A Pastor’s Confession

So you come to church on a Sunday morning.

It is time for the message and the pastor stands up and says,

“Good morning. Today is going to be a little different. I don’t have a message or sermon prepared, but I thought maybe I could just talk to you about some things that have been troubling me.

For the last two or three years, I have begin to doubt many of the things I once believed. It’s not been so hard to hide these things from you. Since most of the messages I preach have to do with how to be a better friend, or how to serve others, or how to have a stronger marriage, or how to deal with difficulties… it’s actually been pretty easy to avoid some of the things that trouble me most.

I stand up here each and every week and feel very inadequate to be your pastor. I love you as my friends and my community, but I have found myself doubting almost everything that we have written in our church’s statement of beliefs. And I have been afraid of saying this because being a pastor is all I have ever known. It’s what I love to do. And even if I don’t believe some of these things, I want to believe them. But wanting to believe doesn’t help me to actually believe. However, my desire for knowing the truth remains the same.

I am still the same man I was yesterday… well, except for one thing. I am finally being honest about some of the things going on in my head and heart. I certainly understand that you may not want me to be your pastor any longer. But what I am hoping is that I can stick around and we can discover these truths together.”

What do you do??

What should the church do??

64 thoughts on “A Pastor’s Confession”

  1. <>“Christians do have fixed beliefs about Christ and what it means to be a Christian.”<>You need to get out more.<>“As to why you, Dorsey, need a significant reason to reexamine your beliefs? I never said you did.”<>I’ll refer you to your earlier comment:<>“No, you can re-examine what you believe <>if there is sufficient reason to do so.”<><>You also said:<>“People are embracing this man’s doubts when they don’t even know what his doubts are.”<>I confess I didn’t care to read the entirety of the previous comments, but I thought we were talking about embracing the man, not joining him in doubt.

  2. Wow. Huge discussion. Just took a half hour to read…uh, scan through it all.As a pastor myself, and really sticking to the scenario Steve set up, I think I would have to step down, without a doubt.Although I dig the whole honesty thing (which is a no brainer), I think I disqualify myself by no longer believing the church’s statement of faith. Beyond that, I disqualify myself from retaining ministerial credentials with my organization, whereas my ordination depends on my adherance to a statement of faith.Another thought…in our church, the Pastor is the head of the deacon board (Christ is the head of the “Church”). In such a role, he does bear the responsibility and weight similar to that of a CEO of a secular company. He would be the first to go to jail if there were any legal trouble and his personal assets are on the line, as well as all the board members. He chairs the annual business meetings and must follow the church’s Constitution and Bylaws, which also includes the statements of faith.It is what it is, what can I say?

  3. “I love this site. You guys ALL crack me up” (Steve)Well if I can’t be smart I should at least be entertaining – LOL. I think duffle is right – would we tear our community right apart because a pastor has some questions? Nothing wrong with some healthy debate on the subject – but imagine this in the ‘real world’. I have to admit it is a little dis-heartening to think our pastor has to step down because of questions and concerns they have with the faith in general…I would say why not have concerns – look at us – we can barely aceppt one another’s differences on a subject that should be about ‘how we treat another’ and not about ‘doctrinal integrity’.

  4. jefe – I thoroughly enjoyed your cynical yet poignant perspective on the life cycle of the modern church/pastor. Though I must admit it left me a bit confused as to where you stand having come to this sobering realization…Are you of the “oh well, church is a bitch, love it or leave it” school of thinking, or do you have some proposal how one might be able to change this, or perhaps even thrive (in a spiritual sense) whithin it?doresy/ninjanun – Though I understand your obvious distain to the CEO role in a church environement, I honestly find that perspective a bit naive (no disrespect!). I do not question for one second that the reality of such a post (be it the pastor or some other non-pastoral position) is wrought with inhearant danger. And yet once your church has grown past a certain number, there are logistical and financial matters that must be adressed. Unless, that church decides to cap its membership/attendance…the pros and cons of which could be debated through next week.< HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Hill_Bible_Church#Leadership" REL="nofollow">Mars Hill Church<> has a person who oversees the logistical affairs of their church (lead pastor Don Golden). To my knowledge he does not preach, and I’m not sure what kind of direct spiritual interaction he has with the congregation (counseling, etc). This frees their main teachers (Rob Bell, and a number of others) to do just that. I’m not sure, given the appropriate oversight (elders etc), how this is anything but good?I’m not trying to be confrontational…just tossin some ideas around for consideration.good times.

  5. it’s pretty interesting that the questions asked at the end of the post really have to right or wrong answer; they are questions of opinion (assuming the second question should be read “what do you think the church should do?”)based on the answers it looks like the body would tear itself apart.but, hey, what do i know? i wouldn’t have been in the service to hear this in the first place.

  6. If he is doubting everything in the church’s statement of faith I would say that the only thing he can do to maintain integrity is to step down. Perhaps the church can send him on a sabbatical while he fleshes it out.I’m not saying to boot him out of the church, and kick his family to the curb. I would hope that he would discuss this with his elders, deacons or board (depending on how the church is structured) before ever bringing this up to the entire church. You really, really limit options at that point and the pastor may get a reaction instead of a prayerful response.Is it ok to have doubts… yes I think we all do. But to try to teach when you say you doubt everything the church says it believes? I’m in ministry and I couldn’t do that. It isn’t fair to the pastor, nor is it fair to the church.Judging from the comments I’m definitely in the minority, but as a pastor I don’t think that I could adequately fulfill my role as pastor-teacher having major doubts about major doctrine.

  7. “You’d know if I were a Taoist based upon what I say and how what I say lines up with the teachings of that religion.”so we know who is a christian by what they say? seems to me there’s something in the christian doctrines that says the opposite of that.

  8. The reason most SoF’s and creeds exist in the first place is because of what results when you don’t have one! “Lets discover truth together” is how most heresies and cults start. What happens is the people end up being led into the truth according to the most gifted/articulate/charismatic person in the group. SoF guard against that. They’ve got to be the starting point, the common ground. Unfortunately, most of them end up being too long and covering non-essentials. Some of them are as big as the Bible!Anyhow, I’ve often thought it’d be more useful for churches to have statements of unbelief anyway,i.e.”We don’t believe in the literal resurrection, we don’t believe in a literal hell, we don’t believe everyone can receive the gift of speaking in tongues”.

  9. My reactionary response is, great respect for such honesty and courage. Then the fact that no where in the bible does it speak of any kind of prerequisitional pastoral qualification calling one to be super human. That doesn’t mean that any shmoe should be given the right to shepard a local group of believers, there are biblical spiritual qualifiers. So that church should probably encourage that pastor to seek external counsel to determin whether, despite his ‘normal’ flaws, he still has the basics needed to lead that church (spiritual gifts, and the desire to lead).Check out this article on what one church is doing about this whole church leadership thing:< HREF="http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2008/002/3.24.html" REL="nofollow">Next & Level<>great post steve

  10. Sure, if it’s about <>“how to be a better friend, or how to serve others, or how to have a stronger marriage, or how to deal with difficulties”,<> then for the pastor to admit that he’s just as clueless, that we can learn from each others experiences etc. is great.But that’s not the sort of thing that is covered by a creed. Creeds say things like, “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried.” On such things he must indeed be a “fellow traveller” and there can be no uncertainty about which path he is travelling on.

  11. “I didn’t portray you as anything. You said that “you can re-examine what you believe if there is sufficient reason to do so.” I assumed that “you” meant people in general (incl. me). When I asked why I needed a reason, you said you were only talking about yourself. I’m sorry man, that’s confusing.”Dorsey, my comments are not binding upon anyone and I said as much in my first post on this topic. When I said “you can reexamine your beliefs…” that is not me saying “you must only reexamine your beliefs if there is sufficient reason to do so.” Each one of us has to decide when we reexamine our beliefs and we should each know why we are doing so. You asked me a direct question about why you personally need sufficient reason to reexamine your beliefs and that’s when I clarified my earlier comment. “In the english speaking world, “you need to get out more” is an expression.”Right and it’s an expression that is used by people to say someone is closed-minded or has had limited experience in an area. You have no idea what my experience in this area has been. So for you to make such a comment based upon a lack of knowledge about me personally, is still insulting. “I made that comment in direct response to your assertion that “Christians do have fixed beliefs about Christ and what it means to be a Christian.” Well, your beliefs about Christ might be fixed, but it’s terribly naive to think that’s true across the board and it suggests that you haven’t been exposed to a sufficient cross-section of the larger Christian community. I stand by that.”Dorsey, Christians do have fixed beliefs and these beliefs are stated in the creeds of Christendom. What I think is terribly naieve is to think that my statement represents the minority of Christendom while your position, and I’m guessing here based upon what you’ve said so far, represents the majority. I’m guessing here, correct me if I’m wrong, that you believe that people are free to believe whatever they want about Christ and still call themselves Christians. I disagree. I ran into a woman one time who denied that Jesus was the Christ, denied that He died to pay for her sins, denied that He rose from the dead on the third day, denied that He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God, and denied that He is in fact God. She called herself a Christian. Does it sound like she adheres to the teachings of the Christian faith to you? There’s more involved with being a Christian than just saying you are a Christian. Just because a person chooses to call themselve something, that doesn’t automatically make them that thing. I could call myself a Taoist, but just saying I am, doesn’t make me one. You’d know if I were a Taoist based upon what I say and how what I say lines up with the teachings of that religion.“I’m not really interested in continuing. It doesn’t appear that we’re speaking the same language. I’m sure it’s my misunderstanding.”I’m not interested in continuing either.

