In her book, Walking Away from Faith, professor Ruth Tucker identifies five broad categories of reasons for people losing faith. They are:
- 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 have slowly been working our way through this list looking at biblical answers to these faith challenges. On point one, 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 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.
On point three, 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).
We now arrive at today’s topic, point four, “hypocrisy and lack of caring among leaders in the church.” Throughout these discussions I have tried to highlight the critical part our attitude plays in delivering these answers to our young people. How we answer these challenges to faith – with love, humility, grace, and truth – can be just as important as the answers themselves. Our attitude, as church leaders at all levels, is exactly under scrutiny in point four.
But I would like to broaden our discussion to more than just church leaders as I believe hypocrisy and lack of caring is a church-wide problem. And, in my opinion, it all comes down to a fundamental lack of love. We have elevated programs over relationships. 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 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.
The only theme more prevalent throughout the New Testament than the provisions of the New Covenant is the theme of love. From Matthew to Revelation, love is the heartbeat of the New Covenant message. A heartbeat we will investigate over the next several posts.