Shared Belief: The Problem of Pain

Part of Shared Belief, a series responding to Alisa Childers’ article on progressive Christianity and atheism.


#2: “They May Have an Unresolved Answer to the Problem of Evil”

To put it simply, the problem of pain is as follows:

God is:
A) Ominpotent (All-Powerful)
B) Omniscient (All-Knowing)
C) Omnibenevolent (All-Good or All-Loving)
But pain, evil, and suffering exist.
Therefore, at least one of the attributes to God must be false because:
A) An all-powerful God would have the ability to prevent pain.
B) An all-knowing God would know that pain exists and how to prevent it.
C) An all-good God would desire only what is good and pleasant for the world.

For many, as Childers points out, this problem is a major impediment to theistic belief. Alt-rock band Modest Mouse voices this doubt with agonizing beauty in their song “Bukowski” making the bold claim “If God takes life, he’s an indian giver,” before continuing:

If God controls the land and disease,
Keeps a watchful eye on me,
If he’s really so damn mighty,
My problem is I can’t see,
Well who would want to be?
Who would want to be such a control freak?
Well who would want to be?
Who would want to be such a control freak?

In theology, attempts to defend God from the apparent contradictions in the problem of pain are called theodicies. Continue reading “Shared Belief: The Problem of Pain”

Shared Belief: Scripture, Fact, Truth, and Authority

Part of Shared Belief, a series responding to Alisa Childers’ article on progressive Christianity and atheism.


#1: “They May Adopt a Belief That the Bible is Unreliable”

Here we come already to the first instance demanding nuance. What does Childers mean by “unreliable”?

She cites to authors like Rob Bell (former megachurch pastor) and Rachel Held Evans (Episcopalian lay person and author) and their writings addressing discrepancies between the historical record and Scripture. In these instances, “unreliable” means “not always 100% historically factual.” (I’ve addressed this topic before — see here.) Rob Bell, at least in his early days, compared biblical historicity to springs and bricks. He writes: Continue reading “Shared Belief: Scripture, Fact, Truth, and Authority”

Shared Belief: Fundamentalists, Progressives, and Atheists

Alisa Childers, a self-styled apologist and frequent contributor at The Gospel Coalition, has written an article on links between progressive Christian theology and atheism. In particular, she highlights three beliefs that “some” progressive Christians “may” hold in common with secular humanists. While Childers attempts to add shades of nuance with her modifiers of choice, the tone of her essay is clear: progressive Christianity leads to heresy and, in time, out-right atheism.

Childers sites to famous former Christians: Bart Campolo (son of the pastor/scholar Tony Campolo), Bart Ehrman (biblical scholar at the University of North Carolina), and Michael Gungor (former Christian rock star). These non-believers left Evangelical Christianity (patent pending) for more progressive parts of the Church before rejecting the faith entirely.

Citing the younger Campolo’s claims, Childers warns that progressive Christianity will see a mass exodus towards “full-blown” atheism in the coming years. She then lists the three shared beliefs that map the route from progressive theology to atheism: Continue reading “Shared Belief: Fundamentalists, Progressives, and Atheists”