“If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot.” 1 Cor. 14:19 The Message
What do you do when you’re a pastor who no longer believes in God? Tufts University’s Center for Cognitive Studies confidentially interviewed five ministers who no longer believe in God. An article, featuring the results of two interviews, appeared in our local newspaper last Sunday.
When I read the first interview, I thought, “Mister, you need to resign. Quit posing and quit the pulpit.”
I sought out researcher Daniel C. Dennett’s website and read the rest of the study. Each interviewee was able to perform great feats of mental gymnastics that allow him to feel that he is a “believer,” although he doesn’t believe in anything but himself.
I’m not shocked, just saddened, and outraged. Years ago, while attending a conference, I encountered this sort comfortable pluralism in a pastor my age. I was surprised at how quickly he abandoned the truth of the gospel once a minor celebrity at the conference scoffed at the notion of a God who will, one day, pronounce judgement. [Yep, Jesus was pretty clear in Matthew 25] I saw, that day, the infant “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” (Eph. 4:14)
I was stunned then. I’m not stunned anymore.
But I’m still outraged. As I read through the study I was ready to reach for some sackcloth and ashes. “Repent,” I thought, heartbroken for their souls, “Or at least have the integrity to resign and do something else.”
Do they themselves have doubts about continuing in ministry. Yes, but why abandon the paycheck? And why give up that good feeling you get when you’re helping others.
But helping others to what?
At least one man questioned his own motives early on, but quickly found his conscience soothed when he asked, “Am I posing? Am I being less than authentic; less than honest?”
Yes, you are posing. You are not “caught in a trap, cunningly designed” as the study declared. And you’re not “brave” as the study proclaimed you to be. You're lost. Terribly lost.
Yet, there is still hope for the lost. I know. I was once lost too.