Faith After Doubt
(Sent in by GM:) I’m reading a very interesting book, “Faith After Doubt” by Brian D McLaren
Following are some notes I took on a section of the book where the author sets forth that questions and “doubts” are not the enemy of faith, but rather a portal to a more mature and fruitful kind of faith.
The 4 Stage Model of Faith and Belief
STAGE ONE = Simplicity
Known for rigid simplicity of belief.
Dualistic: “Us and Them”, etc
No doubts allowed.
Most followers only leave if there’s a major upheaval: when the group or group leader is exposed, etc
STAGE TWO = Complexity
More pragmatic beliefs presented: “How to become a better person/wealthy/overcome bad habits etc, along with success coaches.
Here, complexity allows questions or “doubts” of some of the group beliefs. Cohesion of a Stage Two group is what decides if you stay there or not. (There are always many other “religious vendors” offering other available products.)
In most cases, most move from a Stage One group to a Stage Two group. And in most cases it’s a step up as there’s more room to grow developmentally. However, some disillusioned Christians digress back from a Stage Two group to a Stage One group, whereby they willingly re-admit themselves to stricter disciplines; oftentimes a regressive move.
Others may instead choose to simply drop out of both Stage One and Stage Two groups or congregations, and simply make their “church” in nature, hiking and “walking out their problems.”
STAGE THREE = Perplexity
After having experienced Stage One and Stage Two beliefs, some may reflect on the damage done by Institutions, and conclude things like the following:
“Overly-confident people who are pushing some religious product may very well be con-artists!”
“A BS detector should really be given to everyone newly entering the world of religion!”
In stage three, one realizes that dissent is not something to be avoided at all costs. Jesus himself dissented in that He challenged norms and religious authority, with the purpose of helping set people free.
In stage three, one tends to lose fear of religious “gatekeepers”, and gain fresh courage to explore.
Simplicity and Complexity provided certain values that prepared us for Stage Three. (Similarly, Stage Three prepares us for Stage Four.) While Stage Three can sometimes seem like a loss of the certainty once held, your “faith portfolio” continues to grow. Personal honesty and sensitivity are amongst two gifts that may be gained.
Stage Three groups often fail for one or more of the following 5 reasons:
1. Structure - Whatever they construct, they also may feel the need to deconstruct.
2. Authority - Because authority figures are suspect, only the most time-tested are accepted.
3. Purpose - Mainly just conversation and analysis is the order of the day, not really actually focus and planning.
4. Relativism - “Rich white people” see from a certain relative viewpoint, just as do “poor black Christians”. Therefore hard to see eye-to-eye.
5. Suspicion - Since people at this stage are keenly aware of injustices etc., they therefore enter any new group very suspiciously.
STAGE FOUR = Harmony
Some in this stage find community amongst other somewhat-disillusioned people like themselves, and “fellowship” in a loose construction, perhaps only actually meeting occasionally.
You may reach the point where you acknowledge, I know a lot less now that what (I thought) I knew before, having realized all we don’t know.