Thinking Out Loud

May 21, 2018

Missionals Sanctioned Doubt, Today Reaping the Consequences

Filed under: Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:10 am

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind – Hosea 8:7 KJV
The people of Israel plant the wind, but they harvest a storm – Hosea 8:7 NOG*

Between 2003 and 2007 the movement in the church that would sometime be termed emergent, emerging, or missional was gaining traction. While the first two terms sound outdated — and the critics still abound, convinced they’re still fighting an identifiable force — the third is more about evangelism and hasn’t taken on a pejorative meaning.

Part of the character of these movements was to embrace the value of doubt. We sanctioned it. My wife says “We glorified it and played around with it.” You were authorized to wear your misgivings on your sleeve, while at the same time still adhering to Christianity’s over-arching message.

Reading the titles of books on the subject shows three options:
(a) Doubt is something to be overcome (the classical Protestant view)
(b) It’s okay to linger in doubt, or try to reconcile (hold in tension) doubt and belief
(c) Doubt can have positive effects; like the martial arts practitioners who use their enemy’s force to their own good, doubt can propel us toward faith.

Certainly doubt is to be preferred over apathy. A person who can articulate their uncertainties is in a better place than one who is simply dismissive and chooses to walk away from the faith discussion. Doubt is often the starting point of many a positive apologetic presentation.

And we are all works in process.

But recently, my wife and I have noticed a common thread. We journeyed with many people on the road to missional and find that so often it’s the case that their doubts overcame them. They are far removed from the place where we all began.

Their views on Jesus and the resurrection have morphed away from orthodoxy. Like the attendee at the convention or trade show, they have walked out to the lobby and removed their name badge. They no longer identify with Jesus.

This morning my wife said, “I’m starting to feel like the last man standing.”

This is not to say that there isn’t an overall drifting away taking place in Western culture. (Ironic, since Christianity seems to be growing everywhere else.) Belief in Christ is under attack on all fronts.

However, if our anecdotal evidence is in any way relevant, whatever that was which took place in the first decade of this century, it was insufficient to stick long-term with some of those in that movement…

…These different movements can be a tremendous blessing. I call myself post-Charismatic. I still believe in the limitless work of the Holy Spirit and am grateful for my exposure to and participation in that movement. I would call myself post-Missional. I’m grateful for what it showed me about Christ and culture, and the importance of identifying the people-groups in our own backyards, and reaching out to them. I’ll even (perhaps with some reluctance) take post-Emergent. I’m thankful for the lessons in Ancient-Future worship patterns and the opportunities to try to introduce those in various places where I led worship.

The danger is always throwing out the proverbial baby with the proverbial bath water. That’s what’s gone wrong here. Instead of Missional being a movement to funnel in a broader community, it seems also equally capable of being able to funnel out confirmed believers into the secular culture.

That’s unfortunate.

*NOG=Names of God Bible (Baker)

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November 14, 2014

Skepticism of Another Kind

So yesterday there were four of us, all male, in a room; two of whom I had never met before and one I had only met the week prior. He was the one who was holding the letter.

The letter was posted (that’s mailed for Americans) in the UK and urgently requested his aid in helping someone in Nigeria claim a $4,000,000 US inheritance. You know the pitch. The type of letter you get as an email perhaps as much as once a day.

Only this guy doesn’t have email. So they tracked down a mailing address for him. It was reminiscent of chain letters. He had never seen anything like this. Imagine never owning a computer and being unaware of the barrage of appeals that are sent out using this same scam.

“They should teach skepticism as a school subject;” I said; but then immediately regretted my choice of words. I thought of the various skeptic clubs and societies which scratch at the door of Christian faith; the people for whom doubting is a default response. Did I want to encourage more of that?

trust1We speak of healthy skepticism, but that implies an unhealthy counterpart. There is after all, a place for trust. I’m glad I never was required to do that team-building exercise where you lean backwards off a chair or table and trust your friends or coworkers to catch you. I don’t think I could commit fully.

“Don’t you trust us?” they would ask; and I would reply, “No, I don’t.”

There is also a place for faith.

