Last month, two of the biggest earthquakes in decades rocked Central and Southern California. I was with my brother and his family during both earthquakes. They were sort of fun… and long. They lasted at least a minute. Had the epicenter been in a major city the damage would probably have been extensive.
Seismic events like those are often followed by shaking in other realms.
As a former homeschooling Dad, I’ve followed with interest the public collapse of Josh Harris’ 5-point Calvinist “faith”. Although, to be consistent, in Josh’s case, God elected his faith to collapse (Calvinist humor). Then, after Josh’s announcement, Marty Sampson, the Hillsong worship leader and song writer, tweeted that he had lost his faith too.
I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of this sort of thing, high profile people abandoning their faith, and I think it’s important that we see these things correctly and respond accordingly.
If the faith of these men, that is, their “set of beliefs” or their “Christianity” aren’t working for them, or their set of beliefs has failed to provided answers to tough questions, I applaud their courage and honesty. There’s actually an opportunity to lead beneath the surface of their crisis. I think what these things tend to expose is that our congregations and pulpits are full of religious people who are threatened when prominent leaders abandon their faith because, most likely, they haven’t yet had their own crisis of faith… their own “dark night of the soul”.
Behind the scenes the “Corporation” prefers that men like these just swallow hard, choke it down and carry on towing the “party line”. Their crises of faith will pass and, if not, they should be dealt with quietly, “in-house”. This is approach is in the “Corporate” play book. A tried and true method for dealing with scandals.
Expressing uncertainty or asking tough questions publicly makes a lot of people nervous, afraid, and insecure because the people being asked either have no answers themselves or they haven’t thought deeply about tough issues. I think people feel comfortable in their ignorance and the folks who ask hard questions or who are struggling with their faith make some people nervous.
This might shock some of you, but Jesus didn’t come to start a religion called “Christianity”. And by the way, Jesus isn’t exactly a “Christian” either. Nevertheless, a religion did spring up over the centuries and we have a lot of problems within “Christendom”, the religion called Christianity. Things really began to change under Constantine and Augustine. In addition to the mostly ethnic variations within Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, there are over 40,000 Protestant denominations, all differing slightly on some point of theology or practice. And, like my father-in-law used to say, “Everyone is right, just ask them”.
I have a high view of scripture but I think we have over-emphasized doctrine and elevated it beyond its place. In doing so, we have sort of painted ourselves into a corner by placing too much pressure on what your set of beliefs are rather than the efficacy of the incarnation. When we think about the word of God, I wish they we would think of Jesus first, the word of God made flesh, before we think of the Bible. Jesus is the one who indwells all of us and we live and move and have our being in HIM, not a book translated by men with biases. Here’s the thing…
Do you know why 11 of 12 apostles and hundreds or thousands of followers of Jesus were martyred before the end of the 1st century? Because they knew “Whom” they had believed. They knew Him. The most important thing was the who question not the what question because clearly some of what they believed changed over time.
The first thing I ask people who have lost their faith or claim there is no God is to tell me about the God they don’t believe in because there’s a lot of fiction mixed in with our sets of belief. Out of our pain and sorrow we can easily project false pictures onto our idea of who God is and what He’s like. To former Christians, another question I ask is have they every actually met Him? Do they know Him? Or have they just swallowed someone else’s explanation of how salvation works, and they liked the music and how they used to feel after attending a gathering or congregation?
I think it’s important that we provide space for people to wrestle with tough questions. But it’s more important that we help people encounter the risen Lord… that they might know Him… the mystery hidden from the ages, Jesus in them… the one in whom, they live and move and have their being.
The good news of the Gospel isn’t if you can a few scripted words Jesus will come into your life and be Lord. The good news of the Gospel is that our Triune God have included us in their life.