While we at DC have moved completely away from Christianity, there are many believers who struggle daily with serious doubts. Many Christians go through periods where they seriously question their faith. Some of them, like us, abandon that faith. Let me briefly mention three Christian scholars who have had serious doubts about Christianity: Ruth A. Tucker, James F. Sennett, and Terence Penelhum
Ruth A. Tucker takes a serious look at those who walk away from their Christian faith in her book, Walking Away from Faith: Unraveling the Mystery of Belief and Unbelief (Downers Grove: IVP), 2002. She shares her own doubt and how she overcomes it, hoping to challenge unbelievers to reconsider what they are missing. But in one place in her book, as she was contemplating her own doubt, she candidly confesses what sometimes crosses her mind. As a seminary professor she wrote, “There are moments when I doubt all. It is then that I sometimes ask myself as I’m looking out my office window, What on earth am I doing here? They’d fire me if they only knew.”(p. 133) Her specific challenge to the Christian believer “is that you seek a better understanding of those who do not believe—particularly those who have walked away from the faith—and that you listen carefully to their stories and respond with honesty and sensitivity.” (p. 12) According to Tucker, for those who walk away from their faith “the process is full of sorrow and a sense of loss.” (p. 13).
Christian philosopher James F. Sennett, is another one who has seriously struggled with his faith, as seen in his unpublished book, This Much I Know: A Postmodern Apologetic. He also confesses to have had a faith crisis and wrote his book as a “first person apologetic” to answer it. In chapter one, called “The Reluctant Disciple: Anatomy of a Faith Crisis,” he wrote, “I am the one who struggles with God. I am the Reluctant Disciple.” “Once I had no doubt that God was there, but I resented him for it; now I desperately want him to be there, and am terrified that he might not be.” His faith wavered as the result of contemplating the mind-brain problem. During this crisis he said, “Sometimes I believed. Sometimes I didn’t. And it seemed to me that the latter condition was definitely on the ascendancy.”
Christian philosopher Terence Penelhum has also expressed his doubts in “A Belated Return,” in Philosophers Who Believe, ed. Kelly James Clark (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993). He says there are “serious inner clashes between the philosophical and religious strands in my psyche. They derive from the fact that I find myself an unrepentantly philosophical being, which puts me at a mental distance from most of my fellow Christians.” “I have become aware of the multiplicity of religious and secular worldviews, each supported by reasons, each felt and experienced, many institutionally developed and expressed, and each having resources for fending off and explaining away the claims of the other. I have found it easy, professionally, to assume the stance of each and all of them for pedagogical purposes. And I think it a mark of human enlightenment to be able to enter imaginatively into these alternative visions, since each of them is a vision that is lived by rational beings.”
Penelhum continues, “As a philosopher, I find that my intense awareness of the multiplicity of rational alternatives makes me feel deep alienation from fellow Christians who appear to be blessed with certainty, and with a correlative perception of the obvious falsity of such alternatives. To be frank, I do not feel their certainty to be a blessing: better, surely, I cannot help telling myself, to be a Socrates tentative than a pig without questions.” (p. 234).
Penelhum has serious problems with “some theological options,” which “seem to me totally closed, and the consideration of them to invite justified ridicule from the most sympathetic enquirers.” Here he mentions the historical Fall of Adam and Eve, and a physical ascension into heaven. He says, “we know too much to continue to encase our Christian teachings in antiquated cosmologies in the way such options require.” (p. 235).
Drs. Tucker, Sennett and Penelhum are not the only Christian believers out there who seriously struggle with their Christian faith. I did myself, just like they do. At some point my faith just came crashing down on me.