Cross Posted at Purple Like Polka:
I attended an event in Waco, TX this evening sponsored by the VOID. Peter Rollins (How (Not) to Speak of God and The Fidelity of Betrayal) was there as well. I got an opportunity to speak with him after the event, but I want to share my views on what transpired.
This was the first Emergent event I’ve been to in a long time that I actually enjoyed. Moreover, it showed the absolute importance of having doubts and questions about Christianity. My heart broke that these people had at one point been made to feel ashamed of doubting certain aspects of their faith. I’m glad that the service was geared to expressing these doubts and admitting that we have doubts.
I think we, as Christians, are fearful of our own doubts and especially of other people’s doubts. Doubts open us up to uncertainty; we don’t know the outcome of a doubt. What if the answer to a doubt is more devastating than the doubt itself? Doubt can be a very scary thing.
Doubt, ultimately, is a good thing if that doubt isn’t cynical. Often times we doubt simply for the sake of doubt – we don’t want to believe something or trust in someone because we don’t want to be let down. Thus, in spite of all the evidence or reasons to abandon our doubt, we cling to it as a security blanket. Doubt, if it is true doubt that honestly questions a certain belief, is always a good thing if an answer is pursued. I think of Francis Schaeffer in True Spirituality, how he prefaces the book stating that he doubted his faith in the 50’s, which led him to explore it and see if it was actually true. True Spirituality was the answer to his doubts.
Another good example is that of (doubting) Thomas. In fact, those in the event used him as an example of someone who doubted. At the introduction, they brought up that maybe Thomas was the greater because he sought to put his fingers in the holes in Jesus’ hands, rather than just sit back. The lesson though is that Thomas had doubt and he sought an answer to that doubt.
However, what worried me is that some may have doubted without trying to find an answer. One thing that sticks out is when someone said, “Questions define my faith, not answers.” Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe that we will find the answer to every question. Sometimes the answer is, “I don’t know” or “it’s just a mystery.” I doubt that I’ll ever find an answer to exactly how God functions as a Trinity; I’m satisfied with mystery. I do, however, plan on finding out if God exists (I have figured that out by the way).
I look to 2 Timothy 3, which warns about people who are always learning or questioning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth. What is interesting is he says such people come into houses with people who are already captive. That is because doubt, if left unanswered or not dealt with, can make us captive and cold. We become cynical. Doubt is good, it must be brought out, we must admit to having doubt, but we must also find an answer to that doubt.
After the event, I was able to talk to Peter Rollins. To put it shortly, Rollins is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. What impressed me was his willingness to hear my critiques of his beliefs. He even said that he thinks honesty with each other is important, that it’s okay to fight with each other on stuff as long as we’re friends afterwards. I couldn’t agree more with him.
What I also appreciated was his view of conservative Christians. He said what he likes about conservatives is that they understand Christianity is more than a belief, but also a lifestyle.
Overall, it’s impossible to dislike Rollins after meeting him. He’s an extremely likable guy and if I lived near him he’d certainly be one of my friends. I certainly disagree with his viewpoints and I still find some of his beliefs to be dangerous – some of what he says leads to Nihilism, other parts make me wonder why followers of his teachings should even call themselves Christians. I think his beliefs lead to despair. At the same time, he is a very nice guy and if given the opportunity, I’d certainly hang around him more and discuss my views on his beliefs and vise versa.