Losing Faith (Part 1 of 3)

Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today.
Oh, how I wish he’d go away.

One of the five essential points of Calvinist Protestantism is called the perseverance of the saints.

It’s the idea that once a person has been saved by faith, that person is forevermore saved, and consequently that person will never “lose faith.”

The problem with the idea is that some people do seem to lose their faith. Some people lose it quietly. Others become loud ambassadors of disbelief.

The Calvinists defend the validity of their proposition by saying that such persons must never have really had a saving faith to begin with. If they did, they wouldn’t have lost it. Whatever these lapsed believers used to believe wasn’t true belief, even if it looked like it at the time.

It’s always seemed to me that this was a cover-up for bad theology. It’s why I was a Zwinglian (anti-Calvinist) for so long.

But then I lost my faith. At least in terms of any recognizeable Christian tradition.

Many people nowadays tell me they believe in God, but they’re not so sure about the whole Christian thing. For me, it’s backwards. Jesus has just enough historical reference outside of the Christian tradition about him that I can make a reasonable case for believing that he roamed Palestine during the reign of Tiberius. It’s the God part that I have trouble with.

I believe that Jesus believed in God. I accept that Jesus was wise, given the movement that got started around him and the stories of his teachings and doings. But wise isn’t the same as infallible. Or God.

So I find myself in the odd position of being a Christian agnostic. I’m not exactly at home any longer in church, where God and the divinity of Jesus is a given. But I’m not in the atheist camp either, where to mention Jesus is anathema.

I find myself as if sitting at the net in a tennis match while the fundamentalist deists of all stripes hurl threats of hell at the atheists, and the fundamentalist atheists return threats of no-hell.

In spite of this, losing my faith has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I don’t have to make excuses for bad theology any more. I don’t have to convince anyone of my convictions.

I still pray. I just pray differently. I pray in recognition of all that is rather than to someone who is but isn’t.

I’m free to follow Jesus without worrying what the church will think.

For the Christian life is faith, and faith is life. Jesus said, “Anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.”

Part 2 | Part 3

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5 thoughts on “Losing Faith (Part 1 of 3)

  1. hmmm, very interesting. I am looking forward in seeing where this is going…

  2. Nice writing, and I personally agree with what you are writing. I’ve had depression all my life. Going to church was turning into a negative experience, with people claiming that God meant this or that in scripture (in a negative way). It annoys me to see people standing with signs, “You’re going to hell.” Really? Aren’t you acting like God (a sin) by saying that? Anyways, I can’t wait to see where you’re going with this!

  3. Thanks for your responses. Where this goes depends on what tomorrow’s assignment looks like…

  4. I understand what threats of hell are, I don’t understand what threats of no hell are.

    • It is a counter-intuitive thing, and probably requires a post of it’s own. But for a variety of reasons the threat of there not being a hell raises hackles in certain circles. N.T. Wright, an otherwise conventional but popular theologian in evangelical circles, speculated a couple years ago (probably closer to 15 or 20 by now) that there might not be a hell. For that he took a hard pounding. I’m not sure whether he eventually recanted or just passed it off as a speculation rather than something he really believed. In any case the message was clear: “Don’t mess with hell.”

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