O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Tyler Clark on Losing Fear, Losing Faith

posted by Jason Boyett

Unlike a lot of my Internet friends, I’ve actually met Tyler Clark in person. It wasn’t long after he began working at Relevant Media Group, and I joined the Relevant team for a weekend staff planning retreat in Orlando (I wasn’t on staff at Relevant, but at the time was writing a lot for them, as well as consulting on some stuff). If I remember correctly, Tyler and I and some other guys went to a dueling piano bar and were disappointed in the fact that the dueling pianists weren’t really that aggressive toward each other.

tylerclark.jpgI like Tyler. He’s funny, dry, thoughtful, honest and was one of the best parts of the original Relevant Podcast crew. After departing Relevant, Tyler moved to Nashville and does marketing for music and political media companies.

As we discussed the topic, Tyler brought up some of the difficulties in writing a post like this. “I feel like I want to clarify somewhere that I’m not a theologian,
church leader or scholar,” he wrote. “I’m rarely the smartest guy in the room. I’m
just a dude with questions. I’m not claiming that my questions with
Christianity don’t have good answers. I just haven’t found them yet.”

For the record, that’s exactly why I wanted to include Tyler in the “Voices of Doubt” series. Because he’s a “dude with questions.” Here’s Tyler Clark: 

—————-

My Christian faith–along with many things in my life–was always rooted in fear. Fear of hell. Fear of being wrong. Fear of disappointing my friends and family. Fear of giving up a lifestyle with which I was quite comfortable.

I always hated the connection between faith and fear–knowing that fear is temporary and faith should be eternal. One summer that I worked at a Christian youth camp, I intentionally would not mention hell, the devil or anything fear- based when presenting the Gospel to teenagers. When our faith is based in fear, I believed, it simply becomes a transaction with Jesus: I’ll follow you, and you’ll save me from hell.

As I got older, my prediction became true. My fears began to wash away, and they took my faith with them.

Belief has never been easy for me, but I was always too scared to ask the big questions. I was afraid that if I really examined scripture, history, science and the like, my faith would crumble, which was something that I couldn’t allow to happen.

So I tucked those doubts away and shined it on. I went to a Christian college, worked for Christian companies and stayed in Jesus Land. I surrounded myself with the things of God because I couldn’t figure out how to surround myself with God Himself.

Over time the questions got louder. Questions about my gay friends. Questions about science. Questions about hell. Questions about the heredity of religious belief. Questions about why faith seems to reward people who don’t ask tough questions while punishing those who do.

The pro-faith answers that I would find would usually come in one of three forms:

a. Using the Bible to explain the Bible

Obnoxiously simplified example:

Me: What evidence do we have that the Bible is God’s word?

Well-Meaning Unhelpful Person: Because it says so in Matthew 1.

Me: Thank you. Although I’m sure you are well meaning, that was completely
unhelpful.

b. The George Michael defense

You gotta have faitha, faitha, faitha.

“You can’t prove it. That’s why they call it faith,” people tell me, suggesting that Christianity isn’t required to make one lick of sense.

However, if I told these same people that I choose to put my faith in the saving grace of Harry Potter, Jack Shephard or Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, they would think that I’m a delusional nutcase.

Yes, faith is “the evidence of things unseen.” While unseen is often viewed as the key word in that verse, I’m fascinated by the evidence part.

c. lowercase god vs. Uppercase God

In my experience, Christians tend to think that there are only two options: Christianity and atheism.

It
seems easy to forget that Christianity is more than just a belief in
God’s existence. When I tell people about my struggles with doubt, many
people automatically assume that I’m doubting the existence of God. They
usually make an argument against atheism, which–as I am not at all
leaning toward atheism–is not really what I need.

For
me, acknowledging the existence of a Creator has been the only way to
explain much of life, love and the world around us. Therefore, I’ve
never doubted God’s existence or his natural by-products–creationism,
intrinsic morality, afterlife.

God and I are A-OK. It’s
Jesus and I who are on the rocks. It’s very possible to have certainty
that a Divine Creator exists while lacking certainty in the legitimacy
of Scripture. What I need is not a case for a lowercase god but one for
the uppercase biblical God.

Anyway, these questions grew louder as my faith grew quieter, and I became tired of shining it on. Eventually, the doubts drowned out my fear. It became time to embrace the questions.

Three months ago when my aunt and uncle were murdered, I believed that something would happen to my faith or lack thereof. Surely, I thought, something like this presents a fork in the road. Either Jesus and I will truly reconcile, or we will shake hands and part ways for good.

Instead, nothing happened. I found it hard to pray during that time, but I coveted the prayers of others. During the funeral, I mouthed the words to “How Great Thou Art,” but I resented the song itself. I was confronted with the tired old questions that I thought I’d long-since put to rest. Still, this experience didn’t change my beliefs. It just kept them in limbo.

I want to rediscover Jesus, but I cannot wait for Him to arrive. The seventh chapter of Matthew says that “everyone who asks receives, and he seeks will find.” It’s time to stop waiting and start asking.

