Crisis of Faith, Or Simon Peter’s New Member Class Will be Wednesday at 7

A story:

It’s called a gap year. They’re practically required for European students graduating from their equivalent of high school, and it’s purpose is to enjoy a break before getting right back into the grind of studies. If money allows the gap year will take the person exiting adolescence to Australia, South America or maybe just out in the large backyard of their own country.

But for Mark, the gap year was spent in his hometown working landscaping. While his friends were off at college discovering the wonders of recreational drug use and wearing pajamas in public, Mark was working hoping the light bulb in his mind would go off – telling him which direction to go. It was a time to become who he will be in all areas of his life – though everyone hoped his steady diet of Dominos Pizza and frozen waffles would not stick around into his thirties.

On Tuesday night he arrived an hour early to his church’s college ministry, hoping to talk to the pastor before the lights and projector turned on. “I think I’m losing my faith…” Mark said with his head down.

“To be honest the Rapture is so wild an idea I’m not sure I can buy it anymore. Believers being beamed up like an invasion? I don’t want to be a doubter yet I can’t believe. It’s not for lack of want…

“Then there is the Bible… It seems divine yet I can’t stretch that to mean it’s the exact words of God… I just don’t know what to believe anymore. I’m not who I was before I met Jesus, but I can’t keep holding these beliefs. It’d be like betraying myself.”

“You are not having a spiritual breakdown,” the 29 year old seminarian pastor said. “You’re having an crisis of intellect.”

Mark can have serious doubts about these things and still be confident in Jesus. He can still say he knows him and has been moved by him.

I think we’ve blown up what it means to be a Christian. I think if the apostles led a class called “So You Want To Be Apart of The Way” it would be very different from a new members class at a church today. I think it would be much less technical. It seems to me that issues that seem so worth battling over and endlessly discussing weren’t on the radar to most early Christians. Our emphasis on believing a certain set of things about the beginning of the world, what the Scriptures are – they are matters of belief. They are intellectual matters. I would even say discussing these things implies a luxury – in other words that we have the time and energy to worry about this and not concern ourselves with the upcoming harvest that will feed our family.

But Christianity, The Way, following Jesus, whatever you call this thing we do – is about encountering Jesus. And though Christianity may have some things to say about creationism, what origin of the Bible is, and whatever else we put on our church website, it’s first and foremost and ultimately about meeting Jesus on the road. And usually you are never the same.

So let some things be matters of intellect, and let them not interfere with people meeting Jesus.

What are the essentials? What is following Jesus really about? What is superfluous? 

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16 Responses to Crisis of Faith, Or Simon Peter’s New Member Class Will be Wednesday at 7

  1. David says:

    It’s a thoughtful post, Charlie.

    Faith in the living God who’s name is Jesus, that it. That’s the ticket to heaven.

    The idea that we spend our time challenging scholarship is intellectual, and in my book, and the in the Bible, a waste of time.

    I would rather hear the voice of God for myself, then to have all the knowledge of every great theologian who every lived. I love Jesus, and he loves me; and we talk – some times a little, and some times a lot.

    I am just not seeing Christianity as a set of beliefs. It is relationship. Why spend time just trying to get in the Kingdom, when we can live it?

    • I don’t see the way of Jesus as a set of beliefs – but that’s how it was presented to me and they way it is emphasized these days. Hence my hundreds of posts about that subject! and ultimately the conclusion I reached is those other beliefs take a back seat to our relationship with Jesus. He is it.

  2. Dude: if my relationship with Jesus was determined by my belief or non-belief in the Rapture I am sunk! i do think we need a set of beliefs but those beliefs need to be rooted and grounded in the Word and centered around the preeminence of Christ. Just some thoughts.

    • that’s exactly my point – just better said. It’s been said so much yet it bears repeating it really is all about Jesus – and of course Jesus being in all things we get caught up in other stuff but God didn’t send Jesus to set up a big complicated religious system – if anything he sent Jesus to break that system down and replace it with himself.

  3. Charlie, Crisis of Faith is where I’m at today. I need you to read my post for today, and if there’s anything at all you can address, I’d like to hear it. Thanks.
    Jane

  4. Peter says:

    I was joking with my wife a couple of days ago that if God was the sort of God who granted places in heaven based on having the right theology, then I’m already so screwed I might as well quit.

