Thursday, March 3, 2016

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife

I have heard of women walking away from faith---and from a marriage---due to domineering husbands (or fathers) and the often-hidden crime of domestic violence. Check out my latest book on

Sunday, December 24, 2006



In Walking Away from Faith, I tell my story of belief and unbelief--a story that recounts of my struggle to believe in God from the time I was a child. Here is the first paragraph of Chapter One:

Where is God in the vastness of this universe? Where is God among the billions of stars and billions of light years and billions of people on this planet? Easy answers ring hollow. The unruffled childlike faith of bygone years seems insufficient in the face of scientific discoveries that all too easily engulf God in a black hole. When I look into the night sky, I sometimes wonder if my faith is a figment of my imagination? Where is God—not the God of the Big Bang, not the ground of being, but God—this very personal God of the Bible who knows me and who knows my every thought?

To purchase the book or to check my own review, go to Ruth Tucker's Books.

Reflections on 3 Professors

John Loftus has a 3-part review that deals with those who struggle with doubt. Check it out here.

A Fictional Minister Walks Away

I'm now reading for the second time John Updike's In the Beauty of the Lilies. For a detailed review, check out the New York Times online.

Less than three pages into the first chapter Clarence Arthur Wilmot, the minister of a Presbyterian Church in Patterson, New Jersey loses his faith. It happened in a moment: The sensation was distinct--a viseral surrender, a set of dark sparkling bubbles escaping upward." Yet there had been warning signs, even as he was reminded of the "pubnacious and bald-crowned visage of Robert Ingersoll, the famous atheist whose Some Mistakes of Moses the minister had been reading in order to refute it for a perturbed parishioner. . . . His thoughts had slipped with quicksilver momentum into the recognition, which he had long withtstood, that Ingersoll was quite right: the God of the Pentateuch was an absurd bully, barbarically thundering through a cosmos entrely misconceived. There is not such God, nor should there be."

Why People Walk Away

There are many reasons cited for walking away from faith. Matters of science and philosophy and biblical criticism are often right at the top of the list. So also, disappointment with God--as when an individual is striken with a debilitating disease or a child is killed in an auto accident. Disappointment with God's people is another frequently mentioned reason for leaving the faith.

This last reason is one I've contemplated a lot in recent months and years. I do not say it's a legitimate reason for leaving the faith, but I certainly can understand the disillusionment that comes when so-called Christian leaders behave far worse than those with no profession of faith. And, I'm not speaking here of the Ted Haggards of this world only. Indeed, the sins that are driven by temptations and addictions should cause us less concern that those that are driven by greed and pride and just pure evil.

For four years I've gone through the turmoil at Calvin Theological seminary. I was, without warning, removed from tenure track and given a terminal appointment. When the charges against me fell apart--after I insisted the documents be opened up--I was accused of ungodly conduct. Eventually mediators issued a report that was very decidedly in my favor, but the damage had already been done. I've asked myself so many times, how can these administrators truly be Christians. And I've wondered why they are permitted to remain in their posts. The dishonesty has been well documented, but church leaders want it covered up so as not to reflect badly on the cause of Christ. But isn't a cover-up worse than exposing the sin. See this story at CALVIN THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY.


Bart Ehrman is chair of the Department of Religious Studies at UNC–Chapel Hill and the author of several books that offer a critical approach to the biblical texts. His most recent book is Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend.

In his earlier book, Misquoting Jesus, he tells of his own journey of faith--from a "born-again" Christian to a self-described agnostic. Here is an overview of his personal remarks in the Introduction.

Introduction (pp. 1-15). Ehrman explains why the subject of the text of the New Testament is one that has radically affected him both emotionally and intellectually. He was brought up in a 'churchgoing but not particularly religious' family (p. 1) but in teenage years felt a kind of loneliness (which he now thinks was just what all teenagers feel). After becoming involved in a Campus Life Youth for Christ club he had a 'born-again' experience aged 15 and some time after that was encouraged to attend the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, which he did in 1973.

This institution held to biblical inerrancy and that the words of the autograph were inspired, but in an early class he encountered the fact that we do not possess the autographs, only 'error-ridden copies of the autographs' (p. 5). This got him interested in trying to learn about textual criticism.

