wonder why someone living in Wuhan, China in 400 B.C. would be condemned to hell because he never even heard the Gospel. The Gospel wasn’t even invented yet so why would that be held against someone who never even had a chance to place his faith in the Lord? This made no sense, especially for all the descriptions of the Lord being just.
Sexual Abuse By Church Leaders
The hot button issue for me is child sexual abuse. I first became aware of this issue in 2003-04 when I was deeply involved in the 20 Something Ministry in Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Several years earlier (in 1999) Daniel Varga, the popular youth minister, was found to be a sexual predator who abused a number of young adults, and the scars from that still hung over Elmbrook. For me it was hard to wrap my mind around the idea that there could be a sexual predator in a position of trust. How could this be? The scars of such abuse last a lifetime for the victim, haunt a church and compromise its mission for years. Yet, the evangelical church often covers up and excuses such activities, carrying on as if nothing has happened.
Corruption in the church
Churches can seem no different than secular businesses. Money, nepotism and cronyism often take precedence over the truth and faith. Many parts of Christianity have become a business with money to be made in publishing, conferences, music, etc… There were times when I attended a Christian concert and cringed at the commercialism surrounding it. Nepotism and cronyism are major issues in evangelical Christianity, and it has amazed me how some pastor families can have a lock on a church or Elder board. This could turn a family event into a church meeting without the congregation even knowing about it.
The Problem of Prayer
I wondered…What good is prayer to an omniscient God? Does prayer serve any purpose in illness? Why do some seem to get answers in prayer and why does God seem to be silent in other instances? What purpose does prayer even serve?
The Problem of Evil
This was the hardest question for me and the tipping point which finally drove me away from the Christian faith. Evil is everywhere, and its not something you can escape… [He gives several examples] …So why would I worship an omniscient God who allows evil to occur? Why is such a God considered good? (I’ll talk about it later, but I would also suggest that in many parts of evangelicalism today words are being redefined. The word “allow” is one of many.)
So there’s a cliffhanger for you. How will Eagle overcome these various obstacles to faith? Stay tuned…