  12. <>“So the question is – does it change if this a family member (brother, sister, mom, dad, uncle, wife) and they want to remain as pastor yet they continue with questions developed from an honest look at faith?”<>No, doesn’t change a thing.

  13. The scenario is a too vague for me to give a definitive answer. Keep in mind that I can not speak with any authority as to what any pastor or any church should do in this situation. I can only speak to what I would want the pastor to do. But why should that be binding upon this pastor or this church? I would first need to know what areas of the faith the pastor is struggling with. If it’s something major like he’s not certain Jesus is the messiah, I think he or she (depending on what type of church this is) needs to step down as pastor. If it’s a non-essential salvation issue, I think the pastor can stay on in his or her role and it could be a great opportunity for the church to go through the scriptures together and see what’s what. Of course, I would prefer such an excercise, be reserved for a day other than Sunday. On Sunday we are to worship God and reflect on Christ crucified and resurrected for the forgiveness of our sins, not focus on ourselves and our comprehension problems with the scriptures.

  14. first of all, no one is perfect. even pastors sin. there is not one man on earth that doesnt sin.and second what the church says it believes isnt always what everyone in the church believes. every church is different. and everyone in every church is different.and just cause the name on the front sign of a church says baptist, or methodist, doesnt mean that they believe what every baptist or methodist church believes. and really its not about the religion or the traditions of the church. its about the one true relationship with God. So … idk what else to tell ya what else should he do if he doesnt believe what the church has said?? still preach? i dont think so, then they would call him a hipocrite. and the church.. maybe they should check their own hearts and lives to see if they truly believe what they say they do…

  15. Don’t sweat the quote and respond thing. There are only a couple guys who make effective use of that tactic anyway (eddies, where are you?). I didn’t portray you as anything. You said that “you can re-examine what you believe if there is sufficient reason to do so.” I assumed that “you” meant people in general (incl. me). When I asked why I needed a reason, you said you were only talking about yourself. I’m sorry man, that’s confusing.In the english speaking world, “you need to get out more” is an expression. I made that comment in direct response to your assertion that<> “Christians do have fixed beliefs about Christ and what it means to be a Christian.”<> Well, <>your<> beliefs about Christ might be fixed, but it’s terribly naive to think that’s true across the board and it suggests that you haven’t been exposed to a sufficient cross-section of the larger Christian community. I stand by that.I’m not really interested in continuing. It doesn’t appear that we’re speaking the same language. I’m sure it’s my misunderstanding.

  16. I don’t know about any of you, but I don’t think real peace lies in certainty. I became much more peaceful when I determined that truth is more important that certainty, and that I should be humble enough to not imagine that all truth was within my grasp.There’s a lot of shit that you and I and everyone else will never know for sure. So let’s just cut each other some freaking slack.

  17. 1) He should recognize that he should not be “leading” the congregation. (If you don’t agree with the statement of faith for a particular group and don’t think of it as a phase – you should not be leading it.) Though there is an important difference between questioning and flat out disagreeing. AND this does not mean that he should leave ministry all together but perhaps instead that he should asses the denomination he is affiliated with. 2) The church should agree upon a period of time to pay the minister during a leave… where the minister can attempt to deal with the issues (and continues to worship with the congregation if possible). I would suggest 4-6 months. If he does not agree with what is deemed “essential” than he should probably step down. 3) A temporary moderator should be appointed to “active leadership”. This should not be a power struggle but rather a time of reflection. No doubt this would give other members of the church a chance to air their own issues without fear. 4) The people should be impressed with the honesty of the struggling minister (though not lead by the man). The minister should be treated like any other member of the body dealing with issues of doubt – welcomed.

  18. “What if the pastor is wrestling with the literalness of the said statement or with current interpretations on the passage…is that necessarily a bad thing and dangerous? That’s what I was kind of hinting at more or less.” Since I used John 14:6 as an example for my previous comment, I’ll continue to use that to answer this question. If the pastor is wrestling with a literal interpretation of John 14:6, yes you have a serious problem on your hands. Such a statement should not pose a problem to any Christian. Plus, I’m not sure how many different interpretations there are of that passage. It’s one of the most literal statements in the whole of scripture. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,’ how many different meanings can such a statement really have apart from the literal meaning?“It’s not very reassuring to me to think that my pastor is as clueless about Biblical doctrine as I am. That’s not comforting to me” (Zec)“I don’t think that is necessarily the issue – if a pastor wrestles with interpretation alone (and that’s kind of where I am looking at this from). I have little problem with a pastor doubting certain interpretations and viewpoints…I am not sure that is an ‘unsurety’ thing but more looking at scripture from a variety of angles.” Okay, look at scripture from a variety of angles, but in the end you must come to a decision about what they mean. But it seems to me that once a conclusion is reached that some people think that’s a bad thing. Like once you believe a scripture means something, you are no longer open to various interpretations and are thus a “closed-minded bigot”.“Isn’t faith all about finding values and deciding on vices – from a godly viewpoint – more or less?”No, it’s not. You’ve already said that faith is a gift from God. Since this is true, we bring nothing to the table in terms of what faith is. What you’re describing is more akin to morality. Thinking through what you believe to be good vices and bad vices based upon previous life experiences.“Let’s say the pastor is a ‘stand up’ person but struggles with some of the viewpoints from the SOF – I would think they should have the right to question that – and maybe allow for all the community to share in the ‘wrestling’.”Why should the community be forced to wrestle with the pastor’s problems? Is the community free to question the pastor’s questions? Or must they be forced to accompany the pastor into unknown territory simply because he’s the pastor? It’s like the same problem all over again, just from a different angle. The problem alot of people have with the church is that the pastor can not be questioned and must be obeyed. How is this situation any different? The pastor it seems can not be questioned, but now when the pastor has questions the community must accompany him into his uncertanity, they have no choice, they must go along with him and explore this area with him. It’s retarded in a way. Whether or not the pastor is certain of what he believes or not, it doesn’t matter, the church is along for the ride, whether they wanna be or not. “I am coming at this from a rather new perspective for our faith – I actually did some studying into the communities of Judaism and how they are allowed to hold some distinctive views on various passages of scripture (and I would say they welcome the discussion into an interpretation).”Yes, they do. But they do not allow these discussions to determine what they believe. They love to debate. But at the end of the day they still hold to what the Torah says and has always said and they rely upon what their forefathers taught them and tradition. This is not what Christians today want. They want solo scriptura. They alone want to decide what is the truth by themselves, and do not want input from either the church or tradition. “Some passages can mean more than one thing – and there are sometime points that are not picked out unless through thorough debate on a topic (seeing all perspectives). I think that is a healthy way to work through interpretation.”It certainly is, but like I said eventually you have to reach a conclusion. It’d be nice if people stuck with what they learn, but often times, they will not. They’ll just believe it until someone else comes along with a new question and then they go through the process all over again, thinking that they’re learning, when in reality what they’re really doing is just being blown along by the winds of various doctrines and never really end up having faith in anything. “First off, the SOF is not our salvation – it’s basically a statement of this denominations beliefs.”I never said it was our salvation.“Is this something we are willing to acknowledge? If the SOF is not our salvation – how is it that it cannot be questioned then or even re-evaluated?”Why should it be re-evaluated? Because the pastor has a problem with it? I don’t think that’s a good enough reason? We shouldn’t be forced to ditch our statement of faith or beliefs because one person may or may not have a problem with it. If through evaluation of the SoF it is determined that it violates scripture then yes it can be re-evaluated and changed. That’s the only reason I can think of to change a statement of faith. One person having a problem with it? No, that’s not enough.“Is the pastor wrong for wanting to do that?”We don’t know that the pastor wants to change the SoF. All we do know is that he is doubting what is written there. Maybe all the pastor really needs is to get this off his chest. We can’t say that because he’s doubting something that he wants to re-write the entire SoF. Even if he did, he’s not the one that decides what is written in the SoF. That is a community decision. “The statement of faith simply says (usually does anyways) – salvation was paid by Christ (and not us). I don’t think questioning the SOF is really a ‘sin’ per se and endangers one’s position with God.”Like I said initially, it depends which parts of the statement the pastor has a problem with. If he’s doubting whether or not Jesus is the messiah, then his salvation is in danger, because he’s now opened himself up to the possibility that Jesus was lying when He made the statement that was recorded in John 14:6. If you believe Jesus could be a liar, then I’d say your faith in Christ is shaky at best and you are very close to turning your back on your salvation and walking away from Christ. Who wants to follow a liar? “As for working one’s faith out with ‘fear and trembling’ – doesn’t the pastor get included in that scenario?”It’s not a group activity. It’s up to each person to do on their own. The pastor can do this by himself too. He doesn’t need to bring the whole church along for the process and in fact, I don’t think he should. Because where this pastor is going is not somewhere that people need to be led. This pastor could be in the process of losing his faith. Why should the church as a whole be subjected to that? That doesn’t help them. That hurts them. We can’t blindly follow a pastor just because he’s the pastor. The pastor may need to be set outside of the church if his journey and his statements become a possible stumbling block for the church as a whole. “I think a pastor that questions is doing just that – caretaking their faith – and so be it they are in a position of power – they are responsible before God for their questions also. I don’t think this necessarily hurts the community – maybe it opens the hearers to a greater level of openness in their faith.”Or it causes the believers to blindly follow the pastor away from the faith. “Like I said, I ever meet a pastor like this – I would invite him to be a type of mentor for myself (or a study partner) – since I value this type of honesty concerning one’s questioning. I actually admire the ‘unsurety’ – because someone that is ‘so sure’ is ‘too sure’ in my books (namely concerning understanding the fullness of God).”We’re not talking about the fullness of God, we’re talking about a church’s statement of faith.“Actually I admire this quote “Fanatic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt; it is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure” (Richard Niebuhr). There is a type of dis-honesty in being ‘too sure’.”I disagree. There is nothing wrong with knowing why you believe what you believe. There is nothing wrong in being certain about why you have faith, but yet it seems that there are those in Christianity today who want to believe if you’re not quesitoning everything you’ve been told, all the time, then you’re just following blindly like a sheep.

