Sunday, October 08, 2006

"It's bigger than we thought
It's taller than it ought to be
This pile of rubble and ruins"
-- Nichole Nordeman

It seems about once a week these days that a new book whose subject is American Evangelicalism comes across my path. As is usually the case when there is a resurgence in interest of a particular subject, I read one and the rest just seems to say the same thing but in a different way and chronicling another angle. As I mentioned a few weeks ago I read Lauren Sandler's Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement. Since then this and this and this have all come across my path and I can't help but think how there has never been something that is such a large part of my life been of interest to the public at large as right now.

Until several years ago I heard the word evangelical and thought, more or less, of someone who is a Christian and who thought everyone else should be as well. That has remained steady but now it seems to mean so much more and I have come to a fork in the road where I have to ask myself, "Am I an evangelical?" If I am, then how do I justify the direction my life and beliefs have headed in over the past few years. If I'm not, then how do I deal with the ramifications of being an outsider in a club that I used to be the ultimate insider.

I just don't know.

Last Wednesday night at church I was sitting and thinking that the only reason I was there was because I was there the previous week, and the only thing that brought me there the previous week was my presence the week before that, and on and on and on. There was no inner conversation going on within me concerning ultimate issues, nor did I feel as if I was there as an act of faith. When I was younger I would have looked down on someone for this. Just going to church because it was the thing to do was an action that this Youth Group Spiritual Overchiever looked down on with scorn and shame. You might as well stay home.

The voice of the Youth Group Spiritual Overchiever has reentered conversations with himself, sans the piety. Now the voice says you are just here because it's the thing to do. You might as well stay at home because there is beer and your dog there.

But these ramblings aren't really even about church. They are about belief. What do I really believe and do I believe it enough to turn my belief into faith and my faith into action?

It has become acceptable these days to speak about how ok it is to doubt. Our sermon this morning was even about this. I think this is ok because so many in the Evangelical Movement (and really in many faith traditions) are discouraged, implicitly or otherwise, from doubting. John Mark spoke of how it's ok to doubt and question because it deepens your faith. I like this.

But to doubt you have to care and I've found on many days I wake up without even the ability or wherewithal to care. I speak a good doubt-faith-game, but when it comes down to it, I've lost all interest.

But I still believe, even if it's for wrong, and irrational (or a-rational) reasons. Lauren Sandler, in Righteous, spoke of those like me as people who say "This is the fairy tale I've chosen, and I'm sticking with it."

I know apologetics and if you want could prove the resurrection within a certain epistemological framework and can even sound an awful lot like a liberal who suggests that every faith is reaching out to the one true God. But at the end of many days, as at the end of this one, I'm just following the fairy tales of my forefathers and mothers.

The Youth Group Spiritual Overachiever whispers in my ear, "If you don't get your act together, hell awaits."

The emergent conversationalist whispers in my ear, "It's ok if you doubt."

I answer back, can I just go to bed and worry about this another day?


Ifoundbobbyfisher said...

Great thoughts. Great wrestling. I look at some guys in my church. Elders even, who are godly, wake up and are good people who love God, and I see them as just making their way in the world. There's no bad fruit, so to speak, but there aren't any big shiny apples either. Average fruit, enough to identify it as a fig is it. I think they (we) believe there's something bigger, but their life just sort of hums along. I wonder if this is the end-game of the faith road I'm on. I don't see a great many examples of other outcomes. Your questions about your place in evangelicalism really hit home. What is the outcome of the fairy tale I've chosen? Not the hoped for outcome, but the reality of the choices that I make today. Are my hopes for a passionate, Elijah-esque life and departure from this world pipe-dreams on a road which really leads to a simple existence? Thanks for the eloquent thoughts. Different places, same questions, same quest. Journey on.

Jason said...

I can't relate with this at all.


Actually Craig, you've pierced me to the core.

Janalee said...

I would like to see this on Relevant.

Aaron said...

