So I was checking the Twitter this evening when I ran across an article about a 1-800 number for religious doubts. Naturally this is going to create a lot of consternation among us religious types. My reaction was pretty visceral right off the bat.
"This is a threat" I said to myself.
"We should fight this" came the natural response.
"This is the natural progression of what the church has sown over the most recent period in its history"
Wait, what was that last one again?
I was musing with a ministry mentor of mine over a meal on Monday (an alliterative anecdote!). We shifted over to the decline of mainline churches, and how the primary shift has been that young adults, who traditionally step away from the church once they graduate high school and then return they begin having kids, have stopped coming back. When we ask them why, they tend to answer that the church is irrelevant and they're not sure how necessary God is either. Then they sometimes say that they learned it from us.
Yikes! In our affirmation of doubt as a natural part of faith, we've stepped out of the polarizing spectrum between Fundamentalism, which abhors doubts and questions, and Atheism, which says that doubts are stepping away from blindness and into enlightenment based on empirical observation.
Mainline Christians are in the middle, and therefore get painted with the same brush as each side uses to paint the other.
So here we are looking at a 1-800 number for people facing doubts that will be staffed by those who have a vested interest in confirming those doubts. Of course we're startled by it, it seems that Atheists are better at evangelism than Mainline Protestants are!
This is troubling stuff. Out of respect for others' views, we are trying not to step on their views, acknowledging that we don't know everything and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide people to whatever slice of truth fits them the best, be that Presbyterianism, or Methodism, or Atheism, or Buddhism, or Jedi, or what have you.
Are we surprised that when we say "we don't have the only truth" and others say "We have the Facts" that those who seek the truth are confused as to which is which, especially when we so often muddle the difference between facts and truth?
Well, my Mainline Protestant friends, here's my thought. There is an objective truth out there, and it isn't mathematics: It's God. All other truths derive from God, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Where we get into trouble is in thinking that we have control over, or unfiltered access to, that Truth. The only access we have is in God's own self-revelation of the Truth.
The truth is revealed most fully in Christ Jesus, who is, in the words of Hans Frei, most himself in the crucifixion and resurrection event. We've got to know that truth all the way down to our core, and use the gifts God has given us to testify to that truth.
I still affirm that doubts and questions are a healthy and necessary part of faith development, and should never stop. Though there is much that is unknown, and some that is perhaps unknowable, I can testify to this slice truth: Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.