Thursday, 28 August 2014

Walking With Those Who Doubt

Source: Photopin

I have a problem.

I’m a guy.

This means when someone comes to me with a problem my first instinct is to fly into problem-solving mode. I want to give people five easy steps to fix their problem so they can stop worrying about the problem rather than being particularly sympathetic.[1]

Case in point: The reason I’m very open about my struggles with doubt is so that I can be more approachable for those dealing with doubt. I want to help them through what I went through. So when a fellow student mentioned some doubts he was having I sprang into action. You see he had asked a theology lecturer what he thought of Adam and Eve in context of the creation/evolution debate. The lecturer, being a former biologist, gave him a very different answer to the one he was used to. This, understandably, lead the student to become very confused as to what to believe. This is where I sprang into action with my vast library of books on the subject. I immediately went through a list of books he could read on the subject. I told him to read chapters nine and ten of Denis Alexander’s Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?, Francis Collins’ The Language of God, and John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One.[2]

But I’ve recently come to wonder if that was really the right way to handle the situation. The student’s problem wasn’t that he hadn’t been given answers, it was that he had experienced a whole paradigm shift where what he thought was true wasn’t lining up with new information. He had to rethink his metanarrative.

Perhaps my latest episode with doubt illustrates this better.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

What We Talk About When We Talk About Muslims

Source: Photopin/Ted Swedenburg

There’s something I’ve noticed about the way we evangelicals talk about Muslims.

We’re terrible at it.

Okay this is the point where I state the obvious and point out that we’re not a monolithic entity of talking-terribly-about-Muslims-ness. Often it’s the most extreme voices shouting the loudest. But it’s enough to make me cringe when the topic is brought up in Christian circles.

And this bothers me. It bothers me that when we talk about the subject of Muslims there will usually be that one person who characterises them all as jihadists. It bothers me that a viral video posing as a VW ad defines suicide bombing as “Muslim culture” despite the fact that suicide bombing is an incredibly controversial topic amongst Muslims with the majority condemning it. It bothers me that the keffiyeh, a traditional Arab/Turkish headscarf, is often branded by those in the Western world as “a terrorist scarf”. I’m tired of hearing that we can’t allow more Muslims into Western countries because they’ll go all Sharia law on us and slit our throats as soon as we let them in.[1] 

Now I know what some people will already be thinking. I’m some namby-pamby political correctness police. I’m not.[2] Instead I want to put forth a case arguing from a logical, biblical, and practical viewpoint as to why we need to learn to talk better about Muslims.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Gungor, Doubt, and the Church (Part 2)

Photo by Luca Ventor

Part 1 can be found here.

The second aspect that I think makes the story so significant is that Gungor represents a person of influence expressing their doubt very publicly.  Philosopher-theologian Peter Rollins makes the point that the church is designed to insulate us from doubt. Churches often preach sermons of certainty and sing songs of triumphalism. In short the Church believes for us when we doubt.[1] He says “this only becomes apparent when a minister gets up and says I’m full of doubt and not knowing. I don’t know if God’s there half the time. Or a musician gets up and sings a song of darkness, a song of despair. Or someone prays a prayer which says God I don’t think you’re there. Where are you? At this point the people aren’t faced with something they don’t know; they have those doubts as well. Rather they are faced with the reality of the thing they would rather ignore.”[2]  

And I think this is the reason why Gungor has caused such a stir. Because while we know that there are many Christians with significant questions, as a celebrity Christian, is a person of influence who reminds us that sometimes believers don’t find their answers in the status quo. Now I don’t think Gungor is trying to lead people astray. I don’t think he’s sitting in his evil lair plotting how to unravel Christianity while flaring his cape for effect. I think he’s someone genuinely doubting what he grew up with.[3]

And I think how we deal with Gungor is going to send a huge message to the doubters in our mist. I can guarantee you that when you go to church on Sunday there will be people sitting in the pews who struggle with doubt immensely. Of course we can choose to “farewell” or excommunitweet Gungor. But what message does that send those who struggle with the loneliness of doubt?[4] Are we going to kick them out of the church if they dare to speak up about their doubts? Are we going to revoke their Christian card?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Gungor, Doubt, and the Church (Part 1)

Photo by Luca Ventor

It seems that Michael Gungor of the Dove-award winning band Gungor has been creating a bit of a stir in the Evangelical world lately. Now I have to admit that I’m not terribly familiar with Gungor’s music (I honestly assumed that they were a Norwegian Black Metal band when I first heard their name) and I usually would let this go without comment. But I think Gungor’s latest controversy brings up a rather important issue.

In a recent blog post titled What Do We Believe? Michael Gungor described his journey with doubt. Gungor recalled a conversation he had with a friend who said he no longer considered Gungor a Christian. And many Evangelicals have joined in with accusations that Gungor has departed from biblical orthodoxy. So what fundamental belief has Gungor denied? Has he denied the existence of God? The resurrection of Jesus? It’s actually neither of these.[1]

Gungor has stated that he can no longer hold to a literal interpretation of Genesis.[2]