Friday, September 26, 2008

Crisis of Faith

"The Problem of Evil" is a barrier for many people to connect with or even acknowledge the Creator. Simply stated, the problem is "If there exists a God who is both good and all powerful, how can there be such evil in the world?" For some reason, this has never been a huge issue for me. And it's not that I haven't experienced or seen evil. But I have resolved the paradox to my own satisfaction, though I'm not going to get into it right here and right now, because there is another issue that has been much more of a challenge for me.

I've been involved in evangelical churches most of my life. I was a pastor for nearly 20 years. And I've seen many amazing, good things that have bolstered my faith. But I have been set back time and again by people who call themselves Christians and yet seem so unchanged by the power they claim to believe in.

As a teenager, the church I grew up in "exploded" leaving three churches where there had been one, clusters of enemies where there had been friends. As a pastor I had to confront too many adulterers and adulteresses who claim to be Christian. Do I need to mention the high profile Christian leaders who mess up like clockwork? And then there are the perpetually grumpy or self centered or materialistic who NEVER CHANGE year after year. "If there is a God who changes the lives of those who believe in him, why are so many who believe in him so seemingly unchanged??"

That's my crisis of faith. It's troubling, frustrating, discouraging, draining. And it's also convicting. Because while I know I truly have been changed in some dramatic ways, at times the unchanged Daren surfaces, and a heart that has areas of grumpiness, self-centeredness, materialism, and a capacity for adultery surfaces.

So I've been asking myself the question: "If an 'outsider' to the Christian faith knew everything I as an insider do about that subculture, would they believe or not?" Knowing all that I do, I still believe. But someone might argue that my faith is simply the result of a life long immersion in that culture. Perhaps. But I know the good and the bad in a way that relatively few do, and I am still convinced there is substance in the claims of Christ. I am also convinced that the North American evangelical church is not the ultimate manifestation of the Christian faith, as many North American evangelicals seem to arrogantly believe.

Solutions? Well, I am a firm believer in the adage that there is no great skill in identifying problems; the challenge is to solve them. Or, as someone else put it, "You get points for building arks, not predicting rain."

So I get no points today. Maybe one day I'll give my shot at the possible solutions. Today I just wanted to rant a bit and get the issue on the table.

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At 9:14 p.m., Blogger Tim Chesterton said...

Ron Sider has identified the problem and diagnosed it with razor-sharp accuracy in his book 'The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience'. You probably know the book, Daren.


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