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Being Honest

The problem with Christianity isn't that it's been tried and found wanting. But that it's that is found been difficult and left untried.

-G.K. Chesterton

Before the interview

So far in this series of posts we have looked at the way that a person, who wants to remain a Christian can do so. We have focused our investigation on determining how confident an individual needs to be in order to continue believing. We discovered that a person needs only to be inclined to think Christianity is true and that the amount of evidence needed to make that a rational belief is that on balance, the evidence makes Christianity seem more likely true than false. 


Now, I admit that being in such a state of mind isn't desirable. We all would love to have a high degree of confidence in our most cherished beliefs. Nor is it the goal of Christian discipleship to train up followers of Jesus to teeter on the verge of throwing in the towel if their confidence drops a few percentage points. Nevertheless, for those who are wanting to still follow Jesus in the face of doubt, what I have sketched about the relationship between confidence and evidence can act as a knot at the end of the rope they can hang from until their confidence grows. 


That is if they want to retain their faith.


Because sometimes they don't. 


I've talked to enough former Christians and read enough deconversion stories to say with some confidence that sometimes a faith crisis is brought on, not by a search for the truth, but a desire to evade it. The Bible and the Christian faith teach many things that go against our natural tendencies and desires. It calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus, Following Jesus means submitting to him as Lord, which in turn means obeying his word. Naturally, when his word teaches things we don't like we will seek ways to get out from under it. One way to do that is to find problems with it; problems so serious that they will justify the rejection of it. 


Of course, it's never easy to tell if we are having a genuine struggle to believe and follow or if we're just tricking ourselves that we are. But it's a question that we need to ask as we go through the process of a faith crisis. Have we, at some deep-heart level, already arrived at the place of unbelief and our faith crisis is just a way of justifying it to ourselves and others? 

Let me give you an example of what that might look like. Take Jane, she was raised in a Christian home and from a young age identified as a Christian. She "believed" the right things and for the most part, they didn't impinge upon her desires. That is until she neared the end of high school. It was then that she started to resent her parents for not allowing her to attend parties and have a curfew that was earlier than her friends. She assumed - correctly - that her parent's rules traced back to their faith. As a result, she began to resent her faith along with her parents. The final straw came when her parents would not allow her to date a nonChristian boy whom she liked. Not long after, Jane came across a website that argued that there are contradictions in the Bible. One of the supposed contradictions she encountered was that the Bible says that Judas died by both hanging and by falling off a cliff. Shocked by this discrepancy Jane felt that she had been deceived by her parents and her church who told her that the Bible was God's inerrant word. After reading the discussion on the website about the death of Judas, she was quick to accept the charge that the Bible had mistakes in it. And, she concluded, if the Bible has errors in it then it can't be the word of God. Shortly thereafter Jane renounced her faith. Her desires had found a rational justification in the charge that the Bible had errors in it. 

What Jane didn't do, was investigate and wrestle with the problem of Judas' death. She didn't seek answers from Christian thinkers, her pastor, or her parents. She didn't - as a genuine truth seeker would - look into the problem to see if there might be an answer. She had what she needed, a reason to reject Christianity so she could live as she pleased. 

I've read a lot of stories similar to Jane's and I can't help but wonder if all it took to undermine something so deeply personal as one's relationship with God, was that the Bible had a mistake in it, then was there really a desire to have the relationship? If there was, wouldn't she have sought out answers, given the Bible the benefit of the doubt, and agonized over the matter instead of quickly jettisoning her faith?


I want to say very clearly, that many people who have deconverted have agonized, wrestled with, and sought answers that would allow them to retain their faith, but in the end, they found the answers unsatisfying and overwhelming. With reluctance, they felt that they had no choice but to leave the faith if they were going to maintain their intellectual integrity. Such folks exist. But so do people like Jane. 

In your faith crisis, it is important to ruthlessly interrogate yourself to discover which one you are. Are you nearing deconversion slowly and reluctantly or with increasing speed, seeing it as a liberation? If it is the second, you might want to ask yourself if it is the truth you are seeking or just liberation from a system that you once were willing to identify with until it stifled your desires. 

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