Evangelical Cognitive Dissonance

Over the past few weeks some leading American Evangelical leaders have resigned their ministry and left the faith. There there appears to be one that may have committed suicide just yesterday.

Marty Sampson, the former singer for Hillsong captures the moment:
This is a soapbox moment so here I go … How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet—they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.

I am not in any more. I want genuine truth. Not the “I just believe it” kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real. Unfollow if you want, I’ve never been about living my life for others
(Source, Relevant Magazine)

I know I have struggled with cognitive dissonance over the faith many times. I came from a very conservative church body which just affirmed that creation, was in fact a six day event. Plus there are quite a number of gaps in my mind in the Biblical story, some of which I have highlighted in other parts.

Seems like Evangelicals just see every thing in white and black. No grey in between. No other way out of their dilemma. Either it is factual or it is not. Either it is true or it is not.

For me, I think what helped me get through some of this is to understand that there are different types of truth. Take, for instance, the creation story. I am not hung up on the timeline. I see that it is an affirmation of faith, not a scientific document. Therefore, there is really no contradiction. While one affirms who created everything, the other lists how everything appears to have evolved.

I am wondering if other people have also experienced something like this, and how have they resolved it.
«1345

Comments

  • Very brave of him and you both @Gramps49.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    edited September 11
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Seems like Evangelicals just see every thing in white and black. No grey in between. No other way out of their dilemma. Either it is factual or it is not. Either it is true or it is not.
    Fred Clark has a slightly different angle on this, calling it The all-or-nothing lie of fundamentalist Christianity. I think I'm allowed to quote a short piece here:
    Fundamentalist Christianity is a package deal — an inseparable, all-or-nothing bundle of teachings and ideology that says every piece depends on every other piece. If any one piece of it isn’t true, fundamentalism insists, then it all falls apart and none of it is true.

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited September 11
    You can resolve the cognitive dissonance by adopting a liberal hermeneutic. Surely? It not only enables you to dialogue with the issues in contemporary culture but it also opens up the possibilities of Biblical exegesis in endlessly fascinating breadth and depth.

    After all, there are no absolutes outside of God.
  • SirPalomidesSirPalomides Shipmate
    edited September 11
    I would wager there is no way to be human without experiencing some kind of cognitive dissonance and no worldview that avoids it.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    You can't separate yourself from your own culture. But you can try to be aware of the lenses that you bring to your theological reflection. Eutychus was talking recently about the different layers to be found in the scriptures. It makes them all the more interesting to explore, doesn't it?
  • LeRoc wrote: »
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Seems like Evangelicals just see every thing in white and black. No grey in between. No other way out of their dilemma. Either it is factual or it is not. Either it is true or it is not.
    Fred Clark has a slightly different angle on this, calling it The all-or-nothing lie of fundamentalist Christianity. I think I'm allowed to quote a short piece here:
    Fundamentalist Christianity is a package deal — an inseparable, all-or-nothing bundle of teachings and ideology that says every piece depends on every other piece. If any one piece of it isn’t true, fundamentalism insists, then it all falls apart and none of it is true.
    I read the "Evangelicals just see every thing in white and black" as being inaccurate in relation to many evangelicals, myself included (I hope!). It may be true of Fundamentalist Evangelicals, but not of Evangelicals more generally.

    Perhaps the answer to the cognitive dissonance for some evangelicals is to explore the heritage of evangelicalism and rediscover the resources of centuries of evangelical scholarship, and maybe find that the questions they have can be explored within different strands of evangelicalism.

  • LeRoc wrote: »
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Seems like Evangelicals just see every thing in white and black. No grey in between. No other way out of their dilemma. Either it is factual or it is not. Either it is true or it is not.
    Fred Clark has a slightly different angle on this, calling it The all-or-nothing lie of fundamentalist Christianity. I think I'm allowed to quote a short piece here:
    Fundamentalist Christianity is a package deal — an inseparable, all-or-nothing bundle of teachings and ideology that says every piece depends on every other piece. If any one piece of it isn’t true, fundamentalism insists, then it all falls apart and none of it is true.

