On breaking out of the cocoon.

I’m realizing more and more that growing up in a fairly fundamental evangelical faith tradition was a hinderance for me in terms of experiencing a true and beautiful faith. These last number of years have been quite an experience. I feel as if I’m a butterfly trying to break out of her restrictive cocoon. I have yet to really take flight but the cocoon has been irreversibly cracked to the point where I can now see the outside world, and it is beautiful. When you’re trapped in a cocoon that is your reality. All you can see is what is within the cocoon. This was my faith for a number of years. However, a few years ago this all started to change. I experienced doubt. I began to ask myself questions about faith. Far from driving me away from faith these questions only served to deepen my faith. For example, a few years back doubt started to play a role in my faith. Now, in fundamentalist evangelical circles doubt has no place. Doubt has no place because fundamentalist faith has God figured out. They *know* God because God has been fully revealed. Therefore, they can know God’s thoughts and how God might act in a particular situation and so on. There is no place for doubt then. However, on occasion when doubt does arise (or perhaps in a Christians conversation with an unbeliever) we have developed a robust apologetic. In fact, there are organizations directed towards the purpose of being able to *prove* the Christian faith on rational grounds. Therefore, the Christian faith becomes the most rational option. However, this is all for nought because it fails to take into account the beauty of doubt and the bigness of God.

Anyways, that is a little sample of the road I’ve been on over the last few years. In the new year I’m going to do some writing on this journey.

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8 comments
  1. aislingclaire said:

    Okay, as soon as you said butterfly, I became distracted. This was my conclusion of your post:

  2. tim barnett said:

    Hi JT,

    I’d love to weigh in on this. It is not often when I have the time to read, let alone respond to posts in a forum like this. Let me now comment as clearly and to the point as I can.

    First, your experience with doubt is akin to mine and so many others. In fact, I would say 85% of Christians have doubts about their faith and the other 15% of Christian are liars. That was a joke! Everyone experiences doubt. Sometimes these come only for a moment in the middle of the night, and sometimes they linger for a season of life. These doubts have the potential to make our faith stronger as is your experience and mine. Sadly, however, they also have to potential to destroy our faith.

    I would agree that the process of doubting is a good thing. Doubts help us to refine our faith. It challenges us to reflect upon and examine the beliefs we hold and, hopefully, increase our stock of true beliefs while at the same time reducing the number of false beliefs we hold to.

    Now doubts left unexplored and stagnant are a hindrance to true faith in Christ. I am not saying we can’t have unanswered questions; we do. But to encourage doubting just for the sake of it just becomes itinerate skepticism. Allow me to elaborate a little.

    Most Christians (even in our information age) our not equipped to wrestle with their doubts. So when a doubt creeps into their mind that they aren’t equipped to deal with they simply abandon their faith altogether because it seems (at the moment) untenable. However, it is apologetics ministries like reasonable faith, stand to reason, creation ministries international, etc. that try to help provide answers to common doubts about the Christian faith. To say that these ministries are “all for naught because [they fail] to take into account the beauty of doubt and the bigness of God” is grossly inaccurate. (Emphasis added) It is precisely because of doubts that these ministries exist; doubts from believers and nonbelievers. Testimony after testimony could be submitted to show that these ministries have aided in bringing unbelievers to Christ and strengthening the believers faith in Christ. We need to thank God for ministries that help us rationally doubt our doubts; especially in this age of skepticism and post-modernity.

    Reverence and Love,

    Tim Barnett

  3. I have to agree with the fundamentalist “knowing” the answers before they are even asked.
    I also grew up in a Church that seemed to have all the answers. I even went to bible college and a Christian university where most profs and just about all students knew the right answers to theological questions.
    However, as of late I have been tossing evolution around in my brain from a Christian perspective, which has got me into some trouble from certain people. It also makes it hard to discuss evolution in theological terms when so many jump to the conclusion that Church and Science are mutually exclusive. Therefore I am often on my own to dive into this seemingly huge question.
    I have recently spoken with a few people, that like me, have been questioning the Church’s response to evolution and let me tell you what a sigh of relief if is.
    It is exciting not “knowing” the right answer. It is exciting talking to a non believer and not having the right answers.
    It is indeed sad that we have pre determied God’s answers and thoughts. But I look forward excited to not “know” more things.

    Thanks again Turtle.

  4. tim barnett said:

    Hi Andrew,
    I need some clarification. You state:
    It is exciting not “knowing” the right answer. It is exciting talking to a non believer and not having the right answers.
    It is indeed sad that we have pre determined God’s answers and thoughts. But I look forward excited to not “know” more things.

