The Fellowship of the Ninth Hour: Christian Reflections on the Nature and Value of Faith

In James Arcadi & James T. Turner (eds.), The T&T Clark Handbook of Analytic Theology. New York: T&T Clark/Bloomsbury. pp. 69-82 (2020)
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Abstract

It is common for young Christians to go off to college assured in their beliefs but, in the course of their first year or two, they meet what appears to them to be powerful defenses of scientific naturalism and crushing critiques of the basic Christian story (BCS), and many are thrown into doubt. They think to themselves something like this: "To be honest, I am troubled about the BCS. While the problem of evil, the apparent cultural basis for the diversity of religions, the explanatory breadth of contemporary science, naturalistic explanations of religious experience and miracle reports, and textual and historical criticism of the Bible, among other things, don’t make me believe the BCS is false , I am in serious doubt about it, so much so that I lack belief of it. In that case, how can I have Christian faith? And if I don’t have faith, how can I keep on praying, attending church, affirming the creed, confessing my sins, taking the sacraments, singing the hymns and songs, and so on? I can’t, unless I’m a hypocrite. So integrity requires me to drop the whole thing and get out." Of course, our student is not alone. Many Christians find themselves for some portion of their lives somewhere on the trajectory from doubt to getting out. Indeed, Christians in the West struggle with intellectual doubt more than they used to, especially university-educated Christians. What should we say to them? Some will say “Get out!,” welcoming the development as a path to liberation. We explore a different response in this essay.

Author Profiles

Daniel Howard-Snyder
Western Washington University

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