When clergy have their fingers crossed
Sir: Bob Ripley’s article “When clergy have their fingers crossed” raises important questions about the role of doubt in the Christian faith. What’s missing is any mention of how Christianity itself understands doubt, and the resources we have for responding. The Bible has no harsh or intolerant word for the doubter and the skeptic. On the contrary, Jesus considered him a faithful confessor who said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
In addition, the Bible and Christian tradition have long invited us to hold our doubts up to the light of the evidence. Jesus responded to the Easter doubts of the apostles with invitations to investigate (Luke 24:39, John 20:27). The apostles followed Jesus’ lead in their preaching, repeatedly welcoming the skeptics’ challenge with the audacious claim, “We are witnesses of these things” (Acts 2:32, 3:15, 5:32, 10:39). The Apostle Paul invited his skeptical church to stack their resurrection doubts against the sea of eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15:3-8). And the Apostle Peter famously advised all Christians to be ready to give an answer (or defense) to everyone who asks us to give the reason (or evidence) for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).
In response to Peter’s admonition, the church has engaged in the discipline of apologetics (i.e. defending the faith) from the very beginning of her existence. With great enthusiasm and gratitude, I dare consider that Christian apologetics has never been more fruitful or prolific than it is today. In terms of the sheer volume of apologetic resources available, the breadth of disciplines covered, and the quality of scholarship, 21st century Christians are a privileged lot.
As a hypothetical, Bob Ripley makes reference to some intellectual barriers that might shipwreck one’s faith. It’s worth noting that half of those barriers are immediately irrelevant to the truth of Christianity — the rest have substantive apologetic responses. If we listen uncritically to those voices who disbelieve Christianity, we’ll no doubt find our faith in crisis. But anyone willing to grapple with Christianity’s leading apologists will find a formidable foundation for bolstering faith and disarming common contentions.
Unlike the preacher Ripley cites in his article, I am convinced that thorough and open investigation into the truth of the Christian faith will bring greater conviction of the gospel and more integrity to the pulpit, not less.
Minister of the Word in Team Ministry at Living Hope, Christian Reformed Church
And another great response from the SARNIASKEPTIC