For the past several months, we have been addressing the issues raised in Dr. Ruth Tucker’s book, Walking Away from Faith. We started out by emphasizing the importance of love and humility in how we respond to our young people’s doubts and questions as they stand on the brink of leaving the faith. And we explored these five broad reasons folks identify for walking away from faith:
- Scientific and philosophical issues, particularly evolution and naturalism.
- Biblical perplexities and higher criticism.
- Disappointment with God regarding personal and wide-scale suffering.
- Hypocrisy and lack of caring among leaders in the church.
- Lifestyle and perspective, including homosexuality, feminism, secularism, and pluralism.
We worked our way through this list looking at biblical answers to these faith challenges, and at the risk of overly simplifying the answers, let me recap our discussion. On point one [Oct 21, 2011 to Oct 28, 2011] we emphasized the unnecessary box we place our students in regarding the creation/evolution debate. God is the author of all science and is not surprised or taken out of the picture by new discoveries, even in the field of old earth geology. Does that mean God has nothing to say to us in Genesis chapter 1? Heavens no! Genesis 1 emphatically teaches that God created the world from nothing. This point was very important to Moses’ audience at the time since they were surrounded by cultures that worshiped the creation – sun, moon, stars, animals, etc. – not the Creator God.
We continued through the list [Nov 1, 2011 to Nov 7, 2011] by showing that we often compound the challenge of biblical perplexities by insisting on rigid theological boundaries that are not that clear in Scripture. In doing so, we remove the appropriate mystery of the Sovereign God and in its place set up confusion around apparently contradicting scriptures. We also add to the perplexity challenge our young people face when we fail to teach them all that changed between the old and new covenants. We teach a distorted message when we inadvertently or on purpose present Christianity as an add-on to the consequence, rule-keeping based model of the Old Testament rather than emphasizing all that is “new” in the New Covenant, particularly its provisions for joyfully living the Christian life.
On point three [Nov 9, 2011 to Nov 21, 2011], we stressed that God is not the author of evil. We emphasized the work of Satan, God’s arch-enemy, in perpetuating the flow of evil and suffering in this world. The New Testament makes clear that while not God’s equal, Satan has been given rule, for a time, over our present world. But Satan has a flesh and blood enemy opposing his rule, and that is us; Christ’s body on earth. Jesus enlists us to join Him in “destroying the works of the devil” (I Jn 3:8).
On issue four [Nov 28, 2011 to Jan 13, 2012], we spent a long time diving deep into the topic of love and how the new commandment to “love one another” plays out in our interactions within the body of Christ. The lack of love problem is not confined to church leaders as I believe hypocrisy and lack of caring is a church-wide problem. We have elevated knowledge over love. We have elevated a preferred personality over the diversity of the body as God formed it. We have elevated numbers over depth. We have elevated programs over relationships. We have elevated leadership by the professional class unconnected to the body. We have elevated things we can measure: attendance, budgets, small group participation, number of staff, etc. over things we can’t measure: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.
Finally, we have just concluded our discussion of lifestyle issues [Jan 30, 2012 to Feb 24, 2012]. We framed the lifestyle discussion in terms of the sacred and the profane. As holy temples – sacred dwelling places for God’s Spirit – our lifestyle is a reflection of who we are more than the rules we keep. We also talked about separating the true biblical position on lifestyle issues from the caricatures our young people think they are being asked to embrace.
We bundle it all together by highlighting the things God highlights in the New Covenant. The power of love, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, our confidence in God’s Word, and the strength found in the whole body working together all lift us above our doubts and help us realize the beauty of Christ and His bride. And we invite all people, young and old, to join us on the path to discovery. The gospel is indeed “good news” to all who seek and find it. Remember, Christianity is not a narrow view to be defended; it is a wide open invitation to be extended.