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I first encountered Nick Fiedler via “The Nick and Josh Podcast,” his popular podcast with Joshua Case. They’ve been at it since 2006, and have interviewed a diverse number of authors, speakers, musicians, theologians, and other people in and around Christian culture. When Nick published his first book — a book called The Hopeful Skeptic, about becoming “post-Christian” and re-examining his faith from an outsider’s perspective — I was intrigued. So I asked for a review copy from his publisher, IVP.
[Nick] Labeling is a funny thing. We usually don’t like it when people label us, but we use labeling systems for everyone else, and in most aspects of our lives. In order to make it easier for people to not get confused labeling me as either a ‘Christian’ or a ‘Non-Christian,’ I thought I would help other people out.
I don’t know if I am the first person to use the arranged-marriage metaphor, but a lot of people are telling me that they have never heard it put like that before. I agree with you, I think that a lot of people have grown up in a belief structure, and I think that most of us follow in the faith of our fathers (and mothers). I think the key process we need to go through is acknowledgment of that.
You admit to liking the humility of agnosticism — the idea of going through life admitting you could be wrong — and admit that you have something of that spirit in you. Can there be such a thing as a Christian agnostic?
I absolutely think there can be Christian agnostics. I have met plenty of them. I have one friend in particular who wrestles with the existence of God daily, but couldn’t be more devoted to the Christian story. I think the reality of the situation is that even though there are plenty of Christian Agnostics, we wouldn’t admit it out loud. If we define ‘agnostic’ in a general sense of the word, we can think of it as having no completely sure knowledge of God. Every Christian, at some point in his or her life, has got to think “God are you really there?” or “God is this really true?”
One of the big belief categories you re-evaluate as “major skepticisms” is your relationship to Scripture. I’m always surprised (and disappointed) how little people know about the Bible, including textual and historical criticism. Why is it important for Christians to study the Bible beyond a surface-level devotional reading?
I think the biggest problems that Christians have when it comes to the Bible is they have no idea how to look at it objectively. This isn’t completely their own fault. They are taught things very concretely about the Bible and I would venture to say that the majority of the church never gets a secular history of the Bible.