I recently came across a new website, and I have become convinced of its value for those in church leadership, and for those who would theologically advise them. This site is full of the testimony of those who have left the church, and I’m not talking about leaving any one particular church (although there are some stories about that) – I’m talking about those who have left THE church, Christianity as a whole. Reading some of these stories, I was struck by the penetrating thought – “If theology cannot address these problems, its not doing its job.”
Now, lest you worry that I have turned my back on my disavowal of apologetics, I haven’t. But, reading these stories I was struck by the utter inability of many theological systems (both those I have studies and those which I have at one point or another held) to provide resources for pastoral care in relation to these questions. Dealing with these kinds of issues from within the church and Christian theology (remember, these people were all ‘in’ at some point, and were not retained) is of utmost import. We don’t need to cast around outside of Christian theology to find support for our faith (that kind of apologetics is, I think, a waste of time). But, we ought to be able to speak to these needs if for no other reason than that we must affirm that God is able to speak to these needs.
In any case, I highly recommend Letters from Leavers to your attention. They have an RSS feed, and I suggest subscribing. And, for those of you interested in practical theology, or at least the practical aspects of systematic theology (there certainly are practical aspects!), look through this stuff and ask yourself if some of them wouldn’t make for great final exam questions.