I have always found it striking that when one begins asking spiritual leaders about the efficacy of faith and the trustworthiness of the Bible, the answers that come are not only unsatisfying but terribly wanting in value.
So it was with former pastor Teresa MacBain, who went public about her unbelief at the Reason Rally in March. As it turns out, MacBain began doubting early in life, but a quick talk with her father silenced the matter for years:
I went to my dad for answers. He simply shared that God’s ways are so much higher than our ways that we can not understand everything in the Bible. Our response should be faith, not doubting. He then told me that doubting was a sin. I left that day and suppressed those questions. This practice followed me for decades.
Not withstanding the fact that her father was, from a doctrinal standpoint, wrong — most believers don’t consider doubting a sin by itself, for even Jesus can be said to have doubted, at least to some extent, the necessity of the cross when he said, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” — I was told in my time of uncertainty that doubt was natural and that everyone had doubts at some point. In any case, if doubting is a sin, so is lust or envy or covetousness because we can’t always control what pops into our heads. We can choose not to linger on those thoughts, of course, but we can’t control the initial thought, and this is the problem with people being convicting of “thoughtcrime,” as Orwell termed it.
In any case, I don’t care whether doubt is perceived as a “sin” or not. The point is that occasional doubts aren’t usually categorically described as a evil across the board. When I spoke with someone in the church about my doubts, I was told that God is faithful, never fails and that he was who he said he was (about as tautological as you can get!). This was, as I’ve said, a terribly inadequate answer, and I left that meeting just as convinced that the questions surrounding faith and the Bible were far more numerous than the answers, which were never going to be in the offing.
Like MacBain, I suppressed or ignored some questions for awhile, but then realized over the course of several years that there was no adequate explanation for why the Bible was such a shoddy book on which to base one’s life or why the entire biblical narrative was so pockmarked with loopholes and fallacies.
I dare say that the crisis of faith experienced by MacBain will continue for many other pastors who may have inherited more virtuous logic and critical thinking than their believing predecessors would have liked.