    I have recently been reading Richard Rohr’s The Universal Christ. I thought his picture of three phases of spiritual transformation was interesting, and relevant to this discussion:

    1. Order - everything is good, organized, rule-bound and unchallenging. A state of innocence or naivety (which he loosely aligns with unfettered conservatism / fundamentalism).

    2. Disorder - life’s problems, tragedies and contradictions become apparent and keenly felt. A state of suffering that can lead to skepticism and a rejection of any universal truths (which he loosely aligns with unfettered liberalism).

    3. Reorder - pulling the two positions together, rather than apart:
    They hold on to what was good about the first order but also offer it very needed correctives. [...] Loving their truth and their group enough to critique it. Critiquing it enough to maintain their own integrity and intelligence.*
    *Rohr, R. 2019. The Universal Christ, p245. London: SPCK.

  • Brave of you too Alan. Yourself included indeed. And as ever, right.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    Cameron wrote: »
    I have recently been reading Richard Rohr’s The Universal Christ. I thought his picture of three phases of spiritual transformation was interesting, and relevant to this discussion:
    It reminds me a bit of Hegel's three-stroke (not sure if this is the right term in English)

  • I think usually in English we just say "thesis-antithesis-synthesis".
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    Thanks.
  • LeRoc wrote: »
    Fred Clark has a slightly different angle on this, calling it The all-or-nothing lie of fundamentalist Christianity. I think I'm allowed to quote a short piece here:
    Fundamentalist Christianity is a package deal — an inseparable, all-or-nothing bundle of teachings and ideology that says every piece depends on every other piece. If any one piece of it isn’t true, fundamentalism insists, then it all falls apart and none of it is true.

    Clark has been making this point for a while. Here's an even early post he made about a fellow evangelical encountering some archæology on a trip to Jericho:
    The most dangerous thing about fundamentalism is not that it sometimes teaches wacky ideas, like that the world is barely 6,000 years old or that dancing is sinful. The most dangerous thing is that it insists that such ideas are all inviolably necessary components of the faith. Each such idea, every aspect of their faith, is regarded as a keystone without which everything else they believe — the existence of a loving God, the assurance of pardon, the possibility of a moral or meaningful life — crumbles into meaninglessness.

    My classmate's church taught him that their supposedly "literal" reading of Genesis 1 was the necessary complement to their "literal" reading of the rest of the Bible, which they regarded as the entire and only basis for their faith. His belief in 6-day, young-earth creationism was not merely some disputable piece of adiaphora, such as …

    Well, for such fundamentalists there is no "such as." This is why they cling to every aspect of their belief system with such desperate ferocity. Should even the smallest piece be cast into doubt, they believe, the entire structure would crumble like the walls of Jericho. If dancing is not a sin, or if the authorship of Isaiah turns out to involve more than a single person at one time, or if the moons of Jupiter present a microcosm that suggests a heliocentric solar system, then suddenly nothing is true, their "whole groundwork cracks, and the earth opens to abysses."

    This was, roughly, what was going on in my poor classmate's head as he stared at those rocks, which had been carefully put in place by some ancient citizen of Jericho thousands of years before the tiny literal god of the fundies had gotten around to creating the universe. If he were to cling to the framework he had been raised to believe, then either he must reject the existence of that wall, or he must reject everything he thought he believed about God.

    Fortunately he was among friends, and we were able to convince him of a third option, which was, of course, not to cling to the framework he had been raised to believe.

    Click through to read the whole thing. As always, italics are from the original and bolding has been added by me.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    At the risk of gross over-simplification, ISTM there are two major paradigms regarding the nature of Faith (a) Faith as Trust (in God) and (b) Faith as Belief (the centrality of assent to correct theological propositions). Conservative Evangelicals place a heavy emphasis on correctness of belief as necessary for salvation, which exposes their faith to challenge from reason and scientific knowledge: strong but brittle, and devastating when its inflexibility snaps.
  • I'd like to know how many centuries of evangelical scholarship Alan Cresswell has in mind. Evangelicalism in its current form had it been around since the 1700s (although it draws on earlier influences of course).

