In his book, Soul Survivor, author Philip Yancey describes the great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, as engaged in a “relentless pursuit of authentic faith.” Few will ever compare me to Tolstoy, and I am not altogether sad about that, but I would not mind sharing that description. For most of my life, I too have been on a relentless pursuit of authentic faith.
My parents were Christians, and I followed their example, embraced their faith, and was baptised as a child. During my teen years I asked, of my parents and my pastor, many of the typical questions about the existence of God, the merit of non-Christian religions, and the meaning of life which adolescents often ask. Although I found many of their answers inadequate and unsatisfying, I never really doubted that there were adequate answers, and I assumed that I would eventually find them.
I envy those persons who are fortunate enough to have been born into the “right” tradition. Folks who are certain that the beliefs they inherited from their parents require no testing. That their group’s history is noble and superior to other traditions, whether they know much about their history (or anybody else’s, for that matter) or not. Folks who have never experienced the wrenching emotions and almost physical pain which accompany the dreaded but unavoidable conclusion that what you have grown up believing may not, in fact, be totally true. And that you are forced, by dint of growing convictions, to repudiate earlier beliefs and, yes, to change your mind.
It must be immensely comforting to make the sojourn from cradle to grave without having to wrestle with new ideas or to explore, and later embrace, a new pattern of belief which will, invariably, be misunderstood and misinterpreted by family members, former colleagues, and friends.
Unfortunately, I have not been so blessed. Several times over the course of my life I have had to abandon some long-held assumptions and, at the risk of permanent damage to personal relationships, to admit that my earlier understanding of truth had undergone a major revision, to change my mind, and to adopt a new heading.
I had to do that when I moved from fundamentalism to a wider, more inclusive, more grace-full evangelicalism. I had to do it again when I concluded that modern American suburban evangelicalism had become too much like the culture it was supposed to bear witness to. And I had to do it yet again when I was drawn into the beauty and mystery of the liturgical tradition in Christian worship.
It has been a “relentless pursuit,” and it’s not over yet. Thanks for joining me on the sojourn. Buckle up. It may be a bumpy ride.