  19. geeeeesh (shameless use of Christian Cuss Word)…and I thought I wrote to much!So I’m going to take this oportunity to shamelessly plug a new post I just dropped. I figure since this happens about once a year…Check it out < HREF="http://lowendaction.blogspot.com/" REL="nofollow">Salvation<> and leave a line or two.thanks

  20. Put it to a vote of the congregation. Whoever votes to keep him gets to avoid my foot in their ass.Seriously, Steve, this is a fundamental SCP issue that goes all the way back to the < HREF="http://www.stupidchurchpeople.com/2005/06/pastor-problem.html" REL="nofollow">pastor problem<> and the “church’s giant tit” (SCP < HREF="http://cdn4.libsyn.com/stupidchurchpeople/scp_07.mp3" REL="nofollow">podcast #7,<> if memory serves). If local churches ever hope to amount to anything more than the whitewashed tombs Jesus spoke of, then we need to find a way out of this codependent existence that expects a level of perfection that simply isn’t reasonable, but is content to live with a lie in order to avoid being confronted with that fact.If I have struggled with doubt, then how could I demand that you must not? I know we said all these things two years ago, but it’s still messed up on so many levels. Pastors and parishioners must find a way to destroy the pedestalsI second Heather in recommending–no, urging–everyone to read messy Mr. Yaconelli.

  21. I’m not even comfortable with primary spiritual caregiver. “Fellow traveller” is about as much as I’m willing to grant. But to be sure, CEO is right out.

  22. “Not looking to open this back up, but Zec, I think the idea that a seeker doesn’t know what he believes is a little off-base.”Where did I say a seeker didn’t know what they believed. My point was that a seeker is not the same as a Christian. The questions seekers tend to have can be answered by Christians, but I’ve never seen it go the other way. I’ve never seen a Christian’s question about the faith be answered by a seeker.“I have always considered myself a seeker, yet I have always held to some set of beliefs. I think it would be more accurate to say that a seeker is willing to expose his beliefs to scrutiny, and make changes as new knowledge and understanding develop.”Perhaps, but Christians do that too, so the willingness to examine what you believe is not a behavior that is unique to seekers. “I may be misreading you, but you seem to suggest that, once belief is established, it doesn’t ever need to be reexamined. If you don’t at least acknowledge that distinction, you’re going to have similar difficulty establishing meaningful communication with those who do.”No, you can re-examine what you believe if there is sufficient reason to do so. The pastor of a church having his own doubts or questions, to me, is not a significant enough of a reason. No one has answered the question I have asked. Why does the church as a whole have to re-examine what they believe as a whole, because the pastor has some questions or doubts?

  23. “Let’s say the SoF contains John 14:6 and the pastor is wrestling with whether or not that statement is true” (Zec)What if the pastor is wrestling with the literalness of the said statement or with current interpretations on the passage…is that necessarily a bad thing and dangerous? That’s what I was kind of hinting at more or less. “It’s not very reassuring to me to think that my pastor is as clueless about Biblical doctrine as I am. That’s not comforting to me” (Zec)I don’t think that is necessarily the issue – if a pastor wrestles with interpretation alone (and that’s kind of where I am looking at this from). I have little problem with a pastor doubting certain interpretations and viewpoints…I am not sure that is an ‘unsurety’ thing but more looking at scripture from a variety of angles. “If all the statements in the SoF can be questioned, then wouldn’t the beliefs of the church become relative?” (Zec)I don’t think so. Isn’t faith all about finding values and deciding on vices – from a godly viewpoint – more or less? Let’s say the pastor is a ‘stand up’ person but struggles with some of the viewpoints from the SOF – I would think they should have the right to question that – and maybe allow for all the community to share in the ‘wrestling’. I am coming at this from a rather new perspective for our faith – I actually did some studying into the communities of Judaism and how they are allowed to hold some distinctive views on various passages of scripture (and I would say they welcome the discussion into an interpretation). Some passages can mean more than one thing – and there are sometime points that are not picked out unless through thorough debate on a topic (seeing all perspectives). I think that is a healthy way to work through interpretation. “It’s a very dangerous mindset I think to just automatically embrace a pastor who is questioning the central tenets of the faith or the church’s SoF” (Zec)First off, the SOF is not our salvation – it’s basically a statement of this denominations beliefs. Is this something we are willing to acknowledge? If the SOF is not our salvation – how is it that it cannot be questioned then or even re-evaluated? Is the pastor wrong for wanting to do that? The statement of faith simply says (usually does anyways) – salvation was paid by Christ (and not us). I don’t think questioning the SOF is really a ‘sin’ per se and endangers one’s position with God. As for working one’s faith out with ‘fear and trembling’ – doesn’t the pastor get included in that scenario? I think a pastor that questions is doing just that – caretaking their faith – and so be it they are in a position of power – they are responsible before God for their questions also. I don’t think this necessarily hurts the community – maybe it opens the hearers to a greater level of openness in their faith. Like I said, I ever meet a pastor like this – I would invite him to be a type of mentor for myself (or a study partner) – since I value this type of honesty concerning one’s questioning. I actually admire the ‘unsurety’ – because someone that is ‘so sure’ is ‘too sure’ in my books (namely concerning understanding the fullness of God). Actually I admire this quote “Fanatic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt; it is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure” (Richard Niebuhr). There is a type of dis-honesty in being ‘too sure’.

  24. <>“Where did I say a seeker didn’t know what they believed.”<><>“A seeker is a person who <>does not know what they believe<> about a subject and asks questions in an effort to find out more about the subject and ultimately what they can believe.”<>Everyone believes something, even an “unbeliever.” Not sure why you assume the monikers “seeker” and “christian” are mutually exclusive. I know many who are both, including myself. I thought I said that, but you seemed to think that by identifying myself as a seeker, somehow I’m not a christian.Why do I need “sufficient reason” to reexamine my beliefs?

  25. Pastors typically aren’t paid enough to have that sort of pressure put on them. Which opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms about whether they should be paid at all.Also, knowing more about scripture does not ensure that one is “one step ahead” spiritually. Lots of people with M.Div’s and even PhD’s struggle even MORE with doubt than the rest of the congregation…goes back to the whole idea that, “the more you know, the more you realize you DON’T know….”

  26. I can’t remember where I heard this, but I believe a friend of mine once told me his pastor actually said something like this and the church’s response was: Stay on and let’s do it! I’m sure this isn’t the normal church response, but I hope that anytime someone has build friendship and community and they are going thru a hard time – be it even the spiritual guide, leader, pastor, etc – their friends and community will rally around them and help.

  27. “If it’s something major like he’s not certain Jesus is the messiah, I think he or she (depending on what type of church this is) needs to step down as pastor. If it’s a non-essential salvation issue..” (zec)But what if he wrestles with the question concerning Jesus and the claims made about him in the statement of belief…is that a salvation issue? How can anything be a salvation issue in all honesty – when the teaching on this is God secured our salvation and not us? Shouldn’t the pastor be able to pretty much question anything and lead his congregation into deeper questions of faith – even a more clear definition of what faith can be?It wouldn’t bother me if mt pastor freed us from the yoke of bondage that a ‘statement of belief’ is becoming – it’s own little religious law – followed rote for rote and like one mentioned before me ‘now being used for exile more than embrace’. If you ask me, the statement of faith can backfire and does in a certain way – it creates a scenario which goes against the very idea’s of the church and salvation being secured by God (because apparently we can un-secure that salvation – and this by some person’s judgment). I admire people that can decide if their faith is worth wrestling with and have some un-surety concerning all the answers (a one solution fits all deal) – that’s honesty at it’s finest. To me, my faith resides not in a pastor or a teacher – as nice as it is they do what they do – but in God alone. I would sure hope that all communities could stand beside their pastor if they admitted to having to ‘wrestle’ with issues that the church would say ‘are already solved’ (advice: go read our statement of faith). Things are not that easy and I hope we all can realize that.