    I know what he means though - evangelicalism and fundamentalism are not synonymous.

    Evangelicalism has produced some scholars but I'd suggest it has to draw on older sources - Patristics, Medieval, the Reformers - if it's going to lay any claims to greater levels of nuance.

    FWIW I think evangelicalism can deliver the goods when it puts its mind to it. Sadly it often retreats behind sound bites and platitudes.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Yes I am with Alan. All Evangelicals do not believe as stated. There is a popular opinion they do but it is not true.
    In an increasingly atheistic or at least agnostic, or just plain can’t be bothered age Christians will always go against the flow of society. At big events like Spring Harvest these things are discussed
  • LeRoc wrote: »
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Seems like Evangelicals just see every thing in white and black. No grey in between. No other way out of their dilemma. Either it is factual or it is not. Either it is true or it is not.
    Fred Clark has a slightly different angle on this, calling it The all-or-nothing lie of fundamentalist Christianity. I think I'm allowed to quote a short piece here:
    Fundamentalist Christianity is a package deal — an inseparable, all-or-nothing bundle of teachings and ideology that says every piece depends on every other piece. If any one piece of it isn’t true, fundamentalism insists, then it all falls apart and none of it is true.
    I read the "Evangelicals just see every thing in white and black" as being inaccurate in relation to many evangelicals, myself included (I hope!). It may be true of Fundamentalist Evangelicals, but not of Evangelicals more generally.

    Perhaps the answer to the cognitive dissonance for some evangelicals is to explore the heritage of evangelicalism and rediscover the resources of centuries of evangelical scholarship, and maybe find that the questions they have can be explored within different strands of evangelicalism.

    Good point Alan. As I look at the history of Evangelicalism in the 20th Century especially in America, the fundamentalist perspective has eclipsed what would otherwise be known mainstream--or open--evangelicalism.

    But I wonder if fundamentalism is beginning to burn itself out--again in America. They put all their money on a failed president. Young Adults are vacating the movement. The gap between their doctrinaire positions and contemporary realities continue to widen.
  • BullfrogBullfrog Shipmate
    edited September 11
    Reminds me of a book I read about the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention back in the 1970s, which was the prequel to all of this current insult-to-insanity.

    And evidently, once upon a time, fundamentalists and evangelicals were opposites. Evangelicals were the ones who'd bend over backwards to try to bring more people into the church, being popular by doctrine-light. Fundamentalists tended to stick to isolated communities that insisted upon very strict obedience to a very particular code. This of course, proved to be a turn off for a lot of people.

    A narrative that got tossed around was that northern fundamentalists had withered on the vine from their own social isolation, and southern fundamentalists were scared they'd be next, so they morphed into a strange new fusion of evangelicalism with fundamentalism in a last ditch effort to fend of prevailing "secular" culture.

    At this point I hope that the movement is going through some extremely violent death throes, and I fear that they're dragging the rest of us along for the ride.

    It's also why I sometimes use the word "fundagelical."

    Here's a citation to the book I referred to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1714729.Uneasy_in_Babylon
  • Hubris isn't it, to think we've got The Answer. There's more. Always. More than the bible. More than any tradition. More than any recalled human history or sequence. Just stay with the contradictions. Live with them. Patiently. More or less forever.
  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    I think usually in English we just say "thesis-antithesis-synthesis".

    Or Hegelian dialectic.
  • Hubris isn't it, to think we've got The Answer. There's more. Always. More than the bible. More than any tradition. More than any recalled human history or sequence. Just stay with the contradictions. Live with them. Patiently. More or less forever.

    I think this is it.

    I've been rereading The Dispossessed by Ursuala Le Guin, which has some great lines in it. One is:
    they did not want to think about questions, but to write down the answers they had learned

    In the evangelical circles I grew up in, thinking about questions was part of what I understood it to mean to be an evangelical; "examine all things, hold on to what is good", and of course the Bereans, checking to see if what they were told agreed with the Scriptures.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited September 12
    Fundamentalism isn't the problem, historical-grammatical method is, which underpins the biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism and activism in the Bebbington Quadrilteral.

