Recently a friend of mine shared a post on FB.
I respect my friend, but I did not think he chose a good quote. So while others responded with the classic “Amens” and “I Agree” and “Like,” I noted that I did not agree with the quote. When asked why I did not agree, I suppose I could have queried why those that agree were not asked to justify their opinion. Of course, that is just not the way human nature works. We don’t tend to question those who agree with us, we tend to question those who disagree.
Realized once again how difficult it is to explain or develop a theological position on FB. The format of the website tends to promote one of three responses:
- Trite agreement (short and positive)
- Mean-spirited flaming (short and negative)
- Verse-dropping (short and usually irrelevant)
To express my disagreement with the quote would be too drawn out. I think the shortest way I could do justice to it would be as follows:
- On a surface level the quote is true. Sure… “If being hurt by the church causes you to lose faith in God, then your faith is in people, not God.”
- However, faith is instilled in us through people. Few of us have had the honor of learning and growing in godly faith through direct revelation from God. As Jesus told Thomas (not seeking to quote precisely): “You have believed because you have seen. Blessed are those who believe who have not seen.” In essence, blessed are those who believe in God because of the witness and life of those other than God.
- Because of this, it is hardly surprising that those who are hurt by the church would be weakened in their faith in God, since Christians are the transmitters of the faith message, and the present evidence of its truth. It is quite reasonable that those weak in faith would be damaged. I am not sure that these people should be blamed for being reasonable.
- And that is kind of the point of the problem with the quote. It is a bit about blame. If the church hurts immature Christians such that these Christians lose faith, what is the problem. Choice A: The problem is that the church hurts the immature rather than nurtures them, or Choice B: The problem is that these immature Christians have an immature or inadequate faith. To me, it seems pretty obvious that given those two choices, Choice A really wins out. I feel that a review of Matthew 18:1-10 would generally support this, and it would not be difficult to expand that idea across much of the teachings in the New Testament.
- Added to this is my own experience as a pastoral counselor. Many have been hurt in the church and by Christians. Some churches and church leaders abuse. Some father’s abuse. When the church is described as the body of Christ, and God as our Father, it is hardly surprising that these metaphors sullied by abuse would poison the faith of the immature. Watching some Crime TV, One was a man whose father formed a Christian style group that embraced the war metaphor of dealing with the world. He became more extreme in his theology and his abuse. Ultimately, it led to torture and killing. He started to claim to be God. The son is now grown and has a family. He seems to have recovered nicely, but he is no longer sure there is a God. Not surprising.
- Relatedly, I have been hurt by Christians and churches before. I have been able to separate between Christ and Christians. But I feel I can sympathy for those who cannot.
Anyway, that is a short version of what I would want to say, but FB simply is not the vehicle to do it.