  28. “What do you do?? What should the church do??” (Steve)Personally, I would stand and applaude the man…that type of thing is really tough to do in church scenario’s…I find it very redeeming to be honest! I would be ask the man to be ‘my mentor or study friend’. The church should embrace the man and his ‘wrestling with God’. This man devoted his life to this faith and this role in the church – should he be put aside for someone more orthodox then he? No! Not if God is real! He’s just being bare bones ‘real’ in his conversation with faith in the 21st century. I would admire this man to no ends – because I admire bloggers that do this – and the very few people I know in real life like this. Faith is not some ‘know all mask’ one can wear – it’s more like Jacob’s journey – sometimes we have to ‘wrestle’ with the ideas and with God – and faith is going to a round 12 sometimes. I like people that can admit this ‘I don’t have all the answers’…but still they are moving.

  29. “A person of integrity would step down because it’s the right thing to do.” (Shieldsy)Integrity and the ‘right thing to do’…ok. No compassion – nothing? I know that isn’t icicles in your veins and I am fairly sure you are not a cold blooded mammal. Steve actually does not mention stepping down in the original blog itself – but “I certainly understand that you may not want me to be your pastor any longer. But what I am hoping is that I can stick around and we can discover these truths together”. Which, to me, sounds like the pastor would like to remain (as pastor?). So the question is – does it change if this a family member (brother, sister, mom, dad, uncle, wife) and they want to remain as pastor yet they continue with questions developed from an honest look at faith? Like Steve.

  30. I’d ask this pastor to step down from his role as Pastor.Then I’d ask for the church to turn in their 501c3 tax exempt status.Then I’d vote to sell the building and all the sound equipment.Then I’d invite the pastor to come over to my house (and anyone else who cares) to flesh this stuff out.Of course, then, at my house, I’d need to start taking up an offering to cover the costs of food/coffee…etc.Then, at my house, I’d ‘take the lead’ in the conversations, eventually encouraging each one attending to bring a friend next week.Of course, my house would quickly become too small, so we’d have to start a fund to buy me a bigger house, to do the Lord’s work.Eventually, we’d move to the local amphitheatre, and begin our building project. I’d quit my job, asking for a salary from our ‘fellowship’. We’d reinstate 501c3 status for the purpose of creating tax advantages for our offerings. We’d then take 25% of said offerings and invest in local real estate. Ultimately, I’d write a best-seller entitled “From Doubt to Clout: In 5 Easy Steps”With our profits from the real estate deal, we’d build a huge, multimedia ministry center, buy a satellite and start cutting up our bedlinens to begin the distribution of “holy hankerchiefs”. With my book proceeds, I’d pay back my salary to the “home group” and go help Bono fight aids from the comfort of my Lear jet.Time will pass…My 2nd book will be titled, “My Bad”. (It’s release will be timed with my release… from prison!)3rd book– “On the Road to Restoration” (as I begin scouting land for my new christian amusement park…)

  31. “I knew you would say this – I was expecting it. What is a seeker?”A seeker is a person who does not know what they believe about a subject and asks questions in an effort to find out more about the subject and ultimately what they can believe. Since you are wrestling with at least one of the central tenets of the Christian faith, and believe that everything must be questioned, I believe you may be a seeker, instead of a Christian.“But for the record Zec (not to sound like Paul) I was a Christian and a zealous one – said the prayer, confessed, got baptized, was at many an altar call, spoke in tongues, got healed, heard God’s voice, took communion, ministered to youth (and in the church pulpit), street and door to door evangelization, got a bachelor of theology. A Christian’s Christian more or less. But now I am relegated because you can invent a new category – my my…Christianity has forsaken me.”I didn’t invent the category of seeker. You give me way too much power in your comments here. I was a seeker at one time too, about 15 years ago. There’s nothing wrong with being a seeker.“They all mean something Zec, all 4 to 5 interpretations.”So, in other words you have not decided upon which interpretation is the truth. “No, what I am defining is the process of faith (we are involved). God asks us to ‘believe in Him’…well…how do we do that unless we actively choose to?”Faith is not a choice. It is a gift. The only thing you can do in regards to faith is to reject it. When you believe that the claims of Christ are true and that He is who He claims to be, God has already given you faith. You have absolutely nothing to do with it. It is not the process of evaluating the claims and then freely deciding if they’re true or not. That is not what the scriptures teach. What you’re describing is decision theology. “Zec that’s too literal a reading –I am using ‘may’ not in the sense of questioning it (although I actually do question atonement) – but ‘may have’ could of meant ‘has’ (sorry for the confusion).”Don’t worry about it. It’s very hard to know who means what in such a limited communication medium such as this one. “Do you wait for God’s movement on everything you do?”This is a different question that does not relate to us doing something to attain salvation. “If a pile of bricks is falling and you are in its path – do you not just move? One could say ‘they saved themselves there’.”This is being saved in a different way and does not relate to salvation.“God did the original moving – but requires our movement too. We are not excluded from the salvation process – we are to live lives that reflect salvation.”Okay, that’s fruit of salvation, which is only possible after God saves you. Bearing good fruit is proof of salvation, not a means of salvation. “how about the pastor allows the congregation to teach him during the Bible studies during the week?” (Zec)“That’s not ½ bad – we are all still learning.” Okay good. We’ve reached a possible solution to the question presented in the OP. Now, I think the question becomes, during this process of learning, should the pastor be allowed to stay in the pulpit and preach on Sunday mornings? Why or why not?“I would agree with your line of reasoning if it was true – however it is not. I believe a lot of things and stand up for them – for example – hospitality and love. The reason I talk the way I talk because is the Christian faith is too sure…”There are something like 33,000 denominations in Christianity. I’d say Christianity is anything but certain. I would say that most of these however, are in agreement about the main teachings of the faith. It is really the secondary issues that cause the divisions.“and to not have questions is to say ‘I have the answers’. I could ask – what kind of face does God have…and you cannot answer that – it is not possible – no one has seen God’s face. But I know people that try. Define God.”Okay, but how does knowing what kind of face God have either limit or improve your walk with Christ? How does knowing something like that benefit you? I mean that’s like asking “can God make a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it?” In relation to your salvation and your eternal future, what does such a question matter? “Have you been baptized and do you take communion? If yes, then you accept the ritual – even if symbolically. For someone with God figured out – you seem unsure about the rituals.”How am I unsure of the rituals? I have been baptized and do receive closed Communion. I never claimed to have God all figured out. Why do you keep projecting false statements onto me that I’ve never made? “Not true, I tend to think the opposite. Zec, who is right?”What does it matter? This is a question where our perceptions and past life experiences will give us the “right” answer. But such a question does not impact our salvation. So it’s not really a deal breaker whereas questioning something like whether or not Jesus is God, is.“Because I also love the pastor and want to see that person be free in their faith. Now I may not question – so be it – but should I disregard another’s questions because I am comfortable? No, we need to go out of our way for our neighbor – even to the point of our discomfort (and that sucks but that’s also forbearance).”But this isn’t really an issue where it’s your neighbor who has questions and those questions ultimately have no impact on the church as a whole. With the situation that’s been set before us here, there is a very real danger to the community as a whole with learning from a pastor who may not be fit to lead the congregation as pastor. Again, it all hinges upon what he is doubting in the SoF. Why should the congregation as a whole be forced to look at the truth of the SoF simply because the pastor has questions? No one has answered this yet.“Jesus is the Messiah…ordained by God…anointed by God…sent by God…approved by God…God’s ‘right hand’ man so to speak. If God sends in ‘His name’ – then it is from God and not from humanity.”Jesus is both fully human and fully God. Look at the scriptures for your proof. We see Jesus displaying both human and divine attributes. How can this be if He is not God? Plus, what do you do with John 1:1, which says that Jesus is God. “I’ve checked into it Zec – quite extensively (but I am open to more research) – and I think Jesus being God is a breaking of commandment #1. Now I don’t want to be breaking those commandment teachings which Jesus upheld – and I am guessing neither do you.”How is Jesus being God breaking the first commandment? The only way that breaks that commandment is if Jesus is a created being who is being worshipped. That is not what the scriptures teach and that is not what is being taught in John 1:1. “That’s your answer – trust in God? What do you exactly think I am doing here with my faith – trusting in Zeus?”I have no idea what you’re doing with your faith. How would I know? Yes, that’s my answer. What do you think faith is, if not trusting in God for answers to the hard questions and difficult situations? It seems to me you’d rather lean upon your own understanding and reason here and are just waiting for God to validate your conclusions. “A struggle is a struggle – no matter when – before God. Jacob wrestled and this pastor questions – what’s really the diff – in the end both viewpoints of the struggler are changed.”How is it changed? Is it changed through questioning/reasearching/reasoning?Or is it changed by seeking God’s wisdom and guidance through prayer and in the scriptures? “Man, what plain do you live on? You must be standing on the mountain looking down or something.”What’s with the attitude? If you don’t like my answers to your questions, stop asking me questions. Problem solved. I don’t need these grand mischaracterizations of me from you. You don’t like what I have to say, but instead of agreeing to disagree, you have to portray me as someone who lives on a different plain or is not dealing with reality. Real nice. Is this an example of the love you have for other Christians? If it is, you can keep it.“Inventing categories for ‘us and them and now those other ones’ – I make the ‘other ones’ category and the Christians (the most right people on the planet apparently) – have it all encapsulated – truth that is. Nice.”I have not invented a single category here. I didn’t invent the seeker category. It’s always been around. In fact, it’s such a popular category that whole churches have changed the way they do church to accomodate these people. Who exactly does the seeker-friendly and seeker-sensitive church exist for, if not the seeker? “If Christians are so right answer some questions for me?”No. You’ve done nothing but misrepresent what I’ve said and have chosen to tell lies about me. You like seeking answers so much, you like doing research so much, go find your own answers. You clearly have no need or interest in mine. I’m done talking with you about this. There is nothing productive coming from this.

