This week's question is one I've heard on and off from my first column. "Why must you deal with such controversial questions? Surely, there is enough controversy in the church that one of our own has no need to call attention to it."
And since there is indeed enough controversy surrounding the church, if I am to keep bringing up difficult questions there had better be a good reason. And I believe I have one--or, actually, three.
First, the questions I choose to answer are carefully chosen. They're not chosen so as to avoid the tough questions, but instead chosen to deal with an issue of importance. For some time, centuries actually, those outside of the Christian faith have levied accusations against the church and especially of its book claiming that it is "full of contradictions and cannot be the Word of God." Other accusations include the hesitancy of the church to deal with the rational and scientific age, choosing instead to rely on tradition--even when tradition was clearly anti-christian and/or anti-semetic (for example, read selected sermons preached during the years 1860-65 in America, and selected sermons from the German church during 1939-1944. Both periods relied on tradition to primarily justify their respective positions).
In addressing the issues I choose, I am joining a time-honored practice of what are called "Apologetics." An apology is an attempt to defend a doctrine or a theological point. The doctrine I am defending is this: Christianity is not an outdated faith that continually refuses to address the questions of modernity, choosing instead to hide beneath the protection of tradition. Rather, Christianity is a vibrant faith, rock steady and dependable, with a holy book that can withstand the scrutiny of the skeptics. But you can't defend that unless you're willing to address the skeptics.
Secondly, I choose to answer these questions because there are Christians who want to explore the scriptures, get to know them intimately, and aren't willing to ignore the parts that are difficult. I daresay, many, yea most, of the questions I answer are questions most Christians wouldn't dare ask in a Sunday School class or during Wednesday evening Bible study. So where can they ask the questions? Here then is a forum to safely ask.
Finally, I address the tough questions to open the door to dialogue with those outside the faith. I am fiercely a Christian and can defend my faith to the world. And there are a whole lot of folks "out there" reading this column who aren't sure whether Christianity is viable to a world gone mad. Buddhism calls people to quiet introspection and enlightenment. Hinduism invites folks to a moral and balanced lifestyle. Islam demands discipline and courage. All of these faiths call people from where they are to a place above the madness. And as good as each of these faiths are, I believe Christianity has something even more to offer. But unless there is honest dialogue there can be no bridges built. And so, A Pastor's Ponderings is an attempt to offer that bridge.
When I began writing this column it wasn't an attempt to support the traditions of the church, instead it was an attempt to get beyond tradition to truth. But sometimes truth flies in the face of tradition, though traditions that impede truth do slowly change when and if they're challenged. So for those looking for a defense of their faith (if the faith isn't based in tradition), for those who are willing to explore, and for those looking for open dialogue, this column is for you. And though the questions may be controversial, the answers will be honest expressions of one Christian to the world.