If a constant stream of email solicitations leave you simply unwilling to trust, commit, or put faith in anything — let’s say anything other than yourself — you are to be pitied because it implies you can’t find anything good or trustworthy in the larger world.

The next action we take with our scam mail is to press the delete button, and at the urging of a 5th person who waded into the conversation, the letter’s recipient was told to shred it — the physical equivalent — and minutes later the sound of an office shredder was exactly what was heard.

I guess my proposed skepticism class would ultimate teach that it’s all about what you put your faith in. Knowing how to discern truth from lies. And knowing that sometimes it is indeed difficult to tell the difference.

 

July 27, 2009

The Value of Doubt

Filed under: Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:53 pm

Years ago, I remember saying that if ever wrote a book, it would be called “The Value of Doubt.”   I think it’s important sometimes that we allow the rug to be pulled out from underneath us so that we re-affirm the propositions that underlie the faith we verbally confess.    I think it’s good to re-take ownership of those basic truths every once in awhile, the same way a good sports coach will go over the fundamentals of the game with his team on a regular basis.

This article is similar to that idea, but also different.   I was going to simply link, but I wanted to make sure that you got a chance to read it.   You can use the link at the bottom to add comments to the original, and you may also want to subscribe to the Reclaiming The Mind newsletter.

Can Christians Doubt God at a Fundamental Level

faith_posterby C. Michael Patton

I have been in a conversation recently about doubt. Most specifically, the question that has risen is, “Can a true Christian doubt God at the most fundamental level.” A girl just wrote to me and said that she often envies Christians who don’t ever doubt. I told her that there is really no such thing. All people doubt!

Let me be clear (for this is something that many people would disagree with me on): I don’t think that belief should ever be conceived of as “black and white.” No, don’t go there. I am not talking about some form of relativism with regard to the nature of truth (i.e. there is no such thing as truth). What I am saying is that people vary with regard to the strength of their beliefs. And I am saying that this can vary from time to time. Belief can go up and down. In other words, belief is not something that you either have or you don’t.

I have already revealed my proposition (i.e. a truly born again believer can doubt). Let me define “fundamental level.”  What I mean is that a Christian can doubt to such a degree that they even doubt the very existence of God. Yes, I am assuming that you have done the same. I have and sometimes still do.

Where did this come from? I had a different conversation today when a lady, whom no one would ever expect, came to me in confidence expressing her inner pain. “I have recently been doubting the existence of God,” she told me with much trepidation. I think that she was most surprised that I was not surprised (well, maybe a little).

A dictionary definition of a straight line is “the shortest path between two points.” The definition of doubt, at least from one perspective, is the line that bridges our faith and perfect faith. I am under the assumption that no one has perfect faith. If this is true, then everyone’s faith is lacking in some respect. This lack will take on different forms for different people and different circumstances. Sometimes it will show itself though particular habitual sins. Sometimes it is our own pride. Many times it takes the form of doubt at our most fundamental levels.

I don’t believe that this is wrong. Let me step back and rephrase. In a fallen world with fallen people—and Christians who are still battling the flesh—should we expect anything else? Do you really believe that once you become a Christian doubt is no longer a foe? So it is wrong only in the sense that living in a fallen world is wrong. It is bad to the degree that being a resurrection short of full redemption is bad.

These are the words of another who sent me an email today (it has been a day full of this issue for some reason): “I lived for so many years doubting as religion was crammed down my throat, and watched those very same people live in hatred and judgment…now I know that Christ is not about rituals, dogma, and I was so relieved to find out it was OK to question…I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

I can’t read too much into this, but my assumption is that many people, like the one above, are afraid to make a commitment because they have worked under the unfounded assumption that our faith must be perfect. J.P. Moreland once said if someone believes 51% and disbelieves 49%, they are a believer in that which holds the greatest percent.

Do Christians doubt? Of course we do. But this does not mean we don’t believe. You may be at 63%, 95%, or 51%, but know that your ability to rise above 50% is of the Lord. He is with you and will hold you tight. Doubt is a necessary by-product of imperfection. It is a necessary evil that accompanies us on our road to belief.

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Michael Patton blogs at Parchment and Pen, always linked on our blogroll.

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