    Thankfully, that’s not the sort of God we serve.

    As far as we know, the thief on the cross knew almost nothing about Jesus aside from believing that he was God’s anointed one. It doesn’t get much more basic than that.

    It’s hard to imagine God started to ADD more requirements after Jesus was resurrected.

  5. mfries05 says:

    Charlie,
    Have you ever heard the imagery that meeting God is a trauma? If it is, then maybe, it is meant to have some crisis built into it because we can’t quite explain it.

    Good stuff man.

  6. Chris says:

    “To be honest the Rapture is so wild an idea I’m not sure I can buy it anymore. Believers being beamed up like an invasion? I don’t want to be a doubter yet I can’t believe. It’s not for lack of want…”

    I think this must be a very common feeling amongst many people. It’s legitimate and it’s real.

    But think of it this way. What if the question were phrased like this:

    “To be honest a man raising from the dead is so wild an idea I’m not sure I can buy it anymore. People don’t raise from the dead. Once you’re dead you’re dead. That’s all there is, there ain’t no more. And that stuff about a God? Never mind evolution versus creationism. The idea that there is some being out there that is responsible for bringing everything into existence and who actually cares about me as an individual, just seems like a made up fantasy. I don’t want to be a doubter yet I can’t believe. It’s not for lack of want…”

    The example of Mark in the story is in a sense a sad one. It’s sad I think because I think there are good responses to his questions that could have helped him. He certainly wasn’t helped by his 29 year-old pastor. The pastor in the story seems to have just told him, “Yeah, I think it’s all kind of nutty too.”
    The easy thing to do is say, since I don’t have any answers today I probably will never get any that satisfy in the future, and so I will not even bother listening to so-called “good reasons” to believe (sticks fingers in ears, la-la-la-la). I’ll just go on trying to imitate Jesus as best I can because it seems like he was a pretty cool dude.
    If Mark has serious doubts about a man raising from the dead, (which after all is no less incredible than the idea of any other miraculous event in the bible) then could it be said that he still has confidence in Jesus? Or does he just have confidence in the memory and ethics of a person who lived a very long time ago.

    I could very well be wrong here but this is what I believe.

    I believe that Christianity is an intelligent faith. I think the heart and the head are not combatants. I think reason is not the enemy of faith. I think the heart may not accept what the mind rejects. I think that some people respond through the mind and intellect, while others respond through an encounter of the heart, it’s not a one size fits all. Although I think that as individuals we may respond to Jesus differently, collectively as the church we should approach faith holistically so that no means to a saving faith takes precedence over another and that all may have an opportunity to meet or hear Jesus. We should not look down upon those that come to put their faith in Jesus in a way dissimilar to ours. This is something that I’ve had to remind myself of many times. It allows me the opportunity to give grace.

    • I definitely hold the Resurrection as an integral part of the gospel – without the rest does seem to fall apart. But I can see how doubting the rapture could lead to even further doubts (for the record I definitely don’t believe in the rapture, but I’m not Mark, and I hope this doesn’t start a different discussion).

      I am working on a post for maybe next week about beliefs that I think addresses some of what you bring up. We’ll see.

      and I loved your last paragraph. I’m with you on every point and I think you brought up a huge point at the end – that people have different emphasis and therefore it’s not good to judge or write someone off. Thanks Chris.

  7. Larry Hughes says:

    I think faith boils down to believing in what was said in biblical times no matter how hard it is to digest in intelectual terms. However, we have to remember most scripture was written by people two thousand years ago so their perception of what transpired indicates the intellect level at that time . I am sure God expressed His thoughts in a manner that they could easily understand. However, their best description is related to what they could understand in their time.

    Imagine if one today could travel back in time with some of our technoogy we have today. ( say 300 years back). What would the residents in that time think of our technology we have today. What would they call our planes, helicopters, cars, flat screen TVs, or cell phones? It would be hard for them to express what they saw.

    As David stated To hear the voice or actions of God is certainly the most important issue and I have to agree. For the rest of us, the bible certainly opens the door for a more intimate relationship with God if we would only listen and believe.

    What is stated in scripture is truth. God reiterated that many times.

  8. theoldadam says:

    I think it’s about freedom.

    Freedom from religion…and freedom for the neighbor.

    And the freedom of God to save REAL SINNERS…like me….and you.

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