What's Tony Thinking

A Faith That Is “Actually Worth Believing”


My post titled “Leaving Ministry,” which appeared here on September 18, generated a fair bit of response. It was itself a response to a widely read letter of resignation by a Presbyterian pastor, Alexander Lang. His letter had “gone viral,” as the saying goes.

My piece was picked up and published at both Mockingbird.com and at Post Alley. And it led to recording a new podcast with my “Crackers and Grape Juice” friends about what I had written. I’ll let you know when that drops.

Meanwhile, I have taken at look at Lang’s next project, “Restorative Faith.” Here’s what he has to say about what he’s working on under the “Who We Are” tab at the Restorative Faith website.

“Restorative Faith is a progressive Christian movement designed to rescue the Christian faith from antiquated doctrine and recast Christianity in a new light.

“If you’re the type of person who questions and doubts; if you’ve strayed from the Christian faith because there are certain things that don’t seem to add up, then this movement is for you.

“This is not traditional Christianity repackaged or rebranded. We are here to break down the Christian faith one piece at a time so we can rebuild it into something that is actually worth believing.”

I am sure that Lang means well. And I suspect this write-up here will appeal to many. The call to “rescue the Christian Faith from antiquated doctrine,” when run up a flagpole almost always seems to get a lot of “here, here!” And “count me in!”  Or maybe, “Finally . . . Someone Who Re-Design Christianity for the 21st Century!”

But way too many mainline clergy are devoted to telling people that Christianity isn’t something you can/ should trust. How does that work? Isn’t it an axiom of sales that a salesperson has to actually believe in the product they are selling? We have generations now of clergy dedicated to telling their congregations that theirs is a crap product!

Moreover, the path upon which Lang embarks with such bold language has been trod many, many times. There’s nothing new about it. From Schweitzer’s “quest for the historical Jesus” in the 19th century to Tillich’s attempt to make Christianity appeal to “the cultured despisers of religion” in the twentieth to the Jesus Seminar’s more recent re-do of Schweitzer’s quest, to most of theological liberalism’s project of adjusting the faith to “the modern, secular, scientific world” this has been going on a long time — without much to show for it, unless you count church decline an achievement.

Maybe the modern, secular, technologically-driven, materialist world isn’t worth adjusting or accommodating to?

At the heart of the modern world that Lang and others want us to adjust Christian faith to is an anthropocentric world-view, meaning a world where it’s all about us, what we like, what works for us. So Lang will “break down the Christian faith one piece at a time so we can rebuild it into something that is actually worth believing.”

Making a faith that is rich, complex and takes a variety of forms, something “we” regard as “worth believing”! Who put us in charge? Who made us the deciders? What makes us think we are the ones capable of determining what is “actually worth believing”?

At the heart of the experience of faith an element of surrender. Or as they say in AA, “There is a God, (enter your name here); and it’s not you.” We are de-throned. We moderns don’t much care for that.

Moreover, while we sure can think our way out of faith, you can’t really think your way into it. Faith is a matter of the heart. Ours is not an anthropocentric world-view, but a theocentric one, that is, God is the center. Maybe it’s less urgent to restore/ adjust the faith to us moderns and our world, and more about us being “adjusted” to the God of mercy and the gospel of grace.

Am I calling for “blind faith”? Or for accepting distortions of the faith without objection? Of course not. Maybe it’s just a bit of humility that is called for.




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