Friday, November 30, 2012

Walking Away from the Faith Pt. 4

In part three of Walking Away from the Faith Tucker explains the story of those who walked away from the faith and never returned and those who left the faith and later returned to it. Tucker notes, “Many people who have lost faith would not necessarily describe their new life in terms of happiness or contentment. They would insist that one cannot pretend to continue believing something or continue living a lie for the sake of contentment” (170). Some, however, relate a sense of freedom after leaving the faith. These were people who had been in a legalistic or fundamentalist church. Others turned away because of anti-humanist or anti-intellectual emphasis in the church. There were a lack of appreciation for the arts and sciences. Wendy Murray Zoba in her review of this book noted, “The testimony of some who have walked away raises questions about the nature of the faith they embraced in the first place. One gets the sense that they hadn’t plumbed the depths and mysteries of authentic faith.” This is a good point. One must ask what a person’s perception of the faith is before they turn away. Many people in this book turned away from the faith because of the problem of evil, or theological difficulties or intellectual difficulties or moral issues. What is faith and what is its relationship to evil? Is faith a form of knowing? What should we do when we encounter doubts? How should we respond to them? What role does worship and spiritual formation play in dealing with doubt? It is important to understand the incarnational aspect of Christianity. We should continue spiritual practices like prayer and corporate worship while dealing with doubt. We should also draw richly from the Christian tradition, both theology and imaginative literature.
            The last two chapters Tucker seeks to answer doubt and unbelief. She draws from the lives and writings of Flannery O’ Connor, Kathleen Norris, Madeleine L’Engle, and Anne Dillard. These writers struggled with doubt and some of them returned to the faith after walking away from it. Flannery O’Connor wrote a letter to a college student, Alfred Corn, who was struggling with doubts. O’Connor writes: “I think that this experience you are having of losing your faith, or as you think, of having lost it, is an experience that in the long run belongs to faith. . . . As a freshman in college you are bombarded with new ideas. . . . After a year of this, you think you cannot believe. You are just beginning to realize how difficult it is to have faith and the measure of a commitment to it, but you are too young to decide you don’t have faith just because you feel you can’t believe. About the only way we know whether we believe or not is by what we do. . . . One result of the stimulation of your intellectual life that takes place in college is usually a shrinking of the imaginative life. . . . The intellectual difficulties have to be met, however, and you will be meeting them for the rest of your life. . . . If you want your faith, you have to work for it. It is a gift, but for very few is it a gift given without any demand for equal time devoted to its cultivation. For every book you read that is anti-Christian, make it your business to read one that presents the other side of the picture” (203). These are wise words that all Christians should take to heart.

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