This comment from a parish priest showed up in the (excellent) “Pastors who don’t believe in God” thread. I think Father makes such an important point that it deserves to be highlighted. I especially like his analogy to entering into a marriage in which one is conditioned to be constantly critical of one’s spouse and suspicious of her proclamations of love. Here’s what Father wrote:
I’m coming late to this discussion, so forgive me if I repeat anything that’s already been said. But this survey, and the responses of the people in, they don’t surprise me at all. And that saddens me, deeply. It is sad but true how many pastors and priests lose their faith in God but then just keep on trucking. In some cases it’s because they value a kind of politics over any other consideration. But for most, it’s just a sense of ennui about what one is supposed to do. Rod, you hit the nail on the head by highlighting that bit about the seminaries. Textual criticism will be the death of us. And I say this as someone who believes that historical criticism and form criticism and all the rest have great value and shouldn’t be abandoned. But the problem is that these are ALL THAT IS TAUGHT in biblical classes in many seminaries today. And when the only approach that one ever learns towards the Bible is criticism, then all you know how to do is be a critic. Is it any wonder you lose your faith in what the Bible teaches? Imagine going into a marriage with the only approach you know that of constantly criticizing your wife and questioning her motives and her honesty. It would be a short walk to divorce. But what this sort of thing really does is re-emphasize for me that the primary calling for so many of us who are called to pastoral leadership in this generation is one of catechesis. This is a time when the faith needs be taught anew (as opposed to teaching a new faith). It’s going to take brave men and women to answer that call, but we have to pray that it will come to pass, because people are thirsty for truth and have no idea why. These sort of pastors are raised up out of congregations where they were never taught the truth, never taught that one can be thoughtful and intelligent and still hold to the faith once delivered to the saints. We have to reclaim that.
Well said. There is a middle ground between a fundamentalist belief that everything in Scripture must be literally true, and believing that none of it is true. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is at best a noble lie, and not worth giving one’s life for. Seminaries that in one way or another teach pastors that it’s all probably a noble lie are engaged in a form of assisted suicide.