I hope that some day soon my faith in Jesus Christ and my relationship with him will flourish with renewed confidence and passion. Not to get too Anne Ricey, but I want a faith that rewards introspection, acknowledges reason and has compassion for all. I need a faith based in truth and love–and no longer fear.

After all, any God worth believing in is bigger than the doubts that I have in Him.

—————-

Thank you, Tyler. Follow Tyler Clark on Twitter and Facebook and check out his blog at TylerLClark.com.

Previous posts in the “Voices of Doubt” series…

Rob Stennett on the Genesis of Doubt
Adam Ellis on Hoping That It’s True
Nicole Wick on Breaking Up with God
Anna Broadway on Doubt and Marriage



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Comments read comments(14)
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cara

posted August 13, 2010 at 7:46 am


Tyler, thanks for your honesty. You’re so right to point out that most Christians think it’s all or nothing. love this: “I want a faith that rewards introspection, acknowledges reason and has compassion for all. I need a faith based in truth and love–and no longer fear.” Me too!



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Kyle Chowning

posted August 13, 2010 at 9:18 am


Truth is, Tyler Clark is a deep man of faith who cannot be moved.
Great post Jason & Tyler!
kyle



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Kristian

posted August 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm


Sounds like Christianity isn’t a thing for you. Luckily, religions are a dime a dozen, and there’s plenty to choose from. Or, you can just scrap the existing ones and believe only on things that make sense to you.
While I’d probably be slotted somewhere in the vague atheist/agnostic wasteland, I acknowledge the possibility that I might be wrong, and I have a generic idea of what I should expect in case I was wrong. Christianity (or any other mainstream religion) as a package deal makes very little logical sense to me, and has no place in that theory.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm


Very cool post. As a doubter myself, I totally sympathize. But I also now sympathize with the “You gotta have faith.” statement. It’s something that made me cringe, but I’ve slowly learned to accept more and more. Now, I don’t believe faith needs to be blind or irrational or based on no evidence. But, I do believe faith in Christ does require accepting with uncertainty. This is something I never really liked. And still don’t. :) But, I also realize that we do this all the time with other things in life. For example, I can’t be “certain” in the modernist, rationalistic sort of way, that my wife loves me. I believe there is evidence she loves me, but I also could point to things that would suggest otherwise. However, I have to choose to believe my wife loves me. It is a leap of faith. I know these things are completely analogous, but it makes sense to me.
The other thing is, I’m in the middle of reading Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” and he talks a bit about rationalism and skepticism and critiques it — especially in its extreme forms. The one thing I got out of it was that skepticism taken to its extreme leads to absurdity or even lunacy. For example, you can’t even prove that you exist with any certainty. :)
What this has helped me come to grips with is the idea that faith is central to existence in a rational world. So making a choice to believe Jesus is the savior of the world does not require the kind of certainty that I often want it to have. This does not mean I have to believe it with no evidence or rationality though.
I choose to believe that the testimony of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels is reliable. I believe the resurrection is the best explanation for the changed lives and the birth and growth of the early church. Can I be certain? No. But it makes sense to me and I choose to believe it — based on a number of factors — both “rational” and personal.



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Headless Unicorn Guy

posted August 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm


a. Using the Bible to explain the Bible
Obnoxiously simplified example:
Me: What evidence do we have that the Bible is God’s word?
Well-Meaning Unhelpful Person: Because it says so in Matthew 1.
Me: Thank you. Although I’m sure you are well meaning, that was completely unhelpful.

Uh, Tyler, that’s NOT “obnoxiously simplified.” Back when cable TV was “All Da Vinci Code, All The Time”, one blogger reported a church whose entire anti-DVC argument WAS “The Bible Is True Because The Bible Says So.”
b. The George Michael defense
You gotta have faitha, faitha, faitha.

So do the Taliban.
So did the 9/11 hijackers. FAITH, FAITH, FAITH.
“You can’t prove it. That’s why they call it faith,” people tell me, suggesting that Christianity isn’t required to make one lick of sense.
However, if I told these same people that I choose to put my faith in the saving grace of Harry Potter, Jack Shephard or Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, they would think that I’m a delusional nutcase.

“Faith in the Saving Grace of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”… TYLER, THAT’S A GREAT LINE! I’VE GOT TO USE IT SOMEWHERE!



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Nathan

posted August 13, 2010 at 3:41 pm


I must say that this has been one of the most honest well thought out blogs i’ve read regarding Christianity in a long time.
Very good stuff, thanks for sharing I personally appreciate it and thank you for the thought provoking article!



