Let me start by mentioning the three posts.
1. Beth Caplin, Dear Church, here is where you lose me.
Beth talks about her disagreements with conservative Christians
within the church, and how she has not been persuaded by the “answers”
that conservative Christians have given her.
2. Bob Seidensticker, The Design Argument (Fiction).
Bob Seidensticker is an atheist, and this post is an excerpt from his fictional work, Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey.
In this book, a Christian named Paul is trying to evangelize to an
atheist named Jim, even though Paul has his own religious doubts. This
post focuses on the design argument for the existence of God, the
argument that the universe is orderly and looks designed by a creator.
It gets into a variety of topics and questions, such as the question of
whether complexity necessarily indicates design. The most powerful part
of the post, however, concerns the existence of natural evil (i.e.,
parasites, earthquakes) and the question of whether that undercuts the
idea that a benevolent God designed the universe. Paul comes back at
Jim’s arguments by saying that God may permit such things to teach us
moral lessons, but Jim asks why God would have to go that far—-to cause that much pain, suffering, and death—-to teach people to be moral.
3. K.W. Leslie, Q. When are my fellow Christians gonna grow up?
I read this post a few months ago, and it has haunted me ever since.
A seminary student writes to K.W. Leslie and complains about people at
his church. The seminary student is asking questions, and he is not
satisfied by the pat answers that Christians are giving him. K.W. tells
this seminary student that he should work on spiritual maturity himself
and focus on loving the people in the church. Loving the people in the
church is much more difficult than promulgating one’s seminary
knowledge, K.W. acknowledges, but it is very important to God that we do
I have been thinking about the issue of Christian small groups and
Bible studies. A lot of them may be rather homogeneous, but some have
two types of people. You have someone who has arrived at answers that
satisfy him, and you have another who is not satisfied by those
particular answers. To the latter person, the former person looks like
someone who is offering a bunch of pat answers. To the former person,
the latter person looks like someone who will never be satisfied with
any answer that he’s given. “I’ve answered your question, so can we now
I remember reading some quotes by Mark Driscoll,
who was a conservative pastor. He was complaining about Christians who
keep asking questions, and, whenever their questions are answered, they
have ten more questions. They’re never satisfied, Driscoll was
saying. Driscoll also criticized the Emerging Church movement for
asking questions that, in his mind, have already been settled by
Scripture. He may have been talking about homosexuality in that case.
I wonder myself how those two types of people can co-exist in a Bible
study group. Someone has real questions, and someone else tries to
help out by offering what he believes are real answers. But the person
asking the questions is not satisfied by those answers. She may not
believe that quoting a prooftext is enough to make problems magically go
I think that different people may manage to co-exist in Bible study
groups by focusing on other things than their differences. They may
believe that they can get something out of the Bible study, even if they
disagree with people there. Perhaps they have done what K.W. has
suggested and focused on love rather than trying to convince others.
I can’t say that I am there yet. On getting something edifying or
informative out of Bible study groups, I can still do that, but I find
that my differences with people are what are foremost in my mind,
whether I like it or not. On loving people, I am socially-challenged,
so that hinders my ability to do that. Yes, it’s important, but I wish
that I did not fear or resent rejection so much. One reason that I left
my Bible study group is that I figured it would run more smoothly if
the people there were roughly on the same page, and I—-a liberal who
struggles with things in the Bible and is not satisfied with a lot of
conservative Christian answers, for intellectual and emotional
reasons—-was not on that page.