Wednesday, October 14, 2009

God's Credibility Problem

I often express my dissatisfaction with the people in the Christian movement. I have also maintained that questioning the validity of the church's belief is not the same as challenging the existence of God or his motivation.

But the truth is though I believe in God, he has a credibility problem with me. I'll just stick with one of the bigger problems I have.

"I will send you a counselor (or comforter, or encourager, or helper)." We understand this to be the promise of the Holy Spirit who will come and fill us with something or other. It sounds great because I often feel empty and lonely. I would love to sense a benevolent mystical presence within me or even outside of me. But I don't. I thought I had in times past, but I doubt those past impressions of mine.

I have friends of the charismatic persuasion who insist that they fellowship fully with the Spirit. They feel an intense connection with God. They speak in a heavenly language (what we call tongues). They've seen powerful workings of the Spirit.

I want to be gentle here. But I don't believe them. I believe in their sincerity, but I don't believe they've experienced what they say they are experiencing. I don't say that often because I don't want to hurt their feelings, and besides, I could be wrong. But everything I've seen in my thirty years of ministry appears to be emotionally driven, and a lot of that is anxiety.

I still believe in God and Jesus. I'm still able to teach from the scripture. I'm willing to entertain the idea of a powerful mystical presence that can change the course of events. But I have not seen it.

"Maybe He is there but you just can't see him," some will argue.

Okay. But no one has searched for him more than I have. If He's that hard to experience, what good is He?

I don't talk easily about these things to others. Frankly, it would hurt some people I love, and it would make my life more complicated than I want. This blog allows me to say things because I am anonymous. There are only three people who know my identity and I trust them enough to tell them anything.

To them and those of you who have become my blog friends, I say, that this has been a bitter disappointment to me. I have felt inadequate, rejected, angry, and disillusioned in that order.

Bear in mind that I am not experiencing an emotional or even spiritual crisis. I have been this way for quite a few years and I have found some peace along the way.

I just wanted to say it to someone.


  1. CG--A huge amen to every paragraph in this article. I'm truly sorry about all the varieties of distress you've felt for so long. No one deserves it less.

    I have had a few thoughts today. Many you're familiar with, but try reading this fresh, without sliding into the intellectual paradigms/labels/ruts you learned in seminary.

    This pertains to the lonely, fruitless God search you've describe here, one which I share with you, and how it relates to our fellowship with other people.

    A phrase popped into my head - "participatory Godhood." Not sure precisely how that meshes with what follows, but here goes: I have thought that there was a "nexus" connecting us with God and others, a personal point of spiritual power where all our cables come together. I'm hypothesizing now that's that's a poor model. There is no Nexus connecting us all at a distance; instead we are collectively more like a spiritual brain, an intermingled cluster of neurons, ganglia, electricity, magnetism, and light. Interrelated but independent; separate but one. And "God" is the whole, or perhaps like the cerebral cortex encasing the whole. Maybe he isn't primarily interested in "a personal relationship" with us, but instead wants us to relate to each other. The result is that we come to know him, too. The liberal churches call this "community," and I suspect it's their way of avoiding God altogether, since they appear to me to be afraid of him. So they invent intellectualizations about him (theology) which leads to a large overlap with agnosticism, forever searching but never finding. So their conclusion about community may be correct in spite of their avoidance motivation for arriving there. And the implication, which they cannot face except theoretically and in the comforting safety of a crowd, is that they can draw somewhat closer to the God they feared when they were Catholics or fundamentalists. (Charismatics go the other extreme, not intellectualization but emotionalism and boundary free intimacy--a sort of brain goulash, the intensity of which often leads to libertinism and agnosticism. Yet in the meanwhile, they have community, and I know firt hand of true miracles that have hapened in this group, just as in some pagan communities.)

    Clergypersons (a little PC there) are in a dilemma. They can't know God because they are the shepherds and not part of the flock. And if they confess their doubts and sheephood, they no longer can be shepherds. They are denied access to the community they need to be true believers. They need to have their own community. We need to talk about this.

    Blessings -- (you know who I aM)

  2. Hi CG,

    you're in a particularly difficult dilemma there, one with no easy solution, like so many in real life that don't match up with the pat answers. I don't have a solution for you, and I'm not a clergy member so I don't necessarily have the isolation problem (although that can often be the result of other factors, at least I don't have to stand up there and be an example to anyone). I wish it were easier for you to be able to find trustworthy people to confide in, but wishes are not terribly useful. I sure know the feeling, though. Why does God appear to speak to all these people, sometimes even when they aren't looking for it, and not to me? Are they really experiencing something and I'm just some spiritual cripple? Or they imagining it or faking it, and I'm the only one not deceived? Were the prophets in the Bible recording the results of having eaten too many "special" mushrooms? And if that's the case, why do I feel like I'm the one missing out? Or is it that I just want to be a little girl, and have Daddy tell me what to do?
    If it's any consolation, I personally find it helpful when a pastoral type can talk about doubt, or fear, or failure. I am suspicious of those who seem to have it all together. I also seem to be much better off now just working out how to live a good life with my own thoughts and emotions and interactions with others and assuming that God, if he's interested, will bump me in the right direction, if there is one. It's rather less stressful than agonising that I have no clear 'WORRRD of the LORRRRD!' to tell me what to do, and a bit of a relief to find that I'm not the only one.