Why is a 29-year-old ex-journalist who slept through as much of his undergraduate Bible classes as he could get away with taking the plunge into seminary? Why is he blogging about it?
The pat, Christian answer is: Because God told me to.
And that’s true, more or less. I certainly feel called to do this. Doors have opened in amazing ways. I couldn’t go to grad school without the discount I get for being on staff here, and I got the job here – and was able to move here – through an amazing series of coincidences that all occurred at the same time as my wife was having our second child. I have no doubt God orchestrated all of this so I could be doing what I’m about to do next week.
The real answer requires a lot more explanation, and some day I’ll describe that journey in more detail. Suffice it to say the more I learned about the Bible and thought about the troubling questions that have vexed Christians for two millennia, I realized not only was I not alone, but that the traditional means of addressing these issues – the church and Christian high schools and colleges – were simply falling down on the job.
As always, Richard Beck finds a way to better express what I’ve been thinking:
As I said, I think moral luck is one of the two biggest stumbling blocks to faith. And as best I can tell, few young people feel that they are getting honest, direct, and substantive answers to their questions on this issue. I’ve seen very little popular (or academic for that matter) engagement with this issue. That’s a problem. You have this huge stumbling block to faith with every little by way of recognition, engagement and response. No wonder young people are getting fed up with church.
Speaking as someone who came perilously close to seeing his faith simply shrivel up and die, I can relate. The questions were there, even if I didn’t take the time to formally articulate them. I simply shooed them away, but at a devastating cost. How many others like me are confronting the traditional teachings on salvation, creation, biblical inerrancy and suffering, receiving no satisfactory answers, and simply walking away?
Here’s how I described it in the essay I wrote when applying for admission to seminary:
I firmly believe students in the future will only find the traditional faith of their ancestors increasingly difficult to follow as old assumptions about the workings of God’s creation continue to fall. I know how difficult it is to feel like the only God you are given the opportunity to know is someone you don’t like. Students today and students tomorrow need someone who has been through the darkness and found the light.
They need … someone who understands their cry for a faith that makes sense in a world of horror and cruelty, someone who can point the way to the One who can handle their questions without judging them or casting them aside. God is calling me to help them by showing them a different God than the one with whom they were raised.
There’s a lot of certainty there, but I confess I’m not sure how much I’ll be needed once I’m done with this process of balancing a full-time job, raising three children and earning two graduate degrees. After all, people like Richard Beck, Rachel Held Evans, Scot McKnight and Rob Bell are raising, and answering, these questions every day.
But, for now, that’s where I’m at in this ride. And why am I blogging about it?
That answer is easy: If I’m going to take a plunge like this, I want as many people to come along with me as I can get. Welcome aboard!