Friday, May 20, 2016

Agnosticism, Doubt, Faith, Thinking

This article in CT has definitely "stuck in my craw" for a number of reasons.  I recommend it if you want to be bothered.


First, a-gnosticism is a word created rather recently (1800s), and it's rather unusual. The "a" means not, of course, so it would seem to be "not gnosticism" and therefore some sort of orthodoxy or at least not new agey, and that is not at all the case.  More like "not knowledge" but it means, in our usage, "not faith."  Which automatically brings into question the relationship between knowledge and faith, what we know and what we believe.

Second, this article is about faith/antifaith but more about marriage.  In fact, as someone whose husband does not attend church with me any more (but is still a believer), I have sympathy and empathy--empathy for sharing in the lack of church attendance with my spouse and being so tired of sitting by myself in church, and sympathy for her having a spouse who no longer (if ever) shares the core of her world view.

Then, I get mad.  I feel as if this husband pulled a bait and switch on his young wife.  Did they marry under false pretenses?  Couldn't he try harder to believe?  Is being true to oneself in terms of one's doubt valid if it is so hard on the wife?  Well, the opposite is to be a hypocrite if one truly does not believe, and that of course is not an option.

I have wondered about this scenario for many years.  Paul writes that if an unbelieving spouse wants to leave, he/she can have that freedom, although it still leaves the believing spouse in the lurch.  And I think that situation is different:  in the New Testament case, both started out unbelievers and one changed to belief, not the opposite.  But either way, the believing spouse doesn't seem to have an out.  I prayed for this young woman this morning because it would be so difficult to not be drawn away from someone so cold to what matters the most to her.  She is in danger also of being drawn into his unbelief.

Third, of course, is the question of apostasy.  Is it possible?  Apparently yes, according to these people's (and some of those in the comments') experience.  I have to wonder if the agnosticism is not just severe disillusionment, though.  There is so much in the present-day church that could disillusion someone and cause them to conflate their experience with reality, with the big picture.  Abuse and bad treatment from church leadership seems to be a theme.  Yes.  I get that.  It happens.  I have never been mistreated but I have seen it and as a woman I am aware that some church leaders see me as less than.

Political issues being confused with the gospel is another.

Why is the gospel seen as antithetical to caring about the environment?  Would Jesus want us to care about the environment as opposed to abusing it for our own gain?  (This from a woman who doesn't carpool but does try to conserve resources.)  Jesus, I think, would not have us put the environment over people's health and well being, but otherwise, I don't see why being a Christian should conflict with a concern for ecology.

Does Jesus really want us to have AK-47s?  

The poor?  The least of these?  Care for them is pretty clear.  Immigration?  We can't solve world poverty by letting everyone into the country, but that doesn't mean we don't address world poverty.  My point here is that the gospel should influence one's approach to the world.  Because the Republican party is pro-life in its platform doesn't mean they are right about everything else; because the Democrats claim to be for the poor (that could be debated) doesn't justify everything else they hold to.  The conflation with politics has hurt the church immeasurable.

 Fourth, in regard to this article, is the issue of science.  I will put this into my next post.  That seems to be a problem that leads to agnosticism, or what I would say, succumbing to a lifestyle of doubt.  But can doubt be a lifestyle?  I would say no.  There is faith in something--one's own judgment, the writings or opinions of others, the belief that science is always right and good.  Agnosticism only really applies to doubts about God, not about everything.  Therefore it is a misnomer on a second point.  

I would finally contend that our pietistic narcissism, where God is seen as more concerned about my tiny problems than the Syrian refugees, is a real problem for thinking believers and unbelievers.

Is God tolerant of doubt?  I think he forgives us of it.  I don't think he wants us to live in it, though.  Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God, to quote Romans 10 in the AV.  I read about a powerful Savior in the Word of God, not a God who is pleased with our veiled narcissism.

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