    Who examines the examining?
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited September 12
    @Martin54 I'm sure your belief system, whatever it is, makes ample provision for examination of the examining and ensures that you can continue to present your uncertainties with total, unqualified certainty (on a good day). I'm glad for you.

    In the meantime, so far as I'm concerned, 1 Cor 3:4-5 has always struck me as good advice

    I do not even judge [or examine] myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

    At the end of the day it's not methods or -isms that are the problem, it's whether, in the final analysis, we are prepared to admit that our self-analysis might be wrong and place ourselves in God's hands, trusting in his judgement.

    I don't seek the theologically correct, I seek people who practice justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    I don't seek the theologically correct, I seek people who practice justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.
    One might say that Jesus had the same attitude, vis-a-vis the Scribes and Pharisees.

  • Well said Eutychus.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    @Martin54 I'm sure your belief system, whatever it is, makes ample provision for examination of the examining and ensures that you can continue to present your uncertainties with total, unqualified certainty (on a good day). I'm glad for you.

    In the meantime, so far as I'm concerned, 1 Cor 3:4-5 has always struck me as good advice

    I do not even judge [or examine] myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

    At the end of the day it's not methods or -isms that are the problem, it's whether, in the final analysis, we are prepared to admit that our self-analysis might be wrong and place ourselves in God's hands, trusting in his judgement.

    I don't seek the theologically correct, I seek people who practice justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.

    Don't we all @Eutychus, don't we all. When we can. As exemplars. Meanwhile, in my real world, I seek to be those people at work, walking to and from it, with my wife, in my dealings. Bloody hard isn't it when it gets even a little sharp. In the 1% I extend my little finger. Dependent on frail exemplars yes.

    My belief system is plain to see and always has been throughout it's deconstruction I'd have thought. Despite the gnomishness. What do you think it is? Admittedly it's hard to put Humpty together again.

    As for God's hands, being immanent they fit us indetectably, perfusing the skin of our being. We are His hands. We have to trust His judgement not to intervene. Not to show His hand. I don't seek His praise. Nought be all else to me, save that He is. As He was in Christ.
  • From what I've heard, the Southern Baptist convention is beginning to thaw and to reverse its previously uber-conservative stance on certain issues.

    The sky is about to fall in ...
  • Only south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
  • Ha ha ...

    Or perhaps north of the Irish border?

    At any rate, I thought Mark Noll had nailed this some time ago.

    'The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.'

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scandal-Evangelical-Mind-Mark-Noll/dp/0802841805

    1995? Was it really published that long ago?

    Has anything improved since?

    To be fair, although not involved with what's taught in evangelical training colleges and seminaries, at various times I've become aware that the diet has broadened ... (or perhaps it already had been without my noticing?) plenty of Patristics, The Cappadocian Fathers, debates on the 'new perspective' on Paul and so on and so forth ...

    What I don't see is much evidence of that percolating out into the pews or the plastic bucket seats. That holds true for other traditions no doubt. It's not as if catechesis is of a high standard elsewhere.
  • I just wonder if the ministers coming out of those colleges etc. have imbued what I call the "driving test approach" - i.e. "We'll learn this stuff for the exam but after that we can forget it"?

    Or are they worried that, if they unleash their questions and insights onto congregations who want things to remain simple, they will get sacked for "leading them astray" or "complicating the Simple Gospel"?

    I'm afraid that there seem to be a lot of Christians who think that faith is all about "certain knowledge" and "security", when it is intrinsically neither of those things. Still, I can understand why they'd like to think that, in a confusing, unstable and possibly threatening world - but it won't do.
  • @Eutychus and what's your belief system? Your epistemological ideology? Regardless of the boat, aren't you struggling to rebuild it while it's in the water too?

    My barely floating boat has a mutinous born-again Enlightenment rationalist postmodern crew, armed with hammers and chisels. And the baby Jesus.

    Yours?
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited September 12
    @Martin54 You go first.
  • I thought I did!

