October 20, 2020

Internet Monk Radio Podcast #132

podcast_logo.gifThis week: Is evangelism healthy? What are we defending in the Bible? Putting the leavers and quitters back on evangelical radar.

SBC Voices Blog Madness: I need your vote next week.

Valerie Tarico’s book on evangelicalism.

New Reformation Press. New products available now. New music and DVDs.

Intro music by Daniel Whittington. Exit Music by Randy Stonehill.

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  1. Thanks for that, iMonk. I found the second half of that podcast especially and extremely helpful. I was very interested in this part, from 23:32—24:40 of the podcast:

    Well, what I know is something that’s not in comments of posts like that. What I know is a file of letters that I’ve received over the years that I can’t share with anybody because they were shared with me in confidence, but basically here’s what they say: You know, “Hi. I’m Joe on your web site—and I just picked that name, by the way—who argues with everybody really strongly for the truth of Christianity. I’m the guy who argues really strongly for the truth of the Catholic Church. You know, I’m the religious leader, the pastor who argues really strongly for my position. In actual fact, I have no experience of God whatsoever. I don’t know why I’m sticking with Christianity. My life is empty of any Christian experience, any sense of God. I hate myself. I loathe the duplicious life that I’m leading. I feel like an utter hypocrite, but I don’t know what else to do.” And I’ve got quite a few of those letters.

    That goes to one of my darkest suspicions about evangelical Christianity. There seems to be this pressure — sometimes overt, sometimes quite subtle — toward acting, and being, quite certain of one’s central beliefs. And one wonders to what extent this pressure results in folks acting (& perhaps being) more certain than they can authentically be. (Explaining that use of “authentic” would take a lot of space, I fear — and even then it would be only partially successful.) How common is this experience — I’ve had it on several occasions: One of the people you had always counted as having a very strong faith ends up giving it up, and, when you talk to her/him about it, says that their earlier state of (at least apparent) confidence was something of a sham (though they may not have realized that at the time), or was in some way inauthentic. Since this person earlier had sounded and acted just like the most confident of believers, one can’t help but wonder whether and to what extent the confidence of those others is also inauthentic. And then, of course, whether and to what extent one’s own confidence is inauthentic. I now get to skip that last, most personal, step because I’ve faced up to my own supreme lack of confidence. But of course, I have my own other areas of inauthenticity to worry about, and that supreme lack of confidence comes along with its own set of problems. It’s certainly far from ideal. But what has seemed to me the best way to deal with the situation is to be upfront, with myself, and others, and, especially, God, about my lack of confidence. God knows how to make me more confident: better & more unmistakable experience of him. I know that may seem like — and may actually be — something of a cop-out. Of course, I haven’t been seeking God as I should. In fact, in some ways, I run from him. So I can’t be unloading the responsibility for this on to God. But still, even if I did everything right, God would still owe me nothing, and might not provide me with the experience I would need for authentic confidence. After all, Mother Teresa did her part better than I could ever hope to, and yet, if her recently released letters are to be believed, she went many years without the kind of experience she would have needed to be confident, and was herself riddled with doubts. And, on the other hand, Paul was doing everything wrong when God did provide him with some big-time, primo experience, which seems to have grounded his supreme and authentic confidence. So, while I may be to blame (what’s new about that?), still, there’s no formula here by which one can get God to act the way one wants, and in the end, it’s up to God, anyway. I like to view my state of uncertainty as something of a calling. Though I wouldn’t seek a state of uncertainty (what Mother Teresa seemed to earnestly seek was to be brought into closer, more certain, contact with her God), the uncertain walk with Jesus has its own beauty and value, I believe. For one thing, it can make you a good fellow-traveler for some other uncertain folks. God has use for both his certain and his uncertain followers, I believe.

  2. When is the Tarico interview coming out?