Sunday, February 25, 2007

Letters from Leavers

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.

3 comments:

Smurf said...

Dear WTM,

I want to start off by saying that, although I do not necessarily agree with your stance on the matters at hand, I do have the up most respect for you. It is not often I come across a Christian of actual intelligence. I tried to visit the link given and it would not let me see the page. Perhaps you typed it in wrong?
I am in no way shape or form a theologist like yourself. However, I AM a former theist so maybe I can help you out a little. Personally I think the problem is not with the faith, but the church. The way the church is sometimes paraded around like a circus is enough to make anyone sick. Not to mention the vast amounts of scientific discoveries (archaeological and genetic) that have occurred over the last 10 years. Once again I have not read these letters, but I don't think they're leaving the faith as a whole. Even if they did I highly doubt they would even admit to such a thing.
Sorry this wasn't very detailed. It's early and im still tired. I enjoyed reading this very much. I would like to hear back from you with any opinions/arguments. Thank you for your time.

WTM said...

Hi Smurf,

I’m glad that you have jumped into the conversation, and I appreciate the kind things you have to say about me. As for the link, it seems that the site is down this morning, which is a shame. But, hopefully it will come back up soon.

As for your other comments, I can see what you mean. I think that a lot of the problems are caused not by faith itself or even by theology, but by the behavior of Christians and those in church leadership. This is a very sad reality.

Of course, a lot of things go into establishing the conditions for this very sad reality, and I think that bad theology is one of them, and – being a theologian – I tend to be optimistic about the improvements that could be brought about if more Christians and leaders in the church sunk their teeth into good theology. I am very hopeful that good theology can make people more ‘Christian’ as well as strengthen their faith.

You are certainly right that there are people represented on the ‘Letters from Leavers’ site that are not giving up some form of ‘faith’, but only the Christian forms that they have come into contact with. But I tend to think that Christian faith happens to be the important thing (I am a Christian theologian after all), even though I know some would disagree with me on that.

For the record, I am not disturbed by any of the discoveries of modern science, nor do I wish to dispute with the scientific community about their research. I am a theologian, not a scientist, after all.

creative apathy said...

WTM,

Thanks for linking to us and for recognizing the challenge that awaits those that are willing to read the letters we are hosting.

The site was down for a few hours (until about 7 am this morning) but it is back up and running now. We would love to hear any suggestions or comments you have regarding the site or any theological reflection you have as you read the letters.

Thanks again,

Tim Bower
LFl