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When I hear of famous Christians like Joshua Harris, author of the immature book I Kissed Dating Goodby, and Marty Sampson of Hillsong United have deconstructed and then left the Christian faith, I’m troubled. I’m sad for them. I wonder about their faith before they gave up. Was it real? I don’t know them so I can’t judge. But does God? 

Will God Abandon You if You Doubt Your Faith?

The current term for doubt is deconstruction, meaning to critically evaluate it. To examine the system of belief we call “the Christian faith” and question the questionable. Of which there is much! Most of us have done at least some deconstruction of our faith.

At one point in my pastorate I grew exhausted with being “the Bible answer man.”

“Pastor Eugene, what does the Bible say about what career I should choose?”

“What does the Bible say about how many children I should have?”

It was my own fault. I understood and taught that the Bible was akin to the owners manual for an automobile. Our job was to study it, dissect it, underline it, master it, and operate our lives according to God’s principles and instructions we found in the manual.

But searching the Table of Contents I couldn’t find answers to those questions. Instead I found the Bible packed with crazy stories about talking snakes and donkeys, people making good and bad decisions, prostitutes as unlikely heroes, a God who talks to people, and a God who dresses up in flesh to be with us. 

Sure it has ample dos and don’ts. But mostly it’s a messy autobiography relating a frustrating, never-ending love affair between God and his creation. It’s as organic and alive as we are. 

Through my doubt, I began to understand the Bible is the story of God-with-us while we live here on earth not merely Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth! 

Using my doubt God drew near and spoke to me more often through Scripture. And it answered the foundational question: Who loves us?

God!


But Does Deconstructing your Faith Lead to Losing
it? 

Yes!

The word faith often means a religious system, adherence to ideas and principles that define Christianity. In this way faith does not reflect trust in the intimate, relational way a baby instinctively nurses at her mother’s breast, but rather intellectual assent to a set of abstract human ideas.

This is what many of those who abandoned their faith complain of and gave up on. Marty Sampson wrote on Instagram: “This is a soapbox moment so here I go . . . How many preachers fall? Many. . . How many miracles happen. Not many. . . Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it.”

Sampson’s disbelief is more in the faith system than with God as a Person. Mine too!

 Jesus rebelled against this also.

Pointing to ancient stone tombs, Jesus accused the religious leaders of his time of fostering an empty system of belief. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” 

Jesus also deconstructs faith structures but points in a different direction than disbelief.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message)

Christianity Is Relational

Keep company with me! Hang out with God! 

I love that! 

I did not come into Christianity because it had all the best ideas! I was a depressed, lonely teenager. I could give a rip about ideas! I needed a faithful, loving friend. God promised that and more. My life has never been the same.

At its heart Christianity is relational not institutional. By grace we belong to God and God’s family before we believe and long before we behave. Modern Christianity would often have us believe we need to behave before God will love us. Not so!

Jesus’ disciples struggled with doubt. Jesus answered their doubt with: “Follow me.” Then for the next three years they wrestled with who he was and what he taught. But finally they were unshakable. Their doubts countered by Jesus presence led them an iron clad relationship with him.

Let Your Questions Lead You Back to God

Faith is not absence of doubt. Doubt is releasing the pretense that we have all the answers. Doubt makes room for truth and faith. 

I had a painful year last year. After thirty-eight years of pastoring, all that I believed about the church crashed down. I doubted God’s love for me and my calling.  

Driving to the church facility each day, I began listening to the Gospels. Not for doctrine or ways to deal with my doubts. Like Job, I knew doctrine could not answer my pain. 

I simply listened for Jesus. I noticed he walked on the shore of the Sea of Galilee a lot. I imagined him skipping stones. Laughing at kids playing in the tide. Watching fishermen. Suddenly I was walking with him. In powerful silence. And he understood my pain and doubts. He did not answer them with logic but with love.

Jesus bloomed in my heart again. I found my first love. Again.

Jesus Never Lets Go  

I lamented when I read favorite singer/songwriter, Bruce Cockburn, deconstructed and appeared to lose his faith. In his stunning 2014 memoir, Rumours of Glory, he wrote, “Along the way I found Jesus Christ, then let go of his hand amid the din of disingenuous right-wing Christian exploitation.” I groaned at those words. But somehow I believed Jesus had not let go of Cockburn’s hand.

Then in 2015 he wrote “Jesus Train.”

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

headed for

headed for

headed for the City of God

standing on the platform

awed by the power

I feel the fire of love

feel the hand upon my shoulder saying “brother climb aboard”

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

headed for

headed for

headed for the City of God

standing on the platform

locomotive throbbing

I’m drawn to that open door

in the wonder of a child’s heart I’m stepping up the stair

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

headed for

headed for

headed for the City of God

You may abandon empty religiosity. But will God abandon you if you doubt? No!

 

 

      

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