    This philosophy strikes me as absolutely absurd. The proposition that you are actually (as a matter of fact) “excited” and are “looking forward” to not know more things is ludicrous. Should our goal as ambassadors for Christ be to try to know as little as possible? Should we remain silent or embrace fideism when asked by sincere unbelievers and believers to give a reason for the hope that we have? How is this loving God with all your mind? What is the point to asking questions if you don’t want to know more?

    Now, let me make a few observations. You state “I have to agree with the fundamentalist “knowing” the answers before they are even asked.”

    What do you mean by fundamentalist? Are you simply using it as a pejorative? I think you must be when I read the context of your statement. You deride the “fundamentalist” church for knowing answers to questions, as if this is a cardinal sin. Would it satify you if they instead claimed ignorance?

    Next you state:
    I also grew up in a Church that seemed to have all the answers. I even went to bible college and a Christian university where most profs and just about all students knew the right answers to theological questions.

    Since when is striving for truth and answers to theological questions such a bad thing? It isn’t. Maybe it’s the arrogance of these institutions to claim to have answers to theological questions that bothers you. But this doesn’t say anything about the truth of their claims. In fact, any position claiming to know (or not know) anything turns out to be arrogant.

    You then mention that you are “tossing evolution around in my brain from a Christian perspective”. I think that great that you are asking question like this and shame on the people who would stifle you sincere questions. Having said that, keep in mind that you are not the first to come up with this idea. In fact, it was around long before Darwin in the minds to Stoics and Epicureans. And since then theologians have taken them to task on the issue.

    Well, you’re asking questions on this particular issue I suggest adding the following to your list:
    Is natural selections and random mutation an adequate mechanism to drive Darwinism?
    What is the origin of biological information?
    What is the evidence for Darwinism?
    But by asking questions like this I’m presupposing that you actually care for an answer. And if you get an answer will you believe it or plead arrogance.
    Just for your information it has been my experience that Darwinism can’t hold water so combining it to a Christian perspective would be illogical. I will be giving a Sunday School Class at Cedarview Community Church with Professor Davis in the Fall of 2010 title “Darwin or Design” we will look at the merits of each and draw conclusions from there.

    Reverence and Love,

    Tim

  5. jt* said:

    Alright! Some good discussion here!

    A few things:

    Tim, what I was getting at (and I think what Andrew was trying to say as well) is not that we’re not interested in truth and wanting to plead ignorance but rather that truth and God are so much bigger than can be contained in our minds. This is the problem I see with a fundamentalist Christianity (or any Christianity for that matter) that claims to “know” God. God isn’t God if he fits inside your head. Along with this for all of your “certainty” about truth and God can you admit that there is much more that you don’t know? God has revealed himself in such a way that in his revelation he remains hidden. That’s kind of the direction I was heading. Anyways, right now I don’t have much time to give a proper response but I will sit down and do that after Christmas!

  6. tim barnett said:

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    We’ll talk to ya after the holiday’s

    Love,

    Tim 😉

  7. Hey Tim,
    I have never been a very good writter and this is maybe why I am not fully understood here, but let me proceed.

    To me the Christian faith is almost nonsensical. The idea that our God sent His Son to die for Our Sins makes little to no sense. The fact that a YAHWEH left his heavenly seat to come down to atone for our sins is backwards thinking. We should have to atone for our own sins.

    It also seems crazy that an entity like God, who created us and everything around us would want to have a relationship with us. Even to the point where He is jealous if when we give time to other “idols”.

    Because of this it seems that Christian logic is a tad bit backwards. Which is what YAHWEH has intended. Therefore I think that it is a little hard to fully “know” the answer because the Christian faith is so hard to understand from a Human perspective because God is so much bigger than we are.

    I realize that I use the evolution example, and maybe I have misused it, but this is where my headspace has been as of late.

    It just seems to me that an issue such as evolution, which a large Christian population seems to have the “answer” to may not be entirely accurate. Who are we to say that God could or could not create in that manner. My argument to them is that God may be the type of God to invest the kind of time that it takes for evolution to take place. It seems much more personal to me for this model than the model that says that all was created in the snap of a finger.

    I hope I have clarified what I am thinking. Probably not, but one can hope.

    Tim where is Cedar View because I am very interested in what you and the prof have to say on the subject.

    Thanks again,

    Happy holidays, no just kidding,
    Merry Christmas!!

    Andrew

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