Monday, March 30, 2009

True nonbelievers ...

... Still a Believer: James F. Sennett Responds to Questions About His Faith. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A good many of the commenters sound as confident in their new-found unbelief as I am sure they were in their former belief. Increasingly, I find these debates tedious and not worth engaging in. My own experience of faith seems greatly different from what is usually being discussed.


  1. Sennett claims: "I have not mastered the blissful ignorance or self-deception that so many conservative or evangelical Christians manage to shelter themselves with. I don't mean that to sound perjorative, but the fact of the matter is that I find it very difficult to convince very many "Bible believing" Christians that the case for unbelief has a single shred of intellectual strength, and that really bothers me." It seems as though Sennett has two axes to grind: (1) he has heartburn about unwavering believers; (2) he has an interest in persuading believers that doubt is a reasonable response to belief. My response is this: Why wouldn't Sennett simply understand that faith, in my humble opinion, is a private matter for each individual, and--because of its intensely personal nature--it deserves to have its boundaries respected. I don't see that kind of respect involved in his attitude towards others and their faith.

  2. What you say, R.T., is similar to a comment I posted on Henry Gee's blog (check back later; I linked to it). When faith is lived, it is something one experiences, not a theoretical construct. It is that lived faith that the doubters cannot begin to understand and the believers are hard-pressed to convey. Also, there seems to be this preposterous notion that those of us who try to live our faith go through life blithely without doubts. As Newman said, faith means being capable of bearing doubt. These people should read Gerard Manley Hopkins.

  3. I would quibble about attaching "doubt" to Hopkins but would instead prefer to use the word "struggle" because I think that concept (i.e., intellectual and emotional engagement with questions of faith) more correctly captures his attitude. That, however, is simply my humble opinion, and plenty of critics have ascribed "doubt" to the Jesuit priest and his poetic engagement with faith.