The Discomforts of Faith
by Preston Foster
By Preston Foster, October 21, 2013
It’s not easy to be counted among the faithful.
The problem isn’t that it’s hard to be accepted by God. That’s easy (John 6:37). The problem, if you are faithful, is getting respect from those who (seem to) matter most down here on the ground.
Faith is not a norm of the professional class. If you care at all how you are perceived in the professional world—by those who are accomplished, lettered, and prestigiously affiliated—it can be very uncomfortable to be a Christian. Faith and professional credibility are at odds. Among professionals, credibility is seasoned with skepticism and baked with realism. Objective proof is valued; faith is not. Most in the professional class view faith as a poor substitute for knowledge. Faith is for the unexposed, the gullible, the primitive, and the incurious. Faith is, at best, valued only in private.
For many intellectuals (real and aspiring), engaging with the world of faith risks public insult. It invites the ridicule of those who believe that the faithful are superstitious dolts who can be cured, if at all, only by education from progressive thinkers.
Faith doesn’t pay (well). Literally. When intellectuals or professionals who are believers share their faith in the public square, their value erodes. Publicly expressed faith—particularly about things like believing the literal biblical account of the 6-day creation or in the literal resurrection of Christ—makes believers less valuable to universities, publicly traded companies, (traditional and electronic) publishers, and think tanks. Ridicule of believers is available from sources ranging from Bill Maher to Bill O’Reilly. In the professional realm, those (few) who do believe do well to keep their seemingly magical beliefs to themselves.
So, here, in this space, we find ourselves in richly frustrating conversations about faith, spiritual issues, church history and traditions, the Bible, Christ, and more. We sharpen our iron on those with whom we disagree (Proverbs 27:17). It’s great fun.
However, as one of the AT founders insistently points out, the purpose of this site is to exchange and develop ideas that build the Kingdom of God. So it seems appropriate to press this issue here. Why is it that so many who once believed now do not? Many have been candid about the abuse of indoctrination-mad teachers, administrators, church members, and others. Others trace their point of departure to the place where confidence in Ellen White and the prophetic narrative of Adventism became problematic for them. Finally, others credit their spiritual skepticism to a deeper immersion in science, logic, and objectivism (of course, these categories overlap).
This column is addressed to the members and observers of that last group.
To what extent does social acceptance adversely affect faith? Does protecting one’s public profile include the purposeful exclusion of faith from one’s portfolio? Is skepticism presented as currency for entrance into influential and prestigious social groups?
I’d love to chat about it here. However, it is more important to me (re: building the Kingdom) that we challenge ourselves with these questions.