    It's the same as it's been since I became aware that the most awe inspiring story in the Bible by a country mile, the Pericope Adulterae, was bodged in to 'John', from an oral tradition written down elsewhen, 400 years after that was last edited. That's only a year I think.

    Martin's Belief System

    EMPIRICISM & RATIONALISM

    Is based on the senses and logic, empirical and rational, including all those who have gone before exercising them; scientists and philosophers.

    PARSIMONY

    Which, in logic, includes parsimony: K.I.S.S.

    UNIFORMITARIANISM

    Which means uniformitarianism: there has always been stuff which therefore lacks no cause. By Kolmogorov complexity a one off universe is more complex than an infinity. This is not empirical - it's not falsifiable - but it is rational.

    MATERIALISM

    I, a physical being, can only sense the physical. Just like everyone else. Including internal psychological states. There is no mind-body problem. This is not reductionist because of the synergies of emergence.

    Stuff is mysterious because it mathematically has to be. Planck, Einstein (ROS), Pauli, Heisenberg, Schroedinger et al.

    Nothing is missing.

    MORTALITY

    I came from nothing and I'm going back to it. Fast. In fact I die every night. One day I won't come back.

    THE CHURCH

    An historical group that arose within a generation of its greatest claim.

    JOHN 3:16

    The claim. My only hope.


    I used to believe all manner of other stuff - magic - indirectly associated with the claim. I was wrong.
  • Going to the comment about the historical grammatical method. This is where the interpreter is trying to understand what the author meant when the material was written and to determine how the first audience may have understood the writing. It does recognize there are certain grammatical forms in the Bible that should not be taken as factual such as the Apocalypse of John, but its downfall is it tends to consider most everything as historical (such as the creation stories).

    I think the problem of fundamentalism is its use of a reader response method. This method assumes the reader understands the text without considering the authors' intent. This allows the reader to read his/her own biases into the text,

  • I'm an atheist, I used to be a charismatic Evangelical.

    I think the thing that some other contributors have not mentioned so far is that this is a phenomena of spiritual weariness and I suspect it is a feature of many religious movements which are organised to clearly delineate those (both ideas and people) who are "in" from those who are "out".

    Other religious movements which are more accommodating of uncertainty and difference and doubt are probably places where those experiencing the personal meaninglessness of this state of weariness can rest. But that's not really an option for these kinds of evangelical - and other kinds of ultra-strict religion.

    I agree it isn't all evangelicals. But there is certainly a strand of the belief, which is probably overall a minority of evangelicals, which nethertheless tries to use bullying to force its own interpretation of what is an 'evangelical' to be the litmus by which all other claims of authenticity are measured.

    Of course it is crude and of course it is nonsense. But it is quite a powerful platform to insist that everyone else is weak or wrong because you have the real truth.

    And of course there are inevitable casualties when it turns out to be a mountain of horseshit.
  • @Blahblah - so much loss my friend.
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited September 12
    I just wonder if the ministers coming out of those colleges etc. have imbued what I call the "driving test approach" - i.e. "We'll learn this stuff for the exam but after that we can forget it"?
    Thanks for this. It's led me to produce a little piece for tomorrow's pastors' fraternal on "examine yourselves; test yourselves to see whether you are in the faith".

    (potted version: the faith isn't about passing a test. It's about constantly asking oneself questions).
    Or are they worried that, if they unleash their questions and insights onto congregations who want things to remain simple, they will get sacked for "leading them astray" or "complicating the Simple Gospel"?

    As someone who speaks to a congregation, I feel I have a responsibility to speak with intellectual integrity, and a responsibility to get people to "examine themselves" rather than just jot down "right answers"... and a responsiblity not to vandalise their faith. Jesus has some harsh words for those who cause "any of these little ones to stumble".

    True leadership requires courage and direction but also compassion, empathy, patience, and forbearance.

    (I well remember an evangelical kids' camp I was helping on in my late teens early 20s where one of the leaders, who had obviously recently had a damascene conversion to liberalism, did a Bible study with us which consisted of gleefully informing us that 1 Samuel 13:1 reads "Saul was [blank] years old when he became king" as a QED demonstration of how unreliable the biblical text was. That did more to put me off his views than win any sympathy or arouse any curiosity; he was clearly full of himself and abusing his position to destabilise a bunch of young adults in the middle of a gruelling camp schedule*. We needed encouragement, not textual criticism!).

