Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Perils of Doubting

I posted this article somewhere else and decided to also post it here for the readers of our church (and anyone else really). I have changed the title to something I think is more 'spot on' with what I've written.

I found this interesting story posted on Wayne Besen's blog about an Israeli "researcher"Benny Shanon who thinks Moses was high on drugs when he met God. Or rather, Moses while present before and during the Wilderness Wanderings thought he met God but didn't because he was tripping on drugs. What I find comical about this explanation is this: the researcher doesn't doubt that Moses did the things written about him--he just doubts that he met God in the burning bush or on Mt. Sinai. He sounds more like one of the Israelites in the wandering bunch who hears Moses' claim and doesn't believe it.

You'd think if someone was going to doubt the Moses and Wilderness experience, they'd doubt the whole dang thing! Rather, Shanon wants to keep hold of his Jewish religion to the point where he'll accept its historicity but deny the supernatural in it. It's like having your cake and eating it too.

This is one troubling thing about a deconstructive approach to biblical religion (and one that I contend with in my own doubts): knowing what to keep, what to discard, and what to interpret. The challenge comes in when our "psuedo-intellect" makes us doubt part of a story but our faith is too afraid to 'go all the way'. Charles Spurgeon addresses this conundrum in his analogy of the slippery slope. Once you start down a path of doubt, you may inevitably careen out of control and stopping on a downward slope when you're faith has disengaged the breaks will be impossible to control. Okay, so he didn't say it exactly like that. But Spurgeon is right about one thing--when you start doubting or de-constructing, where do you stop? Unfortunately, I don't have the answer to this. I have found myself disengaging my breaks in a similar way that Shanon appears to be doing.

What I do know is that life is messy--theology is messy--and how we interpret it all is messy too. We want neat and nice corners and explanations where everything makes sense and seldom contradicts itself. In reality, one must often employ even more faith to remain consistent to one's continued ramifications of one's ideology than to the ideology, theology, or concept itself.

Personally, I have begun to engage my faith and theology in a way that I wouldn't have done 10 years ago: I have limits to what I'll deconstruct. Does this sound faithless? Perhaps, but it saves a world of hurt when I choose to disregard a loss of faith because I've careened my faith out of control on a slippery slope from deep faith to deep doubt. Let me give you an example: Here of late, I have set upon myself 'a faith truism' that the Trinity is not to be messed with (too much). While I may doubt how men and women of faith have interpreted this development, I hold to it in my prayer time, my sermons, and my conversation. While I may give permission to deconstruct at will--I'll be the first to defend it too. I do this because there are some things that need to remain constant in my faith and in my psuedo-systematic theology. There are other things I keep near and essential to my faith.. not many things mind you, but a few.

But then, in my self-righteousness I find myself thinking I am more honest that the guy who thinks Moses was stoned while talking to a burning bush. But am I? Perhaps me and Shanon ought to sit down and share what we have in common, before I go trashing what we don't.

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