I used to follow Christian author, Frank Viola, a little bit when I was a pastor and a graduate student. I never really cared much for what he was saying. I quoted him in my dissertation but not favorably. Today I received his occasional email update. I can’t remember the last time I read one of these but for some reason today I did and this is what he said right off the top:
Hey Friends, Frank V. here. Last month I wrote a blog post that went viral called “The Crisis of Faith.” In it, I explained that every true disciple of Jesus will go through a monumental crisis of a faith, and I explained at what age this typically happens.
Because I have writer’s block on the chapter I’m working on, that comment was enough to send me searching for this viral blog post in which he explains how and why, and apparently when crises of faith happen. I’m not sure what he means by “viral.” There are only 8 comments but perhaps there are thousands of people talking about this brief post elsewhere. Anyway, he says,
As I explained in Jesus Now, the beginning of the Christian faith is fairly easy. And so is the last part of the journey.
It’s the middle that’s incredibly difficult.
There are usually two points in a believer’s life where they encounter a crisis of faith. This is especially true if God is using the person in powerful ways.One is when they are around 30 years old. The other is when they are in their 40s.
I’ve watched many people fall away from the Lord during those two periods, some even becoming atheists.
Curious. I was 43 when I became an atheist. He had my attention for a minute. What would he say about we in our 40s who face a crisis of faith? The remainder of his 363 word, viral blog post says that we who experience a crisis of faith just need to hang in there, “persevere,” and “live by faith.”
He closes his post with this:
Mark it down: As you go on with the Lord, your faith will be sorely tested.
You will be tempted to “shrink back” into unbelief.
But you — dear child of God — do not belong to those who shrink back.
Learn to see Him who is invisible. And lean into Him.
By this, you will endure until the end.
It is this kind of nonsense–literally, words and ideas that make no sense–that characterizes so much of the evangelical (or Beyond Evangelical in this case…same thing) approach to doubt and the challenge of unbelief. “Learn to see Him who is invisible.” Believers say, Amen! All others scratch their heads. “Lean into Him.” What does that mean? He offers no explanation, though he claims to have explained why people have serious doubts in their 30s and 40s. He simply asserts it as a fact based, apparently, on his observations. He doesn’t explain anything, really. The whole thing is trite nonsense.
Or maybe I’m just making it too complicated. Maybe he and Bob Newhart are on to something.
Facing a crisis of faith?