  32. “I believe you may be a seeker, instead of a Christian.” (Zec)Zec, I offended you and for that I am sorry – as you have called it – mischaracterization – and I apologize for that. I will stick to the points being made. Now I expect, if only in a manner of kindness, the same back for questioning my faith (calling me a non-Christian – a seeker). I do not claim to be a seeker – I claim to be a Christian. “There’s nothing wrong with being a seeker.” (Zec)Maybe, but I am not claiming to be one – unless that is a ‘seeker of God’. “So, in other words you have not decided upon which interpretation is the truth.” (Zec)They all hold truth – not just one interpretation. I have decided from each of the 5 views that something important can be learned – in that sense – there is truth in all of the views. “Faith is not a choice. It is a gift. The only thing you can do in regards to faith is to reject it” (Zec)If I decide to give you a HD TV and you accept it – then you have a new TV. If you decide to reject it – then you do not…correct? Both rejection and acceptance are choices made by the receiver of the gift – and are outside the realm of the giver. If you can reject faith – then it stand you can accept it also – a choice made by the individual (and not by God). Not saying God cannot supply faith, but even so, then we have to be willing to ‘accept’ his TV (in a sense). “Okay, that’s fruit of salvation, which is only possible after God saves you. Bearing good fruit is proof of salvation, not a means of salvation.” (Zec)See, I also disagree with this mainstream doctrine – and I don’t see that as all that bad a thing. If an atheist bears ‘this fruit’ then what can we say? For example, an atheist can love his neighbor and treat him/her kindly, even be extremely hospitable. Well, those are fruits of the spirit of God – which they may not be aware of (or even outright deny) – but they prove they are no longer ‘mean or dislike their neighbor’ – which is a sign they have accepted the teaching/idea of kindness. Saved from what – well – I would say ‘saved from themselves and their behaviors’ – which they have put aside for kindness. “should the pastor be allowed to stay in the pulpit and preach on Sunday mornings? Why or why not?” (Zec)I have always said ‘yes’ (that was my personal stand). I like the fact they can question their faith in a safe and secure way with the community’s support. “So it’s not really a deal breaker whereas questioning something like whether or not Jesus is God, is.” (Zec)Why is this a deal-breaker…can I do something to make Jesus not God – or for that matter – God? He either is or is isn’t. I would say the same goes for the atonement idea – also not a deal-breaker – because it either happened or didn’t and I can not add or take away from it. If I am wrong on Jesus being God – I can always say ‘honest mistake’ to God – based on the first commandment and there being ‘One’. If the other side is wrong – they can also make the same debate (except from church father’s teachings) – they thought there was a 3 in 1 God (that’s what they were taught). However, they cannot deny they knew the first commandment. But will God not understand?“there is a very real danger to the community as a whole with learning from a pastor who may not be fit to lead the congregation as pastor” (Zec)What’s this danger? Not being ‘fit’ is one thing – this isn’t the point Steve has made on the blog – except the fact the pastor has questioned/doubted aspects of his faith. I would like to see what danger could occur personally. “How is Jesus being God breaking the first commandment?” (Zec)What is the first commandment? “You shall have no other gods before/besides Me” (Exodus 20:3). If Jesus is God – at the right hand of God – oddly enough he is literally ‘beside’ God. There is also a dualism that happens with Jesus being God – God is 2 separate personalities (Father and human son) – but God is One – “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut 6:4; Mark 12:29). This is affirmed by Jesus with no clauses about he also being in that ‘one’ – he upholds the Shema. It’s just basic knowledge – when we speak of God as One – then we have to admit in Christianity this is not the concept we are looking at (we use a Triune God). Most examples of Jesus in the gospels show him being separate from the Father – including baptism, death, and ascension. Jesus is also separate in the fact he is ‘sent, appointed, anointed, blessed, acknowledged’…by God…not by himself. If he is God, then he needs none of that – he could do that for himself. He also acknowledges this difference a lot. I am just saying Jesus is separate from God – but is the Christ. “It seems to me you’d rather lean upon your own understanding and reason here and are just waiting for God to validate your conclusions.” (Zec)If I was leaning on my ‘own understanding’ then I wouldn’t be wasting my time in scripture – that much I can assure you. I am taking these from the very teachings of God and no other place…so if my comprehension of the teachings does not match the suggested norm – oh well. I am never commanded to think that way (follow the masses because they must be right). I have been given a gift from God – my senses and brain – I will use them in the discussion (with you and with God). Waiting on God for validation – I like that. “How is it changed?” (Zec)Kind of like when a test makes you smarter. We can thank God for that – but we also had to put in the work. “If you don’t like my answers to your questions, stop asking me questions. Problem solved” (Zec)Sorry to offend you – and I didn’t know this was that sensitive a subject…my bad. However, what if in this story I am the pastor and you are in the congregation (or vice versa) – should I stop asking questions even if the subject gets a little heated? I don’t think so…we need each other to push us to new limits. “Is this an example of the love you have for other Christians? If it is, you can keep it.” (Zec)Kind of like ‘brushing the dirt off your shoulders’ (Jay Z) or the ‘dirt from your shoes’ (Jesus). I guess it returns back to me – maybe I deserved that. “I have not invented a single category here. I didn’t invent the seeker category” (Zec)Well whoever did – it’s an invented ‘them’ category (which I was included in). There is no such thing as ‘seeker’ population of people – this is merely a label to make someone feel good about having a category for those ‘trying’ – but just not wanting to allow them the full title of ‘Christian’. It only exists to those who think it is there. “You like seeking answers so much, you like doing research so much, go find your own answers.” (Zec)And with that…we close the door.

  33. It is not religion that kills – just the people who take pride in the rightness their religious views. I prefer Pastors who have some doubt, than Pastors who think they know everything.

  34. Jefe’s post FTW. 😉Me? I’d thank him for being honest, then ask to see the church’s SoF and find out what parts he disagrees with, and support him as best I can. (Yes, I’d want him to stay on. Last I checked, pastors were/are human, too. But if the rest of the congregation wanted him to step down, I’d respect their decision.)

