Did I Just Agree With an Atheist?
Bruce Gerencser, who keeps the blog Restless Wanderings, had this to say about the recent article by Pastor Jim Elliff:
Doubt should not be discouraged. In fact, it should be encouraged. Questions should be heartily encouraged. A faith that withstands the onslaught of the modern/postmodern world must be able to answer the questions the modern/postmodern world presents. Perhaps, that is the real issue. The Christian faith has run out of answers. All that is left is warmed over dogma from years gone by, irrelevant and no longer satisfying for the needs of humanity. (source)
I agree with him, in principle. But I should qualify that. Doubt should be encouraged. Doubt should be faced squarely. I say this because I believe that the Bible, and with it Christianity, can withstand doubt.
More and more, seminary students aren’t being equipped with basic apologetics skills, nevermind the average pew sitter! If someone who was strong enough in their faith to enter seminary to study for the pastorate, they should (in theory) be able to withstand a critique of Christianity. Of course, Jim Elliff seems to think otherwise:
At last week’s debate, for instance, there were many people from the public who were not even believers. Some young people also attended, and some seminary students who are not yet prepared for the effects of doubt-producing verbiage.
We overestimate how well some seminary students can shield themselves. Some are new, having no real background in apologetics. They’ve read a couple of Chuck Swindoll books and His Utmost for His Highest, but really know precious little up to this point. I know that several students from a nearby secular college also attended, some of which were unconverted. The assumption was that they would see Ehrman lose the debate and the Christian view would triumph. It didn’t happen. Now the work in evangelism by the friends who naively brought them is that much harder. (source, emphasis added)
He might be right. But, I think that at that point in your education, you should have had some exposure to apologetics. Maybe we’re the ones that need to re-examine how our students in seminary are equipped to defend their faith. They should be able to rebut Bart Ehrman; I’ve never actually seen significant challenges to Christianity in his works. But, his works do produce doubt, and if people aren’t aware of apologetic answers to him, or unable to formulate any on their own, then you have a receipe for disaster.