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Monday, 29 September 2014

Publishing Doubts

   Over the past few decades a new genre of books has come to the forefront.  Not only are there personal accounts of high profile atheists who have turned to faith.  Seemingly trying to counter them are accounts of high profile Christian pastors and teachers, who have rejected their previous beliefs and embraced at least a departure of from the historic Christian faith or atheism.  Just a few examples of the latter are Charles Templeton's Farewell to God (1996), John W. Loftus' why i became an ATHEIST (2008) (this is how the title is actually written), and John Suk's Not Sure (2011).
   As a proponent of freedom of speech, I would defend the right of any of these people to share their thoughts and ideas with whomever wishes to read them.  However, I do wonder if our post-modern quest for authenticity and individual enlightenment has fueled something less than wise.  When a person holds a position of trust and authority, that influence is a powerful force for good or ill.  Long ago the psalm writer Asaph recognized this fact. [1]  He was an older man who experienced a period of time of doubt and oppression in which he recalled, "I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked" (Psalm 73:3).  He points out that if he had given voice to these doubts and his sense that his obedience to God was a waste of time, he would have betrayed God's "children" (verse 15). The musicians in the former Christian RAP trio DC Talk, aware of their influence, asked in one of their songs, "What if I stumble, what if I fall, what if I lose my step and make fools of us all..." (1995).  They felt that responsibility to uphold the faith even when they may have had personal doubts from time to time.
   I think Asaph had it right.  He "entered the sanctuary of God" and began to look at life from a God-centred perspective.  He was able to overcame his doubts and fears.  After he escaped from the trap of faulty thinking, he could share the story with those around him and actually strengthen the faith of God's children in the process.
   While it is good to be honest with our children or those at an earlier stage in their faith walk, it would be wise to be selective in the things we share about our doubts.  Bring the doubts to someone mature in the faith who can walk through them with you, not those whose faith could be destroyed by your questions.  One drawback of online interactions, I think, is that some things better kept in a private journal are shared with "the world."  That includes some of the bumps in the road we face. Patiently trust God to work through these things and in the end you will have a story to tell that builds up rather than tearing down.

[1]Appreciation goes to Rev. B. De Jonge who eloquently spoke about Psalm 73 on the evening of September 28, 2014.

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