The Arrogance of Unwarranted Certainty

Picking up where I left off yesterday, I want to consider further the first of three important truths I mentioned at the close of that post. There I noted that the older I get, the less certain I am about a lot of things, and I am not troubled by that. In fact, unwarranted certainty very often breeds arrogance, while honest doubt encourages humility and deepens faith.

I have a theory. It is not something I have read anywhere, at least not that I recall. It is the product of gut feeling and personal observation, not surveys or scientific testing of any kind. I may abandon it tomorrow, but for today, here it is. Continue reading

Help My Unbelief

I was twenty-eight, serving as pastor of a small, rural congregation in upstate New York, about 40 miles southeast of Buffalo. I had preached a dozen or more funerals by that time in my ministry, but I had never lost anyone really close to me. Then on a snowy Monday night in January, the phone rang, and I learned that one of the elders in my church, a man who, in less than a year, had become as dear to me as any member of my own family, had been killed in an automobile crash. It was the first time in my life I had ever felt the exquisite pain of grief so intense I could barely breathe. The anguish I felt was almost physical. My heart ached, but though my faith faltered, ultimately I did not lose hope. Continue reading

Arthur Lough’s Crisis Of Faith

Arthur Lough is a man in his early sixties. He has been a Christian minister for more than forty years. Over the course of his long career he has served the church in a variety of roles including, among other things, as a pastor and an educator. He is not currently serving a congregation nor, in fact, has he been employed in any aspect of Christian ministry for more than four years.

When I asked him about that, he tried to deflect the question with an attempt at humor. “I am currently in a state of temporary, mandatory retirement,” he joked. “I hope to get my retirement out of the way soon so that I can get back to the task of fulfilling my call to vocational ministry.”

Arthur Lough is a man who is serious about Christian faith and what he calls “radical discipleship,” but his belief system is undergoing great stress at the moment. Arthur is in the middle of a serious crisis of faith.

I met with him at his home yesterday, and when I arrived I found him reading an e-book he had recently downloaded to his Kindle. It was called Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary. The author is a man called Kenneth Daniels, and, as Arthur explained, “This guy grew up as an evangelical Christian, spent several years in Bible translation work in Africa, began to have some doubts about Christian faith, particularly the reliabilityCloseup Of Bible With Praying Hands of the Bible, and now, in his mid-forties, identifies himself as an agnostic with strong atheistic leanings.”

A mutual friend had told me about Arthur’s own struggles and the challenges he was facing in maintaining the strong and vibrant commitment to Christian faith which had characterized his life and ministry up until the past few years. I asked him if he was experiencing doubts like those of Kenneth Daniels.

“Well, I wouldn’t say that my doubts are the same as his,” Arthur replied. “But I can relate to his situation. I can understand how his faith could undergo such a test. Mine has too, but so far the end results are different. He abandoned faith altogether. I still have faith, but some days the distance between where Kenneth Daniels is and where I am is not that great.”

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