People don’t often reject Christianity because it’s hard to believe

October 23, 2014

While John Lomperis doesn’t say at which “stage of heresy” Bart Campolo was when he served as a United Methodist youth minister (one hopes a very early one!), I otherwise appreciated this reflection on Campolo’s journey, as the son of progressive evangelical leader Tony, from growing up evangelical to becoming the “humanist chaplain” at USC.

We often speak of faith as if it’s something that happens in spite of ourselves: either we believe or we don’t, and there’s not much we can do about it. Campolo’s story, told briefly in this Forbes magazine profile on leadership, gives the lie to that. Faith is as least as much a matter of the will. We choose it, and the rest of our life follows.

My point is, I don’t think it’s very hard, intellectually, to believe in Christianity. We may reject Christianity for other reasons, but it’s likely not because we’ve weighed all the evidence for its truth claims and find that we just can’t believe it.

I completely agree with this, from Lomperis:

Christian churches obviously differ on all sorts of important but ultimately secondary issues such as infant baptism, women’s ordination, congregational autonomy, episcopal succession, and charismatic gifts. But once one crosses the line of rejecting matters of core, historic Christian orthodoxy (like the eternally triune nature of God, His omnipotence, His performance of laws-of-physics-breaking miracles, Christ’s bodily resurrection, or whether or not we can simply jettison parts of Scriptural teaching that seem too demanding or counter-cultural), this has a way of throwing up everything for grabs. One would be hard-pressed to find someone who has crossed such a very fundamental line of faithfulness in belief or personal practice, but in every other respect is truly a model of Christian purity in doctrine and life. Unfaithfulness has a tendency to spread, like a cancer, until it has overwhelmed its host.

4 Responses to “People don’t often reject Christianity because it’s hard to believe”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    This is an interesting issue. In my case, I readily admit that my Christian “practice” and views on morality were at a low ebb when I encountered the “straw that broke the camel’s back” that actually pushed me over the edge into unbelief for some ten years. I do think that we have to be careful, though, in discounting various intellectual difficulties. For example, given that we don’t see physics-defying miracles today (or I don’t, anyway), I can see someone being genuinely troubled with a faith that embraces those. Also, in my case the “straw” was, being raised in an inerrantist background, I encountered what certainly appeared to be a contradiction (one which was seemingly “engineered” to have a prophesy [as the biblical author seemingly “misinterpreted” it], be fulfilled [as my Introduction to Christianity textbook gleefully pointed out!]), which was highly problematic. Added to which was, also in my case as well, the seeming contradiction between predestination and free choice when the Bible seemingly taught both (as substantiated by numerous scholars taking both sides). So, yes, the “immorality” of a person may be a heavy factor in leading to “apostasy,” but we should not “discount” the claims of “problems” with belief in the Scriptures.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Maybe I should say that intellectual difficulties alone are rarely the reason someone leaves the faith.

  2. victorgalipi Says:

    People usually struggle with or reject God for emotional or ideological reasons, while putting forth a “rational” reason because it probably seems safer and makes them feel less vulnerable.

    There may be some rational doubts or questions, but the deeper problem almost always seems to be a sin or an ideology the person just won’t let go of.

    At least, that has been my own experience personally and in ministry with others as both a pastor and a layperson.

    That’s why, depending on the person and the situation, I usually just briefly touch on or put on hold the stated rational problem, and try to get to the heart of the matter first.

    Part of the problem is that when we as Christians talk about faith and belief, we talk about it more as a matter of rationale and logic, of mental agreement to certain facts about God.

    In the Biblical languages, faith and belief mean much more than that. it is as you say Brent very much a matter of the will. And as the Biblical author James says, it is something that is living and active.

    I believe we must do a much better job of communicating this both within the body of Christ and to those who do not yet have faith in Christ.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Very well said. In my experience, as well, the “deeper problem” is often sin or ideology. Tim Keller got in some hot water a few years ago for saying that he has often spoken to kids who were active members of youth group, went off to college, and returned home with fresh doubts about the Christian faith. He has asked them, “Who are you sleeping with?” Often their doubt, he says, corresponds to this kind of change in lifestyle (combined with some nonsense they learned in Philosophy 101, or whatever). I’m sure that’s often the case. Again—I say this as a skeptical-minded and intellectual person—I don’t think Christianity is very hard to believe. We often want to find reasons why it isn’t true—and any old reason will do.

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