This is the first of two excerpts from a book that I happily endorsed: Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God by Kyle Roberts. Kyle is a professor at Bethel Seminary and a fellow Patheos blogger.
Doubt is the other side of faith…This ethos may be one of the defining features of emergent Christianity—the willingness to countenance doubt. These doubts can arise from questioning the sincerity of religious faith (i.e. Freud’s “great apologetic challenge” to Christianity), the truthfulness of the Bible, the exclusivity of Christianity, or engaging in philosophical challenges to core Christian doctrines (such as those posed by the “problem of evil and suffering”). The acceptance of a positive role for doubt in the Christian life is consistent with the emergent ethos.
Because emergent Christianity is not terribly anxious about epistemological certainty, such questions are encouraged—or at the very least accepted and engaged. Furthermore, there is no rush to answer the questions in a final, authoritarian way. This openness to the reality of doubt in the Christian journey need not imply a glorification of doubt nor a complete disregard for objectivity (properly placed) in Christian theology…
An epistemologically humble approach to theology and faith allows for deeper authenticity and for the deconstruction of the idols of certainty, dogmatism and closure. Experimental psychologist, Richard Beck, asks, “What would religious faith look like, experientially and theologically, if it were not engaged in existential repression or consolation?” Presumably, that kind of faith might be open about the reality of doubt and would courageously struggle with existential questions regarding the attainment of “truth.”
That kind of faith would not try to rely on or use religion instrumentally to assuage existential anxiety, but would attempt to be existentially authentic in the face of the lack of epistemological “objective” certainty; it would be open and honest about the pain and distress involved in the human experience and would not try to suppress the anxieties that arise from the fragmentation, brokenness, and brevity of human life.
Collectively, in terms of the experience of Christian community, it might have the character and courage to deal with pain, sorrow, and longing head-on, even in (or especially in) the context of church liturgy. It would engage the Bible with seriousness and honesty; neither avoiding its prophetic strangeness nor minimizing its difficulties, from the perspective of the modern world. It would utilize both celebration and lament as representations of the full nature of the human experience. Ultimately, it would find both discomfort and solace in the central figure of Christian faith: the paradoxical God-man, who makes comfortable faith impossible but who alone can make authentic faith possible.
Whaddya think: Does Kyle get the emergent church right?