    ==

    *I think it was a few years later that Mrs Eutychus-to-be shut the same guy up on the spot when he was in similar flow with what turned out to be one of the most unintended and thus authentic words of knowledge I've ever heard: "do you actually know Greek, or are you just pretending?"
  • A liberal evangelical friend chipped in in the God Space at the end of the soup kitchen that Enoch didn't die, that God took him straight to heaven, to encourage what I don't know. 'Righteousness' probably. Whatever that is. The most I could say was that that is one interpretation. Nobody asked for more. It wasn't the time or place to try and extend vulnerable people's thinking and I would NEVER tear down without the certainty of rebuilding better. Unless somebody was speaking truly toxic waste. And even then. A lovely young Argentine woman of the same cult explained how Jonah's God had to threaten to annihilate Nineveh because He's so good. Where does one start? So one doesn't.

    So what's yours?
  • From what I've heard, the Southern Baptist convention is beginning to thaw and to reverse its previously uber-conservative stance on certain issues.

    The sky is about to fall in ...
    I’m not sure what you’ve heard, but I wouldn’t hold my breath or get an asbestos umbrella just yet.
  • @Martin54 I think this is as good a summary as any other.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    @Martin54 I think this is as good a summary as any other.

    It certainly is. I missed it in the turbulence. You have no idea! 2) is beautiful. I will seek 3) from now on in my nausée.

    Thank you as ever Eutychus. For adding me as a link in that chain beyond you.
  • EliabEliab Shipmate, Purgatory Host
    Eutychus wrote: »
    (I well remember an evangelical kids' camp I was helping on in my late teens early 20s where one of the leaders, who had obviously recently had a damascene conversion to liberalism, did a Bible study with us which consisted of gleefully informing us that 1 Samuel 13:1 reads "Saul was [blank] years old when he became king" as a QED demonstration of how unreliable the biblical text was. That did more to put me off his views than win any sympathy or arouse any curiosity; he was clearly full of himself and abusing his position to destabilise a bunch of young adults in the middle of a gruelling camp schedule*. We needed encouragement, not textual criticism!).

    I struggling to see what you think he did wrong. He was, presumably, there to teach people about the bible. The biblical text is, in actual fact, unreliable at that point, and as 'young adults' the group were probably mature enough to understand why, in a very old document, issues like that can occur. It seems to me that the observation was on topic and age appropriate.

    If the objection is simply that he took an inordinate degree of pleasure in challenging the group's assumptions, that seems a very minor failing to me.


  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    American Fundagelicalism is the flipside of 19th century Liberal Christianity and is about as soul destroying in that it has many of the same hang-ups as to what constitutes evidence as Victorian rationalism. To my mind the Fundagelicals have no poetry in their religion, which tends to mean that they do not handle mystery and paradox well resulting in what is often a narrow, barren and heavily derivative (in all the wrong ways) theology. In short, they have a knack for backing themselves into hard line positions, and then not being able to work their way out of them without considerable angst.

    The truly unfortunate part about the fundies is that if you actually read "The Fundamentals" it is 95% a statement of conservative mainstream Protestant theology not an apology for "Check-Your-Brain-At-The-Door" fundamentalism. Like so many "isms" it says things, and takes positions never intended by the founders. I had the same sort of experience a few years ago when it was hip to be "Young, Angry, and Reformed" (we used to refer to them as YARs. They fastened on precisely those aspects of Calvinism about which traditional Calvinists are the most tentative. YAR theology was just plain ugly, and did enormous damage because it majored on the minors. Many of those who embraced the YAR position were recovering Fundagelicals - which perhaps explains a lot.

