No Free Passes for Skeptics  

Posted by Joe Rawls

It's no secret that lots of mainline Christians doubt or reject some or many items of traditional belief. In my own parish, where Marcus Borg's books are used for confirmation classes, some of my friends omit parts of the Nicene Creed during the Sunday Eucharist or else skip it altogether. This is part of the parish's agenda of "inclusion", "hospitality", and "accepting people as they are".

Martin L Smith, a priest and spiritual writer serving St Columba's in Washington, DC, has a different take on this phenomenon. Doubters are to be welcomed in love, but some kinds of doubt may appropriately be challenged. The essay from which the following is excerpted appears in Episcopal Cafe.

Then there are entirely different kinds of doubt, which instead of serving faith, are defense mechanisms against it. So in our congregations there are those who rely on doubt for keeping Christ at bay. We need to get better at detecting the emotional dynamic that is frequently at work under doubts that are often presented as purely rational problems or even badges of sophistication. There are those whose doubts about the resurrection, doubts about the real presence, doubts about Christ, function as rationalizations for a basic dread of intimacy with the divine. In these cases intellectual agnosticism shields one from the possibility that Christ might actually touch or enter us, making us utterly vulnerable to being loved, moved, led and changed. It is good to keep on setting out good arguments for the truth of basic Christian doctrines, but they won't be effective unless we recognize the emotional dynamic of fear and resistance that may well be fueling a person's unbelief as they take up our offer of hospitality and inclusiveness.

This entry was posted on Friday, September 4, 2009 at Friday, September 04, 2009 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



I find the entire idea pointless and unbelievable; I don't like church services and find them boring and expensive wastes of time.
Most people go to churches where they're going to be confirmed in what they already believe. Another real issue with Mainline Protestantism is that it's still about as integrated as Vermont or Idaho after having preached about "Celebrating our Diversity" for over forty years.
Either somebody's lying or your celebration must be extremely unattractive to non-whites and the non-NPR types at Pentecostal and Baptist services.

July 21, 2011 at 11:37 PM

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