Craig, since you have broached the subject of apologetics, I would recommend that you investigate the different approaches to the epistemological basis for the Christian faith. It's not all about proving the historical credibility of the resurrection.

Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to Christian apologetics: evidentialist and presuppositionalist. I think presuppositionalists have a better grasp of how "knowing" works in real life, since they approach the issue more from a worldview perspective than from a neutral position in which reason is the final arbiter. I recommend that you read some of the writings of John Frame to look more deeply into this (try his "The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God"). Frame is a conservative Presbyterian, but he treads new paths in his methodology.

My primary thought on what you have written here is that we must not confuse the logic of discovery with the logic of justification. We come to the faith often by means of our association with a particular believing community. This is our "discovery" of the gospel. But it is NOT the basis on which we believe the gospel is true. God's communication to us (i.e., Scripture) must be the justification for our beliefs. The harmony between these two things is the God who both reveals himself in Scripture and also rules providentially over the circumstances of our lives, thereby bringing us to the knowledge of him through. In the end, it is not really that we "discover" the gospel in our communities; it is, rather, that God reaches us with it.

jenA said...

Um, I was just gonna tell you to go back to bed, cause that's where I like to go when I'm feeling a little confused. Mine. Not yours. Oh, awkward now.

Anonymous said...

Like today, on June 14th, 2002, you also quoted Nicole Nordeman (I have a great memory, don't I)? This was the song you reflected on that day:

"Help Me Believe"

Take me back to the time
When I was maybe eight or nine
An I believed When Jesus walked on waters blue
And if He helped me I could too
If I believed
Before rationale, analysis and systematic thinking
Robbed me of a sweet simplicity
When wonders and when mysteries
Were far less often silly dreams
And childhood fantasies

Help me believe
'Cause I don't want to miss any miracles
Maybe I'd see
Much better by closing my eyes
And I would shed this grownup skin I'm in
to touch an angel's wing
And I would be free
Help me believe

When mustard seeds made mountains move
A burning bush that spoke for You
Was good enough
When manna fell from heavens high
Just because You told the sky to open up
Am I too wise to recognize that everything uncertain
Is certainly a possibility
When logic fails my reasoning
And science crushes underneath
The weight of all that is unseen
When someone else's education
Plays upon my reservations
I'm the first to cave
I'm the first to bleed
If I abandoned all that seeks
To make my faith informed and chic
Could you
Would you
Show yourself to me?

Help me believe
'Cause I don't want to miss any miracles
Maybe I'd see
Much better by closing my eyes
And I would shed this grownup skin I'm in
To touch an angel's wing
And I would be free
Help me believe

Luke Smith said...

Dear Craig,
Why all this existential angst? If you were Rick Andrews perfecting your body slam you would not be kept up with such troubling questions. I think a lot of the talk about "loving your story" or "embracing your story" Is at root Nihilistic (spelling?). There is no point. I do not find the embrace your doubt crowd to be very comforting. I am a beggar this is true Luther's last words. I like what Peter said to Jesus after the crowds left and he was asked are you going to leave me also. But who has the words of life? Where would I go? I am preaching a sermon on the beatitudes. Sunday's sermon was on blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Think about it when you really hunger oatmeal tastes great. I think hungering for connected with our longing for forgivness. The desire to be relieved of our guilt. I like the mime routine where the person gets stuck to the sin chair or whatever. I hate to have sticky anything. Anyway....blessings the Right Reverend Luke Benjamin Smith. Canon of Hickory Rock Baptist Church (we get to make up own titles..!)

Katy said...

Craig, I like this a lot. JenA told me about John Mark's message, and I really wished I could have been there. I've been wrestling with this a lot lately. I feel like the (few) churches I've visited here in Portland are just so certain about everything. I need to live in a land where it's okay for people to doubt and question and even where they are encouraged to question. I like what Anne Lammott says: "The opposite of faith isn't doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty."

Thanks friend. I miss seeing your smiling face every week at UBC! I miss UBC!