On this blog I’ve reflected now and then on ‘losing faith’.
Here’s a proposal forming in my mind (in other words I’m airing a half-baked formed idea for discussion – but hey that’s what a blog is for!).
For a committed Christian to walk away from their faith (not just the church but from belief in orthodox Christianity towards agnosticism or atheism) there has to be a ‘falling out of love’ with God.
Now I don’t mean this in any romantic sentimental ‘Jesus is my girlfriend’ sort of way.
I mean that somewhere deep down there has to be a disbelief, an apostasy if you will, in the moral goodness, the loveliness, the sheer beauty of God and in the compelling attractiveness of the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ.
Scripture is packed full of praise and adoration of a God worth loving with our hearts, souls, minds and strength. Worth loving for what he does and who he is – in whom there is no darkness, only light. One image I like is from David in Psalm 52
8 But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
9 For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.
Rooted. Flourishing. Fruitful. Unfailing love. Community. Praise and thanksgiving. Hope. All flowing from a knowledge and experience of the sheer goodness of God.
Therefore a negative view of the doctrine of God or ‘theology proper’ is a fundamental element of Christian apostasy.
And is it significant therefore that it is the doctrine of the unadulterated goodness of God that is most under attack in the new atheism and other anti-Christian movements within contemporary culture? Here is the redrawing of God as a moral monster full of bile, injustice, violence, racism, etc etc
And what happens do you think when an experiential belief in the goodness of God leaks away in a Christian’s life? What’s left at the bottom of the bucket?
One symptom may be an unhealthy and negative attitude to the church itself. Once love for God goes, so does love for his (imperfect) people, perhaps manifesting itself in deep-seated frustration at the church’s failings or cynicism towards others. For if the love and grace of God are not central then all that is left is participation in what is often a frustrating and amateur organisation.
Another symptom of disbelief may be a sense of sadness and loss – there is no actual hope beyond the broken and unjust world we see every day. Like Douglas Coupland years ago saying that God isn’t there and he ‘misses him’.
Or perhaps love for God gets replaced by church politics, positions, power, factionalism and so on. Plenty of that around.
So the most spiritually searching question a Christian can ask him or herself is this: am I loving the Lord with all of who I am – mind, heart, life? If not, why not? What has ‘displaced God’?
And a follow up question – what does loving God in this way look like in practice ? In the specifics of daily life?
Comments, as ever, welcome.