A friend of mine shared a story about a critical phase in his faith journey. It occurred as he was transitioning away from a Pentecostal context to a Calvinist one. At the time, the church he was attending dropped names and quotes from the likes of Calvin, Spurgeon, and Wesley to prove their point about speaking in tongues as biblical and theologically sound. As he searched out the original source material for himself, he found the quotes that had been used, but he also discovered the parts that had been left out. It left him with a sense of feeling lied to.

One of his spiritual mentors at the time pointed out that their intent wasn’t to mislead you. They were doing what they thought was best. They were trying to help. There was no malice. My point isn’t to argue about the legitimacy of speaking in tongues. That’s a “you” issue. The “me” issue is the idea of feeling lied to during your spiritual development. Just because there was no malice, does that make it right? No. However, now what do you do with that?

Some folks simply walk away. I’m reminded of the passage in John 6 starting in verse 60, when many of the disciples deserted Jesus. “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” they grumbled. And after Jesus questioned some of them (“Does this offend you?”) many turned their back and no longer followed him. So he turned and asked the rest of his disciples “You do not want to leave me too, do you?”

Sometimes I feel like the remaining twelve disciples. “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

Jesus never claimed that his purpose was to come to have a personal relationship with us. He did, however, say that He came to build his church. The church is as flawed as the people who make it up, but, as Miroslav Volf said, “I am not a Christian because of the church, but because of the gospel. However, it was only through the broken church that I received the gospel. Because of the gospel, I participate in the church.”

Some people persevere, realizing that the spiritual journey is about questioning and investigation. There’s a difference between being lied to about your faith and the natural progression of your faith and I think it is the latter that we are essentially talking about. It wasn’t too long ago that I was at a place in my walk when I was a hardcore adherent to the “universe is only 5,000 years old” school of thought. Unlike some you who get to simply grow from this place, there tapes of me on the radio defending this position. My views back then were much more conservative (don’t make me re-live my positions on homosexuals or Catholics). However, back then I was also a teacher. I discipled people, I answered their questions, I shepherded their growth. Folks looked to me for answers and I gave them as best I knew.

I’m not in that place now and I have spent many a night wondering what happened to the folks who were under me and where they are now. How many faith journeys did I stunt back then? How many people feel betrayed by me right now? It’s why I am so hesitant to be put in the position of teaching others. Because I can only teach up to what I know, and I know just how little I know.

What should you do in the face of feeling betrayed? What do you do with your questions and doubts? How do you remedy that? We’re not called to ignorance. Each of us has been gifted with a will and intellect of our own. We need to check things out for ourselves. It’s not like teachers, pastors, or other instructors are counting on your ignorance. Discipleship, listening to sermons, reading verses–learning period–can’t stop at the listening step. You must learn to investigate for yourself. Investigation is the heart of the real spiritual journey.

I try to keep certain parameters in mind as I continue to search out answers for questions that I have: Does it match up with the historical faith? Does it match up with reason? Does it match up with our everyday life and reality? Does it match up with what I DO understand of what the Bible says? Because in the end, faith is our best guess as we search for truth in a spiritual way. Walking away doesn’t equal perseverance, however, as you grow and develop, the tenor of your faith may change.

Do I regret my time spent in that conservative setting? Absolutely not. To be mad at being there then because I’m no longer there now is like my adult me being mad at teen me (and there’s a lot about teen me to be mad about). If it wasn’t for being there, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Plus, there is the specter of arrogance in believing that where I am at now is “correct”. No, the key is to keep journeying, keep probing, to keep that dynamic edge to my faith. The only true betrayal of faith is to abandon thinking about it.

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