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Should be an interesting Zoom next week with Dominic Erdozain!

Written by: on January 24, 2018

While reading around the book before reading the book, The Soul of Doubt (thank you Adler for teaching us how to first read around a book), other titles from Dominic Erdozain caught my attention–Does Sport Build Character?,  The Problem of Pleasure, In Praise of Folly, Religion and Recreation…

Caught my attention, yes he did! After reading Erdozain reviews on GoogleScholar [1], my initial thought was we have an author who I can relate to. To be honest, I have spent more time reading his other writings than I have reading this week’s book. However, I  must walk forward cautiously, because I am finding out maybe he isn’t so keen on sports, pleasure, and recreation, after all (grin). But, when I read between the lines, we may agree more than I initially believed (thank you Dr. Jason, for teaching us how to read more critically between the lines).

In fact, Erdozain comments that even he is surprised by the opposition to his own writings when he says,  “The religious intensity of my army of critics has constantly amazed me.” [2]

I want to be very careful about heaping any criticism on our author, especially since he is our guest on Zoom next week. He probably is a friend of our Lead Mentor, and it would be foolish to throw Erdozain any shade, or as my dad used to say, “It might be a career limiting move.” Oxford Scholar is Erdozain, I am obviously not.

Quotes that I respected from the introduction to The Soul of Doubt include, “It may indeed be harder to believe in 2000 than it was in 1500” [3] and “The fiercest religious cultures have produced the fiercest philosophical dissent.” [4]

Similarly, this statement encouraged me to think deeply, “The ‘religious roots’ that I consider fundamental to modern cultures of unbelief are twofold: the positive content of dissent, including conscience, Bible and Christian ethics, and the negative stimulus of dogma, persecution, and theologically induced fear.” [5] Whoa, guilty as charged! On one hand, dissent is not always bad, and actually may produce positive content, while on the other hand, us Pastors may be inducing fear by our dogma and theology. I don’t want to persecute unbelief in anybody, but probably have negatively.

For this week’s posting, I choose to focus most of my attention on what has been described by Erdozain in chapter 5 as a “crisis of faith” [6] when challenged with unbelief. I will attempt to give background on my own UNBELIEF journey, when confronted with the terminal illness of my mother due to Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).

I never saw my own mother walk. For the first 23 years of my life, mom lived in a hospital bed in our living room, confined to a physical prison not of her own choosing. Perfectly healthy mentally but totally wrecked physically, Mom taught us kids to do her chores every day–taking her to the bathroom, spoon feeding blendered food one bite at a time, brushing her teeth, dressing her, and giving her oodles of medication. Wasn’t exactly a normal childhood, but it was the only thing I ever knew.  I thought every one else’s mom was a little weird for being able to walk around like that.

When I came to what was later described to me as “my age of accountability” with Jesus Christ, I was mired in unbelief. How could a loving God allow this to go on for decades? Mom was not able to do anything but whisper, so I learned to read her lips (be careful what you say about me, I can read your lips from across the room). She would say, “Jay, Jesus loves you and so do I.” I heard the words, but doubted their reliability, based upon what I saw God doing every day in our home.

I became angry and bitter inside to my core, as I wrestled with my unbelief. Later through Pastoral counseling, I learned that I was experiencing a normal “CRISIS OF FAITH”. Didn’t seem normal to me, but today it makes a ton of sense. Most everyone goes through this unbelief in one way or another, fortunately for me, there were folks in my life that didn’t judge me relentlessly because I would ask difficult questions and challenge God for the curse of my mom’s paralysis.

Jean Forseth, in the early stages of ALS

And here is the bridge to Erdozain, where he discusses a major unbelief “crisis of faith” as it relates to Christians coping with Darwin and natural selection. [7] People lost their heads, becoming disenchanted with Science, making it enemy number one. Anyone who dared asked questions were destroyed for opening the door to unbelief. Our author called it “a war of science of religion” between two equally aggressive “storms within a storm.” [8]

Not that I support evolution (I don’t), or believe science is God (science is not religion), I’m just not as combative anymore.  Could it be that if we Christians are dogmatic about a certain topic, it only pushes the non-believer into a corner where they come out swinging and believing even stronger the thing we feared most?