By the end of his three-year diploma at Moody he wanted to become '... an evangelical "voice" in secular circles, by getting degrees that would allow me to teach in secular settings while retaining my evangelical commitments' (pp. 5-6). He went to Wheaton College, majoring in English and learning Greek, and there he experienced some doubts.

After two years he went to Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied with Bruce Metzger. He writes, 'A turning point came in my second semester' (p. 8), during a course on Mark when he had written a paper trying to justify the name 'Abiathar' in Mark 2:26 and his professor, Cullen Story, wrote thereon 'Maybe Mark just made a mistake'. Once Ehrman had concluded that he did, 'the floodgates opened' to admitting other problems in scripture (p. 9) and then to having a radical rethink of his understanding of the Bible.

He now writes a book which he believes is the first of its kind: a book 'for people who know nothing about textual criticism' (p. 15).


The title of chapter two in Walking Away from Faith is titled "A Tale of Two Evangelists," featurning the stories of Billy Graham and Charles Templeton. They were co-workers and friends and both went their separate ways as evangelists. But Chuck was haunted by doubts and eventually walked away from faith. His son Brad hosts an interesting site on his late father, Charles Templeton (1915-2001).

ROB AND KIM (This is taken from the Preface of my book)

The theological issues related to belief and unbelief and whether or not an individual can walk away from faith fill many volumes. These doctrinal riddles, however, are not the focus of this book. Rather, I seek to grapple with belief and unbelief from a human perspective, operating on the premise that there is surely the appearance of losing faith. This then is the paradox for those of us in the Reformed tradition who believe that a Christian’s salvation is secure and cannot simply be lost or denied or abandoned. We are left in a quandary. How do we explain the one who faithfully ministers in the church for many years and then walks away from the faith? The answer, I think, is that there simply is no explanation—none that solves the problem, none that satisfies. So, we tend to avoid the issue as we watch our brothers and sisters in the Lord appear to walk away from faith. We avoid the issue rather than living in the paradox.

It is through the lens of human perspective that I will deal with this topic. I cannot see through God’s eyes and distinguish those who are truly sincere from those who are insincere. Nor can I know those who will in God’s time kneel before the throne and confess the name of Jesus. These matters are all in the hands of a sovereign God. But these individuals ought to have an honest hearing. As a Christian I need to listen to the stories to better understand and to more faithfully reach out in dialogue and love. Frequently, the Christian response is characterized by anger and accusations. We are threatened by the very presence of those who have abandoned the truths that we hold dear, and I sometimes wonder if our own insecurity is a cause for the breakdown in communication between those who believe and those who once believed..

So, how do we regard those who have walked away from the faith? I was challenged with this enigma tonight as I talked with Rob and Kim in their home in Grand Rapids, fifteen minutes from where I live. I had been given Rob’s name as someone I should contact--someone who had abandoned the faith. He invited me over, and I spent the evening with him and Kim, talking in their living room. Both had been raised Catholic, but as young adults became “born again” believers and joined the Reformed Baptist church, where they were actively involved for more than a dozen years.

“I would have given my life for the faith,” Rob recalls. “Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that I could be sitting here tonight telling you I am an atheist.” But that is what he was doing. His story is one I have heard and read over and over again. First there were questions—relatively minor questions—regarding apparent biblical inconsistencies. Then major questions and unresolved issues. And finally the whole system seemed to crumble and crash. The journey from fundamentalism to liberalism to agnosticism took several years. “I could never go back,” says Rob. “Never.”

If there was one thing that most impressed me during the visit, it was how likable and good-spirited Rob and Kim are. They are intelligent and well-read, the parents of four children, from seven to seventeen. They communicated easily with each other and with me, and there was no reason to doubt that they had found a measure of happiness in life—happiness that Rob insisted did not characterize their life of faith. They seemed to be living an incredibly normal life. This is not the picture of a happy family life that we allow ourselves to imagine as Evangelicals. What’s going on here? This is the basic question I seek to answer in this book. How do we unravel this mystery of belief and unbelief?