One of the better bible blogs is Alan Lenzi’s Bible and Ancient Near East. He is also the featured interviewee at biblioblogs this month. I encourage you to read the whole thing.
The part that hit me the hardest was his description of how he lost his faith. In a nutshell he lost it by trying really, really hard not to. Allow me to quote him here:
I began studying the Bible very carefully years ago. I began studying with people outside my tradition about 11 years ago. I began to see things that caused problems, in my opinion, for a high view (traditional inerrancy) of scripture (about 11 years ago). I reconciled myself to a different view of scripture that took into account much more fully the human and historical features found within it (about 9 years ago). I then began to read about religion more broadly (outside parochial Biblical Studies) (about 8 years ago). I realized that the same exact things I see in biblical texts and among my religious convictions occur in other scriptural texts and religions. So, I concluded, the only thing that made scripture and Christianity special was my preconceptions and experience (about 6 years ago). I saw that many people have tried to argue that the content or ideas of Christianity were superior to these other religions. But on the theological level these ultimately seemed strained and apologetic to me. Not wanting to give up my faith, I lived as a mystic for a while—the Liberal Protestant solution (see below) (about 6 years ago). This was not satisfying for a number of reasons. So I got brave and took the final step into agnosticism (about 4.5 years ago). It was rather scary at first. But now I feel like I’ve been liberated from a very heavy existential burden.
A few things strike me about this. This is not a standard Mormon exit narrative. The standard Mormon exit narrative will usually involve a truth claim. A series of events leads up to a final awakening where the one who exits discovers that “the LDS church is not true” and then leaves the church. The length of time for this to happen varies, but almost always there is a switch from the church being true to the church being false. Not once does Lenzi make any truth claims of this sort.Second, later in the post he talks about how in his capacity as a teacher of the Hebrew Bible he “will often suggest to them theological avenues they can explore that they might find helpful to reconcile faith and historical inquiry.” That doesn’t sound like a bitter person. And let’s face it, if you were to show up on one of the ex-mo boards and ask if anyone has any suggestions for reconciling faith and historical inquiry you probably won’t get much in the way of helpful advice.
Third, on the way to losing his faith Lenzi tried a multitude of options to stop the process. While it sounds like he found some toe holds on the way down the slippery slope he never found a ledge on which to set up permanent camp. Why do some find ledges while others do not? What are the ledges on the slippery slope?
Later, he gives the “short short version” (to quote from Spaceballs) of the loss of his faith.
Let me give you the shortest version of this story now. I allowed human autonomy to displace theological conviction as my primary interpretive framework, and I then gave a wide array of evidence an honest read (see advice to believers above.). The result was logical and compelling.
Again I want to focus on the lack of truth claims. It’s not that Christianity was untrue, it’s that secular humanism was more “logical and compelling.” A common retort from a believer would be along the lines of saying secular humanism might be logical and compelling but that it does not account for the mysteriousness aspects of life. Lenzi would respond, “Although I recognize the mysterious nature of much of our existence, I’m not able to acquiesce to theistic mysticism because it seems to revel entirely in one’s imagination.”
So my questions to you readers: Is there a ledge on the slippery slope that he missed? and How does a believer respond to someone like Lenzi?