I Biblically argue creation, but no longer shove it in the face of unbelieving scientists, as I most desire for them to know the Creator. I don’t have to argue against natural selection vehemently, whilst at the same time not compromising my own thoughts based on Scripture. I don’t want folks to be “de-converted”  because of coercing them into false conversion.

I actually very much appreciated Erdozain stating, “Scientific reasoning, like the historical analysis of the Bible, could evoke wonder, excitement, and indignation but rarely the fear and loathing characteristic of the more seminal disenchantments.” [9]

I choose to come at it like the man in Mark 9:24, who cried out to Jesus about his epileptic son, “I believe; help my unbelief!” [10]

 

 

[1] “Google Search ‘Dominic Erdozain’.” Google. Accessed January 24, 2018. scholar.google.com.

[2] Erdozain, Dominic. The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. Loc. 279.

[3] Ibid., Loc. 195.

[4] Ibid., Loc. 217.

[5] Ibid., Loc. 240.

[6] Ibid., Loc. 264.

[7] Ibid., Loc. 265.

[8] Ibid., Loc. 3841.

[9] Ibid., Loc. 3945.

[10] Barker, Kenneth L. Zondervan NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

About the Author

mm

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

4 responses to “Should be an interesting Zoom next week with Dominic Erdozain!”

  1. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Jay,

    Wow!! Just Wow! I am humbled and challenged time and again by your response to the crises you have faced in your life. To see this reading through the lens of your own experience makes the text come alive. Perhaps we should be more open to those crises of faith in others and allow them to express their doubts openly and honestly without feeling the need to have them conform to our way of believing. I know that is incredibly difficult, especially when those questions are coming from your own family members. Praying for you brother on your journey of faith. You are an inspiration to me.

  2. mm M Webb says:

    Jay,
    I arrived late last night into the Middle East, got a few hours sleep, breakfast, and now waiting on standby to catch another flight and go deeper into the country for another round and adventure in market place ministry. Your prayers for my travel are appreciated!
    Thanks for the warning about Erdozain being our guest at the next F2F? I guess with all my travel I missed that “memo.” I did not throw him under the bus in my post, but I did challenge him to do more, and provide more solutions instead of just admiring the problem. I commend him for naming the evil one, giving him the proper chaotic credit for his evil influence, schemes, disruption, violence, and death. The author is correct to say that Satan’s impact of spiritual warfare caused a massive alienation to the Christians. Nevertheless, God knows, and used that sad chapter in Evangelicalism’s past, to cause another type of diaspora and movement of the Protestant Christians to the West.
    As a member of the Elite 8, I am thankful we are the favored recipients of God’s grace and timing for our lives. Praise the Lord!
    Jay, thanks for your transparency and testimony about your Mother. Wow. Your witness about this has touched me and reminded me to stay on my knees.
    Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
    M. Webb

  3. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Jay,
    What an amazing testimony, and you were/are an amazing son to be a caregiver your entire young life. Even more, your mom’s ability to continue to speak faith and truth into your life in the midst of a 23 year battle with ALS? Such faith! My guess is your crisis of faith solidified your faith in a way someone who has never waivered in theirs cannot understand. It is a far better testimony. I too was in my early twenties when my mom died from ovarian cancer. While the journey wasn’t nearly as long or challenging as your moms, I had to deal with my own anger towards God and crisis of faith. Coming out on the other side of it? Priceless! I hope you share your story with unbelievers – it truly is life-changing!

  4. Jay,

    You always have the BEST blog titles!! So, first of all, thank you for making me smile.

    But more importantly, God bless you brother for sharing the story of your mom, and about your own crisis of faith. This crisis and your years of faithfulness despite the blackness has created in you a simplicity and sweetness of spirit which we all love and admire (and need). Much love to you today from Canada.

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