  35. “I wrestle with it, does that make me less a Christian than anyone else?”Having read through your post before typing this response, I’m of the opinion that you are most likely not a Christian but are instead a seeker. “I have seen/discussed about 4 to 5 different variants on the meaning of that passage – including just the literal version (the way is a person). To me, taking it only literally actually says very little about it’s meaning and definition (or full discourse). A few examples would be: (a) ‘the way the truth and the life’ can be compared with the other idea from Judaism ‘Abraham Isaac and Jacob’ or; (b) The three cord saying is about the importance of what Jesus taught (he is what he taught).”Now, having discussed four or five ways that passage can be interpreted, which interpretation in your opinion, is the correct one? Or have you not reached a conclusion about what the passage means yet? “That’s on each person in this faith to decide for themselves – concerning how open-minded they truly are. Why can’t a scripture mean a ‘few things’?”Because the majority of the scriptures are penned in languages that are now dead and the words used have fixed meanings. So that really limits how many various ways the scriptures can be interpretted. If you’re relying solely on an English translation and never going back to the original languages and finding out what the scriptures mean as they were written, then yes you could come to probably quite a few different interpretations as to what a scripture could mean, since the English language is constantly evolving and words are constantly taking on new meanings.“Get real (and by that I mean examine your own reality with faith). You are your faith in some senses – you have to believe, accept, confess, act, etc. How in the world are you not part of that?”That’s a different issue. What you’re talking about here is using your faith to determine what you believe and how you act. That is different from what faith is. You can use your faith to influence your decisions in this process, but the process itself is not faith. “God may have ‘paid the price’ but he in turn teaches us to do the same “take up our crosses”. We are tied to faith in that faith resides in us.”May have paid the price? You’re not certain if He did or didn’t? Is this another area where you are questioning? Jesus’ finished work on the cross for the forgiveness of sins is not dependent upon us taking up our crosses and following after Him. If you believe that to be saved we must do certain things to attain salvation, then you believe in works-righteousness, which is the opposite of what the scriptures teach. God saves us. We do not and can not save ourselves. “Well, if the pastor does not struggle they are willing to ‘go along for the ride’ – what’s the diff if they go along with his questions and wrestling with God?”The difference is, why should they have to be obligated to go along with the pastor because the pastor has questions? What if the people in the pews have answers to these questions and would like the pastor to do his job of preaching Christ crucified and resurrected for the forgiveness of sins and to properly distribute the sacraments? Are those people just plain out of luck, because the pastor is confused about what he believes? Does the entire congregation have to now be a body of seekers instead of a body of Christians who have faith in Christ? Sounds like it. How about instead of the whole congregation being subjected the pastor’s questions, how about the pastor allows the congregation to teach him during the Bible studies during the week?“Someone scared they gonna lose their salvation or something…if so…they need to honestly question what and who they believe in.”Nice red herring there. No one has said anything of the sort, but I understand why you have to project this idea on to Christians who have beliefs and have moved beyond the questioning stage of their relationship with Christ. See if you can paint us as “scared little Christians who are afraid of losing our salvation”, it makes it easier for you to believe that you’re the brave Christian who isn’t afraid to ask questions. What I think is going on here is that the reason you want to ask so many questions is because by doing so you never have to arrive at an answer, you never have to take a stand and therefore you’ll never ever have to be in the position of defending what you believe and possibly risk being wrong. How can you be wrong? You don’t believe anything, because you question everything. “As for wanting ‘scripture alone’ –well even our scriptures turn out rituals (ie: baptism and communion)…and we more than heartedly accept those.”No, we don’t. The majority of Protestant churches and every ND church I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to quite a few by the way, reject the scriptural teachings on Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar. They hold to a symbolic interpretation and meaning of both. They deny the real presence. So no, we don’t all “more than heartedly accept those.” “Scripture helps define things for the church – I agree – but that does not effect the fact we can have a variety of varying viewpoints from our teachings (gospels and letters).” I disagree that “scripture helps define things for the church.” Scripture is the authority and final word for the church on these matters. We just have to figure out what the scriptures are actually saying and that’s where the disagreements tend to arise.“That’s one way of looking at it. The other way is called stagnation. The very process of learning asks we look deeper into something – study more or wrestle with current life and our faith in God (experiences). Now if we refuse to learn more – then we will stagnate and stop ‘seeking the kingdom of God’ (cause we must of found all the answers we need). Now you can think this is a ‘tossing with the wind or waves’ – and for some maybe it is – but that’s why we are grounded foundationally – in faith in God.”There is no one person who is more stagnant in their walk with Christ than the person who is always questioning. Think about it, if everything can be questioned and all you do is ask questions and never arrive at any conclusions about anything, where are you going in your walk? Nowhere. “I am not saying change a single thing – just the right to question.”If you as a member of this church, believe the SoF is true already, why be forced to question it simply because the pastor questions it? “Here’s a great example for you – on how I doubt a SOF. I don’t think Jesus is God. I think he is the Christ.”I’m confused. Earlier you said God paid the price and told us to do the same by taking up our crosses and following after Him. The scriptures teach us that the person who made the “take up your crosses and follow after me” statement is Jesus. So how can God who is not Jesus, be paying the price and expecting us to do the same, if Jesus paid the price on the cross, made that statement and is not God, according to you? “I am in total disagreeance with most churches SOF concerning this issue…what should I do?”Find out if what the scriptures say about Jesus being God is true. You should probably start with John 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:16.“This isn’t about lying per se, but about doctrine concerning the nature of God. In the end, it’s an issue I cannot prove one way or the other.”Right, so don’t try. Trust in God and the Holy Spirit to reveal this to you. You will never reason yourself into believing in the doctrine of the trinity. Knowledge about such an issue must be revealed by God to us. “I feel sorry for you – I really do. You are basically taking the role of police officer of the church – and you fear questions might cause a church to crumble.”Nice projection there. Totally false, but I’ll give you points for creativity. I am not taking the role of police officer of the church. It isn’t solely up to me to decide if this pastor steps down. I said in the beginning of this conversation that in my opinion, that the pastor should step down, and then asked the rhetorical question of why my opinion should be binding upon the church as a whole. Perhaps you missed that. Also, the scriptures that deal with church discipline are not there because Zecryphon wants them there or put them there, they’re there because God wants them there and because they protect the church from falling into disarray.“I have seen the opposite be proven true more than I dare count. I would say any quick reading of community in the Tanakh also shows struggle makes one stronger (not weaker).”And the reading of Tanakh is important to a pastor struggling with a SoF in a Christian church, how?“Sure we are – the statement of faith is setting a definition upon God – or God is contained in this list (almost to some certainty and not beyond it).”Any good statement of faith comes from the scriptures themselves, which is God’s revelation to us about Himself. So the SoF is only proclaiming what God has already said. Has God told us everything about Himself in the scriptures? I don’t know. “Pastor questions – and you are quick to point out – he should step down and wrestle privately with the issues (which are likely concerning the SOF or teachings within the church).”My statement was conditional. I said whether or not the pastor steps down would depend on which statements in the SoF he is wrestling with. Guess you missed that one too.“Somehow, we are defining God to some level and nothing goes beyond that level – not even God.”We are only proclaiming what God has already said about Himself. There’s nothing wrong with that. “Can you be wrong? This is the question at the heart of that statement. I say ‘yes’ – I can be wrong…but I also admit – so can others then. Maybe the best thing to do is ask questions that need to be asked and no accept something because ‘it’s the most accepted viewpoint’.”Right and that is exactly what a seeker should do. Christians have already done this and know why they believe what they believe and really have no reason to do this again, simply because the pastor finds himself in the unique position of having some doubts. And yes, I can be wrong and I can be corrected. But that has no bearing on this situation with a fictional pastor in a fictional church wrestling with statements in a fictional SoF. We don’t even know what the SoF says. This SoF could be the most heretical piece of garbage ever penned and the pastor could be wrestling with it because it goes against what the scriptures teach. Since we do not know what the SoF says or what part of the SoF the pastor is wrestling with, to debate the rightness or wrongness of the pastor taking the church captive because he has questions is ultimately pointless. We need more information before we can reach any definitive conclusions about this situation and I said that in my first post.Oh and Zeke as for me not cutting anybody some slack. I’m gonna cut you some slack and forgive you for making a false statement about me that is based upon ignorance and not fact.

  36. <>“does this situation change if the pastor is someone in our family”<>No.And there should be no need to remove them. A person of integrity would step down because it’s the right thing to do.

  37. Well said about the quote & respond thing Dorsey! Couldn’t be bothered reading most of the essays.Hasn’t this thing gone full-circle now and basically confirmed that we do need some “fixed ideas”? Most muslims, buddhists, pick-your-own-faith, would be willing to say that they are on a “spiritual journey” (i.e. fellow travellers) and, in that sense, we are still all “seeking” our final destination. But actually we’re all heading different directions on different paths. I am no longer a “seeker” in the sense that I have chosen the path that I want to walk on (as defined by my creed/SoF).So, time for that pastor to step down, decide which road he’s choosing then find some fellow travellers on it.

  38. In a way, this is what happened to me. I wasn’t a pastor, but I did lead a Sunday School class. The last class I taught was on Open Theology, an anathema to a group of Reformed members. I didn’t make a statement that I now questioned what I believed, however I did stop going to church after that last class.If I were to admit that I wasn’t sure about any of the core beliefs of Christianity, I certainly would have been removed from my duties. I just spared them the drama. My family would have been shunned.I’m on my way back, but with much more tolerance for doubt and compassion for leadership. It’s just that I now would like to become a Catholic, but it’s uncertain how much of their creeds I can accept.

  39. Here’s why I consider the terms Christian and seeker to be mutually exclusive. A seeker is searching and does not have a fixed set of beliefs. Christians do have fixed beliefs about Christ and what it means to be a Christian.As to why you, Dorsey, need a significant reason to reexamine your beliefs? I never said you did. I was speaking for myself with my comment on that issue. It’s up to you if ypu want to reexamine what you believe because the pastor has questions about the statement of faith. My answers here are not binding upon anyone else and I said as much in my first response to this topic. I do have to say I’m amazed how many people are willing to reexamine what they believe, simply because a pastor has some doubts about unknown statements with the SoF. People are embracing this man’s doubts when they don’t even know what his doubts are. I said in my first response that more information would be neccessary before a definitive answer could be given as to what should be done in this situation.