    I don't think anyone has the right to be smug about the future of Christianity in the West at the moment. Some of the liberal mainline denominations (TEC, PCUSA, UCC) have cratered for theological and sociological reasons; the moderate mainliners are keeping it together better, but are still experiencing shrinkage. The Fundagelicals are having problems because some of their constituency has begun to think, but they have a deeper problem of identity that they do not seem to be able to solve. The RCs are reaping the harvest of both the sex abuse crisis and the spirit of Vatican II, and won't really recover until they deal with both effectively. On the whole it seems to be the moderates who are surviving best because they allow organic change rather than refusing or forcing it.

    However, that is just my pig-headed opinion as to what is going on.
  • Eliab wrote: »
    I struggling to see what you think he did wrong. He was, presumably, there to teach people about the bible. The biblical text is, in actual fact, unreliable at that point, and as 'young adults' the group were probably mature enough to understand why, in a very old document, issues like that can occur. It seems to me that the observation was on topic and age appropriate.

    If the objection is simply that he took an inordinate degree of pleasure in challenging the group's assumptions, that seems a very minor failing to me.
    The person in question was on a brief visit, and his remit as I recall was not to deliver teaching on the Bible as such, but rather to preside a single'spiritual time' to encourage the team. His stance was nowhere near representative of that of the organisation running the camp, and there was no opportunity for discussion.

    I think that was a hit-and-run abuse of the opportunity to provide a word of encouragement and of the 'platform', if one can call it that, that he was offered.

    I'm all for challenging people's assumptions, but I think the terms on which that is done need to be taken into consideration carefully.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    For adding me as a link in that chain beyond you.

    :sunglasses:

  • The original intent of this thread was to discuss why it appears so many American (Fundamentalist) Evangelical Leaders are renouncing their faith, not necessarily why denominations are losing members.
  • Gramps49 wrote: »
    The original intent of this thread was to discuss why it appears so many American (Fundamentalist) Evangelical Leaders are renouncing their faith, not necessarily why denominations are losing members.
    I would think that they share causes. The members, with generally less invested, will leave sooner. The leaders leaving might be a sign that the problem has gotten huge.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    Hubris isn't it, to think we've got The Answer. There's more. Always. More than the bible. More than any tradition. More than any recalled human history or sequence. Just stay with the contradictions. Live with them. Patiently. More or less forever.

    I think this is it.

    I've been rereading The Dispossessed by Ursuala Le Guin, which has some great lines in it. One is:
    they did not want to think about questions, but to write down the answers they had learned

    In the evangelical circles I grew up in, thinking about questions was part of what I understood it to mean to be an evangelical; "examine all things, hold on to what is good", and of course the Bereans, checking to see if what they were told agreed with the Scriptures.
    Yeah, I do not know. IME, the questioning people do tends to be more shallow than they think it is.

  • Blahblah wrote: »
    I'm an atheist, I used to be a charismatic Evangelical.

    I think the thing that some other contributors have not mentioned so far is that this is a phenomena of spiritual weariness and I suspect it is a feature of many religious movements which are organised to clearly delineate those (both ideas and people) who are "in" from those who are "out".
    The more rigid the material, the more brittle. Evangelical isn't known for its ductility.

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited September 13
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    The original intent of this thread was to discuss why it appears so many American (Fundamentalist) Evangelical Leaders are renouncing their faith, not necessarily why denominations are losing members.
    Isn't it the flip side of the same coin? Why are the pew-warmers quitting, why are the leadership quitting? Couldn't be the same reason? Or at least share a good bit of overlap?
  • questioningquestioning Shipmate
    edited September 14
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Over the past few weeks some leading American Evangelical leaders have resigned their ministry and left the faith. There there appears to be one that may have committed suicide just yesterday.

    The thread has moved in a somewhat different direction, so ignore me if that seems appropriate. I want to point out, though, that dying by suicide is not the same thing as resigning one's ministry and leaving the faith. Suicide can be a consequence of illness. From what I could see about this person, there was a clear acknowledgement of his mental health struggles and a large part of his ministry had to do with mental health. To hint that his death is a consequence of evangelical cognitive dissonance seem to presume a lot.

    Los Angeles Times
    Christianity Today

    Fixed broken Christianity Today link. BroJames Purgatory Host
Sign In or Register to comment.