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@LaureeAshcom

posted August 13, 2010 at 4:14 pm


this whole series has been great….
i think wanting a relationship is valid… it is also really hard because most people don’t recognize it when it attempts to make itself know because it is not necessarily our definition.
best quote of this post… “I want to rediscover Jesus, but I cannot wait for Him to arrive. The seventh chapter of Matthew says that “everyone who asks receives, and he seeks will find.” It’s time to stop waiting and start asking.”
wow



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Jason Boyett

posted August 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm


Thank you, Lauree. I’m loving it, too. You’ll be glad to know I’ve got guests booked for every Friday through the middle of November, and I’m working on a few more. Could be a really long series. :)



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like a child

posted August 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm


Great post. I resonate with the comment ” God and I are A-OK. It’s Jesus and I who are on the rocks. It’s very possible to have certainty that a Divine Creator exists while lacking certainty in the legitimacy of Scripture. What I need is not a case for a lowercase god but one for the uppercase biblical God”
I’m reading Polkinghorne’s Faith of a Physicist currently, and I feel like my faith is diminishing rather than increasing. A lot of apologetics concentrates on the existence of God, and for me, the real issue is the divine nature of Jesus. There’s a discussion at Jesus Creed on slippery slopes that is interesting, but I’m get the sense I’m in the minority. I wish I could turn the doubts off. I think part of the reason I dislike Calvinism so much is that I’m terrified that it is valid, because I often feel like God has opted not to grant me faith. Sometimes, I look back upon the past and while I was completely deluded, the faith of my childhood and what I was taught about Christianity in my fundamentalist church seems so much more comforting than the abyss of doubt I currently reside in. And I have two kids that aren’t going to wait to grow up while I get my thoughts straightened out.



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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted August 13, 2010 at 11:55 pm


I definitely appreciate the idea that even though I’m not a seminarian, pastor or scholar I can still ask questions. It can be daunting to do so because you don’t want to ask question/express a doubt that can be so easily answered by a wise theologian.



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Padawan

posted August 14, 2010 at 12:59 am


Why are doubters viewed with such intellectual superiority while non-doubters are portrayed as ignorant babbling fools? It’s painful to read. What there is no doubt about is that Christians are ill-prepared to defend their faith, which brings such joy to doubters who now have them trapped in a “you’re such a fool” scenario. I have no problem with doubters because I doubt at times too. Doubting is as old as time! It was present in the garden of Eden. It was present in the Old Testament when God was literally displaying His power in front of their faces. It was present among Jesus’ closest disciples. So, why is doubt so elevated? I bet everyone doubts at times, but for some the doubting doesn’t represent a daily struggle. The points made about faith in this interview, and Christians’ inability to “convince” Tyler, are really interesting when you actually look at scripture. Jesus did not appeal to the intellectuals and critical thinkers of the day. His 12 disciples were the uneducated class. In fact, those intellectuals we are introduced to in scripture are usually highlighted as being distinctly troubled when faced with the idea of following Jesus. What does that tell you?
From the time of Jesus and throughout history, the only thing that has ever and can ever remove doubt is the power of God. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be the one to come after him and we would see greater things done on earth because of him than even he (Jesus) did. But, what’s the greatest controversy in the church today: the “power” of the Holy Spirit. If you don’t think this is a strategy of the enemy, then I would love to know if you even believe in spiritual warfare. I do … and it is.
People were drawn to Jesus because of the power that worked through Him. If you don’t ever see the power of God in your life, then there’s no doubt that you’ll continue to doubt. Of all the questions we can ask in our faith (or doubt) walk is “God, will you show me your power in my life.”



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lauren

posted August 14, 2010 at 2:22 am


it’s almost weird how much this post describes my own situation. when my brother-in-law was killed in march i was sure something was going to happen with my faith…i would either lose it or me and Jesus would be back on track. but 5 months later and i’m still waiting for something.
i’ll keep searching and asking and learning, but i’m just hoping that this is a faith that doesn’t disparage intellectuality.



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Tyler Clark

posted August 14, 2010 at 3:12 pm


Thank you, everyone, for your encouragement and thoughtful words. Let’s continue to be honest and vulnerable with each other.
@Lauren – I’m very sorry to hera about your brother-in-law. Please let me know if you need anything at all. I certainly understand. (@tylerlclark)



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Padawan

posted August 16, 2010 at 12:10 am


Lauren, I too am sorry to hear about your brother-in-law. For what it’s worth, I am praying for you right now that God will meet you where you are. I also am praying for your sister and the rest of your family too.
God made us with amazing intellectual capacity, so I don’t think Christianity is about “disparaging intellectuality” … and I’m not at all against smart people … trying myself in life to be considered in that group :) My personal experience and observance of the Christian faith is that the term “faith” is actually more identified with our heart and not our mind. The Bible distinctly talks about them being different … Jesus said “Love God will all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”, and much of our walk with Jesus is about relinquishing our heart to Him. I’m not trying to get too deep, but this is listed by Jesus as the greatest commandment, so, again, don’t you think there would spiritual forces at work against us so this can’t happen? When intellectualism is revered above what’s in the heart (where I believe faith resides), then a mind filled with doubt could potentially over power the faith … especially when the power of God is not visible in our life. So, back to my prior point, I will also pray that God’s power be present in your life and situation right now.



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