Thursday, October 28, 2010

Broken Christians

Lately, it seems like the in thing is to have books about broken Christians and how they have grown in their faith. The books that come to mind are books like Blue Like Jazz and Evolving in Monkey Town (Not that I can convince myself to read either one.). We’re in an odd position because instead of listening to people who have done their homework, studied the Bible and developed answers to the tough questions, people are turning to people who are still seeking answers. That’s not to say that we must have all the answers before we write a book, because none of us have all the answers. The thing that is so dangerous about this situation is that people are making the assumption that just because they personally don’t know the answer to a question, other people don’t have the answer either.

For example, Rachel Held Evans has raised questions about Genesis 1 and 2. She isn’t the first and won’t be the last, but she also makes claims that other people don’t struggle with doubts about what they’ve been taught. In listening to some of what she’s said, I get the impression that she assumes the people who accept the Bible for being accurate are not questioning anything but just accepting what they’ve been taught. If that’s true of her, it begs the question because the only way to convince her that I have thought through the same questions that she has is for me to have the same doubts as she does, when in fact I have given thought to the same questions.

I think that part of the reason people like books like this is because it gives them permission to give up on their search for answers. Read a book written by a pastor or a seminary professor and it isn’t likely to be a light read. When I read Whosoever Will, I found words in there that I’ve never used. The authors touched on some concepts that aren’t easy to understand. But when you read a book by one of these broken Christians you find that they are asking the same questions you are and they don’t have the answers either. You aren’t alone in not knowing the answers, so you feel like it’s fine to bring an end to your search without having answered the question. No theologian worth his salt will say he doesn’t know something until he has logically shown that all the answers others have presented have are invalid. But theologians have a bad name these days.

These days, people are looking for a more up to date religion. Well what’s wrong with the old one? Give me that old time religion. New is not always better. We may not like doing thing just because it is tradition, but we should move slowly when eliminating tradition. It can take many years to produce a tradition and many traditions have been examined time and time again by some of the greatest minds in history. It is arrogant of us to think that we know better without giving the reason for the tradition a great deal of thought. Too many people assume that science has all the answers. They assume that because some scientist has written a report on something it must be true. Many scientific reports are sensational because the scientist is looking for continued funding. So an old man who was bent over with arthritis before he was buried in the ice becomes “the missing link.”

Let’s be very careful about turning to broken Christians for the answers and instead turn to those who are wise. Let’s turn to those who have done their research. I’m all for people finding answers for themselves, but let’s not assume that those seeking answers have the answers.