  40. Not looking to open this back up, but Zec, I think the idea that a seeker doesn’t know what he believes is a little off-base. I have always considered myself a seeker, yet I have always held to some set of beliefs. I think it would be more accurate to say that a seeker is willing to expose his beliefs to scrutiny, and make changes as new knowledge and understanding develop. I may be misreading you, but you seem to suggest that, once belief is established, it doesn’t ever need to be reexamined. If you don’t at least acknowledge that distinction, you’re going to have similar difficulty establishing meaningful communication with those who do.

  41. Jefe–that? Was awesome. 🙂Dorsey–yeah, I like “fellow traveler,” better; I just couldn’t think of the right words at the time.The Pete thinks any pastor who presumes to counsel anyone should have a license to practice psychology, and have a group in place (other pastor/psychologists?) that he’s accountable to. Goes back to the whole idea of pastors need pastoring, too. There is just too much pressure placed on pastors to be perfect, have all the answers, never make mistakes, and that can really mess someone up psychologically, emotionally, spiritually. etc. It goes to their heads, or they have some sort of nervous breakdown (or both). We ask too much of pastors when we expect them to have all the answers (here’s a clue: NO ONE has ALL the answers) and always be perfect, and then fire them or shun them when they fail to live up to our unrealistic expectations. Kinda negates the whole idea of grace in my opinion.

  42. <>“I ran into a woman one time who denied that Jesus was the Christ, denied that He died to pay for her sins, denied that He rose from the dead on the third day, denied that He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God, and denied that He is in fact God. She called herself a Christian.”<>I knew someone like that once and he got promoted to be Archbishop of York.<>“I’m not interested in continuing either.”<>Thank God for that. I think your arguments are correct, but I’d rather be a “fellow traveller” with Dorsey simply for his ability to say all his false ideas with much more brevity!

  43. “But what if he wrestles with the question concerning Jesus and the claims made about him in the statement of belief…is that a salvation issue?” – SocietyVsIt depends on what the statements contained in the SoF (Statement of Faith) are. It could be a salvation issue, but it doesn’t automatically have to be. Let’s say the SoF contains John 14:6 and the pastor is wrestling with whether or not that statement is true. Then yes, I think it could be a salvation issue if a pastor is disagreeing with that scripture. If he advocates there may be another way back to God other than through Christ, you have a very serious and potentially dangerous situation on your hands.“How can anything be a salvation issue in all honesty – when the teaching on this is God secured our salvation and not us?”God did secure our salvation but it is up to each one of us to work out our salvtion with trembling and fear. What happens if we start questioning certain things and rely upon our own wisdom and reason for the answers? Could we not end up turning our back on our salvation and walking away from the faith? I’m not saying never question anything ever, but I think we have to know what we believe and why we believe it and questions are a good way to find this out. But you should really have a lot of these types of questions answered by the time you assume the position of pastor. The congregation is going to look to the pastor for their answers to their questions, what does the congregation do, if the pastor is just as confused about these things as they are? Where’s the leadership then? It’s not very reassuring to me to think that my pastor is as clueless about Biblical doctrine as I am. That’s not comforting to me. Comforting to me is that my pastor has the answers to my questions and can explain these things to me in a way I can understand so I can better serve the body of Christ.“Shouldn’t the pastor be able to pretty much question anything and lead his congregation into deeper questions of faith – even a more clear definition of what faith can be?”No, I don’t think so. The pastor, like it or not, is considered a spiritual authority on Biblical matters. He is the one the membership goes to with questions. If he doesn’t have the answers, who does? Plus, if a pastor is free to question anything and everything, what kind of reassurance is that going to give the church as a whole about the reliability of the scriptures? If everything is questionable, how can anything ever be declared as truth? This attitude that the pastor should be automatically embraced when he or she questions the SoF, smacks of a very post-modern mindset. If all the statements in the SoF can be questioned, then wouldn’t the beliefs of the church become relative? What’s true for me, wouldn’t be true for you. The members of the church would essentially be free to write their own SoF’s and just look to themselves for guidance instead of relying on God’s written word, the Holy Spirit and the testimony of Jesus Christ.What kind of church would that be then? Where would be the unity and the fellowship? Everybody is free to believe what they want, no one is wrong, everybody is right. If that’s the case I don’t see how anybody would be united in belief then, because each person is free to choose what is true based upon what they think or feel. The pastor has then become a stumbling block for the parishioners and that’s not good. It’s a very dangerous mindset I think to just automatically embrace a pastor who is questioning the central tenets of the faith or the church’s SoF, instead of evaluating whether or not this person is fit to serve in the office to which they have been called.

  44. “I’m of the opinion that you are most likely not a Christian but are instead a seeker.” (Zec)I knew you would say this – I was expecting it. What is a seeker? But for the record Zec (not to sound like Paul) I was a Christian and a zealous one – said the prayer, confessed, got baptized, was at many an altar call, spoke in tongues, got healed, heard God’s voice, took communion, ministered to youth (and in the church pulpit), street and door to door evangelization, got a bachelor of theology. A Christian’s Christian more or less. But now I am relegated because you can invent a new category – my my…Christianity has forsaken me.“Or have you not reached a conclusion about what the passage means yet?” (Zec)They all mean something Zec, all 4 to 5 interpretations. It’s like going to the store to buy something for $1.00. There are at least 5 different ways to pay up to that dollar for the product – which way is right? The actual dollar bill is more convenient than 100 pennies (agreed) – but are they both not doing the job?“What you’re talking about here is using your faith to determine what you believe and how you act” (Zec)No, what I am defining is the process of faith (we are involved). God asks us to ‘believe in Him’…well…how do we do that unless we actively choose to?“May have paid the price? You’re not certain if He did or didn’t?” (Zec)Zec that’s too literal a reading – I am using ‘may’ not in the sense of questioning it (although I actually do question atonement) – but ‘may have’ could of meant ‘has’ (sorry for the confusion). “God saves us. We do not and can not save ourselves” (Zec)Do you wait for God’s movement on everything you do? If a pile of bricks is falling and you are in its path – do you not just move? One could say ‘they saved themselves there’. God did the original moving – but requires our movement too. We are not excluded from the salvation process – we are to live lives that reflect salvation. “how about the pastor allows the congregation to teach him during the Bible studies during the week?” (Zec)That’s not ½ bad – we are all still learning. “How can you be wrong? You don’t believe anything, because you question everything” (Zec)I would agree with your line of reasoning if it was true – however it is not. I believe a lot of things and stand up for them – for example – hospitality and love. The reason I talk the way I talk because is the Christian faith is too sure…and to not have questions is to say ‘I have the answers’. I could ask – what kind of face does God have…and you cannot answer that – it is not possible – no one has seen God’s face. But I know people that try. Define God. “So no, we don’t all “more than heartedly accept those.”” (Zec)Have you been baptized and do you take communion? If yes, then you accept the ritual – even if symbolically. For someone with God figured out – you seem unsure about the rituals. “There is no one person who is more stagnant in their walk with Christ than the person who is always questioning” (Zec)Not true, I tend to think the opposite. Zec, who is right?“If you as a member of this church, believe the SoF is true already, why be forced to question it simply because the pastor questions it?” (Zec)Because I also love the pastor and want to see that person be free in their faith. Now I may not question – so be it – but should I disregard another’s questions because I am comfortable? No, we need to go out of our way for our neighbor – even to the point of our discomfort (and that sucks but that’s also forbearance). “So how can God who is not Jesus, be paying the price and expecting us to do the same, if Jesus paid the price on the cross, made that statement and is not God, according to you?” (Zec)Jesus is the Messiah…ordained by God…anointed by God…sent by God…approved by God…God’s ‘right hand’ man so to speak. If God sends in ‘His name’ – then it is from God and not from humanity. “Find out if what the scriptures say about Jesus being God is true. You should probably start with John 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:16.” (Zec)I’ve checked into it Zec – quite extensively (but I am open to more research) – and I think Jesus being God is a breaking of commandment #1. Now I don’t want to be breaking those commandment teachings which Jesus upheld – and I am guessing neither do you. “Right, so don’t try. Trust in God and the Holy Spirit to reveal this to you.” (Zec)That’s your answer – trust in God? What do you exactly think I am doing here with my faith – trusting in Zeus? “And the reading of Tanakh is important to a pastor struggling with a SoF in a Christian church, how?” (Zec)A struggle is a struggle – no matter when – before God. Jacob wrestled and this pastor questions – what’s really the diff – in the end both viewpoints of the struggler are changed. “Right and that is exactly what a seeker should do. Christians have already done this” (Zec)Man, what plain do you live on? You must be standing on the mountain looking down or something. Inventing categories for ‘us and them and now those other ones’ – I make the ‘other ones’ category and the Christians (the most right people on the planet apparently) – have it all encapsulated – truth that is. Nice. If Christians are so right answer some questions for me? The war in Iraq – does God approve of it? What about the slaughter in the Sudan – why doesn’t God intervene? Did God approve of American slavery of people from Africa? Can God hate? Is God patriotic? How often does God hear our prayers? Is God ‘green’? Does God hate all cultures or just the one’s that are Indigenous? Inquiring minds need to make a decision.

  45. I said that you could know if I were a Taoist by comparing what I said I believed against what the religion I’m claiming to be a member of teaches. My comment was limited to statements not actions. Of course actions are important too, but in a conversation you can’t really compare somebody’s actions against the teachings of their religion.

  46. Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder says, concerning honesty in conflict resolution, there are two different responses a community can have towards someone 1. embrace from the community. or 2. Exile from the community. it sucks that for so long so many of our faith communities have been known for exiling people, instead of embracing them…Kierkegaard says that we shouldn’t love ‘In Spite Of…’ but BECAUSE the person needing love is human, and thus exactly the same as us.

  47. “If the pastor is wrestling with a literal interpretation of John 14:6, yes you have a serious problem on your hands. Such a statement should not pose a problem to any Christian.” (Zec)I wrestle with it, does that make me less a Christian than anyone else? “how many different meanings can such a statement really have apart from the literal meaning?” (Zec)I have seen/discussed about 4 to 5 different variants on the meaning of that passage – including just the literal version (the way is a person). To me, taking it only literally actually says very little about it’s meaning and definition (or full discourse). A few examples would be: (a) ‘the way the truth and the life’ can be compared with the other idea from Judaism ‘Abraham Isaac and Jacob’ or; (b) The three cord saying is about the importance of what Jesus taught (he is what he taught). “Like once you believe a scripture means something, you are no longer open to various interpretations and are thus a “closed-minded bigot”.” (Zec)That’s on each person in this faith to decide for themselves – concerning how open-minded they truly are. Why can’t a scripture mean a ‘few things’? If it is only one and the one meaning – well – someone can decide what they want to think about that…personally I am not a fan. “You’ve already said that faith is a gift from God. Since this is true, we bring nothing to the table in terms of what faith is” (Zec)Get real (and by that I mean examine your own reality with faith). You are your faith in some senses – you have to believe, accept, confess, act, etc. How in the world are you not part of that? God may have ‘paid the price’ but he in turn teaches us to do the same “take up our crosses”. We are tied to faith in that faith resides in us. “It’s retarded in a way. Whether or not the pastor is certain of what he believes or not, it doesn’t matter, the church is along for the ride, whether they wanna be or not.” (Zec)Well, if the pastor does not struggle they are willing to ‘go along for the ride’ – what’s the diff if they go along with his questions and wrestling with God? Someone scared they gonna lose their salvation or something…if so…they need to honestly question what and who they believe in. “But at the end of the day they still hold to what the Torah says and has always said and they rely upon what their forefathers taught them and tradition. This is not what Christians today want. They want solo scriptura” (Zec)First off, the Torah has a variety of meanings to the hearer – and there is not only one thing to be learned from a scripture. Rabbinical studies show this very clearly…and even that tradition is not Torah – but interpretations that have been recorded about Torah. As for wanting ‘scripture alone’ – well even our scriptures turn out rituals (ie: baptism and communion)…and we more than heartedly accept those. Scripture helps define things for the church – I agree – but that does not effect the fact we can have a variety of varying viewpoints from our teachings (gospels and letters). “They’ll just believe it until someone else comes along with a new question and then they go through the process all over again, thinking that they’re learning, when in reality what they’re really doing is just being blown along by the winds of various doctrines and never really end up having faith in anything.” (Zec)That’s one way of looking at it. The other way is called stagnation. The very process of learning asks we look deeper into something – study more or wrestle with current life and our faith in God (experiences). Now if we refuse to learn more – then we will stagnate and stop ‘seeking the kingdom of God’ (cause we must of found all the answers we need). Now you can think this is a ‘tossing with the wind or waves’ – and for some maybe it is – but that’s why we are grounded foundationally – in faith in God. “I don’t think that’s a good enough reason? We shouldn’t be forced to ditch our statement of faith or beliefs because one person may or may not have a problem with it” (Zec)I am not saying change a single thing – just the right to question. “Who wants to follow a liar?” (Zec)Here’s a great example for you – on how I doubt a SOF. I don’t think Jesus is God. I think he is the Christ. I am in total disagreeance with most churches SOF concerning this issue…what should I do? This isn’t about lying per se, but about doctrine concerning the nature of God. In the end, it’s an issue I cannot prove one way or the other. “The pastor may need to be set outside of the church if his journey and his statements become a possible stumbling block for the church as a whole.” (Zec)I feel sorry for you – I really do. You are basically taking the role of police officer of the church – and you fear questions might cause a church to crumble. I have seen the opposite be proven true more than I dare count. I would say any quick reading of community in the Tanakh also shows struggle makes one stronger (not weaker). “We’re not talking about the fullness of God, we’re talking about a church’s statement of faith” (Zec)Sure we are – the statement of faith is setting a definition upon God – or God is contained in this list (almost to some certainty and not beyond it). Pastor questions – and you are quick to point out – he should step down and wrestle privately with the issues (which are likely concerning the SOF or teachings within the church). Somehow, we are defining God to some level and nothing goes beyond that level – not even God. “There is nothing wrong with knowing why you believe what you believe. There is nothing wrong in being certain about why you have faith” (ZEC)Can you be wrong? This is the question at the heart of that statement. I say ‘yes’ – I can be wrong…but I also admit – so can others then. Maybe the best thing to do is ask questions that need to be asked and no accept something because ‘it’s the most accepted viewpoint’.

  48. I would have great respect for said pastor for the same reason I have great respect for my own pastor. He isn’t afraid to be human and real. Nobody can truly show evidence of God’s grace unless they first admit they’re broken.I encourage people to read Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli. It completely subverted my view as to what a Christian (pastors included) should be.

  49. I also have a vague recollection of a church that asked a pastor to stay on and preach through his doubts and hurts.In reality, I think the only honest thing to do is quit.

  50. I’d admire the pastors honesty. I think he’s done the right thing in sharing it. But I don’t think he should remain the pastor.I’ll take the risk of coming across all pious by referring to scripture, coz this sort of scenario reminds me somewhat of Genesis 11 (tower of Babel). When the people spoke “with one voice” they were incredibly powerful – so much so that God had to intervene. The way that power was removed from them was by giving everyone their own voice. Creeds/statements-of-faith are a way of giving people “one voice”. They should be the foundations, the unifying beliefs. When people start to “have their own voice” – i.e. “well this is what <>I<> believe”, the power of unity starts to be diluted.I don’t see any problem with “re-visiting” creeds. In fact I would say it is essential for every generation to revisit them.If the leader of any organisation (secular or sacred) aren’t in agreement with the organisations core beliefs then integrity would surely suggest that they step aside.I know it’s very en vogue to have the leader as co-learner/discoverer, but it annoys the hell out of me. I hate these sessions where we all get into small groups and “share our thoughts” and see if we can arrive at truth. That’s simply pooled ignorance. I want someone who can offer me some certainty, someone who can guide me into truth. Wasn’t one of Jesus greatest attractions the fact that He spoke with authority? That’s what I want from my leaders/pastors. Anyone with the slightest bit of intelligence realises that no human pastor/leader has got everything sown up, but I’d hope that if they want to lead me somewhere spiritually they’re at least one step ahead of me.

  51. Dorsey, this response is being typed out on my Treo, so I can’t do the usual quote and respond that I’d do normally. My apologies for any trouble this may cause you and any other reader of this blog.Now, you were portraying me as being someone who believes that nobody should ever question anything. I explained my position on reexamination of beliefs and when I think such reexamination should occur and responded as if my statement was aimed at you and was somehow binding upon you. The statement was not aimed at you or anybody else. It was just me letting others know that just because a pastor has doubts about his faith, that’s not enogh of a reason for me to reexamine either my own beliefs or the church’s SoF. Now, if the pastor says that he’s compared some statements in the SoF against the scriptures and can’t find scriptural support for what the church is confessing in the SoF, then that would compel me to reexamine both the SoF and my beliefs.As to your comment about me needing to get out more, I’ll simply say that such a comment is irrelevant with regard to the OP and is rather insulting. I don’t know how someone can reach such a conclusion about another person based upon a couple lines in a post.

  52. Oh, another thought….the whole idea of a pastor should be one of shepherd, not leader…so you shouldn’t be thinking of the pastor as CEO of the church, but as a primary spiritual caregiver. This is a concept mostly forgotten in today’s churchianity culture, where we want our pastors to run the show while we sit comfortably in the pews and “receive a word.” Once upon a time, the church was a place of community…family…and that means the family cares for each other, from the weakest to the strongest, the most spiritually learned to the most ignorant…it wasn’t all on the pastor’s shoulders to be all things to all people and be expected to always have the answers. Pastors need pastoring, too…because it’s about care-giving, not dictating. Christ is the head of the family, not the pastor.

  53. Make it not okay for your pastor to have doubts, and you’ll make him a liar as well. Don’t pretend otherwise; the man’s got a family to support, and he’s not going to risk his job on the flyer that guys like zec and brad will cut him some slack.

  54. Upon further thought – does this situation change if the pastor is someone in our family (a brother, father, sister, wife, etc)? Does this make us gracious to the person’s sensitivities and questions? Would we truly remove them?If so, then should we not be that gracious to someone not in our family also?

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