I guess my first question is: Can one be 'talked out' of their faith? I do not, personally, believe one can. UNLESS one freely opens their mind to allow such. Even then, my feeling is that one must have a reason for doing so. This is part of the issue I have with the story as a whole. It feels like there are pieces missing to me....important pieces. I googled the phrase 'unbelieving clergy' which is the title of the study done at Tufts that ABC used as a basis for the story. I was unable to find a complete study, just reports that the study is being done. I take this to mean it's not yet completed. I could be wrong. Don't worry, though, I'll find out...if I have to contact Tufts directly. I'm just curious to see the whole thing. But I digress.... Where was I going with this?.... OH YEAH..... pieces missing. My thought is that a person can not be 'talked out' of their faith without already having some doubt or already have some subconscious welcoming to allow it. Let me just make it plain. No one can talk you out of believing in God unless you, in your heart, have already started entertaining the idea that he may not exist. This does not just happen. There had to have been some event that triggered it. You don't just wake up one day and question whether or not God exists after you have believed he does your whole life. Something had to happen. I'm not saying that it makes you a bad person. I'm just saying that my belief is that a loss of faith in God is triggered by a misinterpretation of a trying event(s) in life.
I find, particularly interesting, the minister that explored atheist views so that he could 'defend' his faith. Here's my problem, no place in the Bible does God command us do defend our faith. As a minister, your job is to serve the people of God and to deliver the word of God...as it is. The Bible says...
"10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
Your job is to give the word, not defend it. When you give it, it's going to accomplish the purpose it was meant to accomplish. That's it and that's all. For him to say "My thinking was that God is big enough to handle any questions that I can come up with,"... My thinking is this... Yes, God is big enough to handle any questions you may have but you have to direct those questions to the right place if you want the right answer. Why would you seek the thoughts of an atheist concerning the questions you have about God and expect to walk away with answers that strengthen your faith? That makes no sense. UNLESS, your intent was not really to have your faith strengthened... in which case, it makes perfect sense.
Another part I find, particularly, interesting is the minister that said... "The more I read the Bible, the more questions I had,.....The more things didn't make sense to me -- what it said -- and the more things didn't add up." He went on to say "Reading the Bible is what led me not to believe in God." He went on to question some of the miracles of God. My question is... Why are you trying to make God make sense or 'add up'? He is GOD! The word says that he is able to do immeasurably more than we can even ask or THINK. (Ephesians 3:20) Do you know what that means? You can not even begin to imagine what God is capable of. The fact that you can't make it make sense only makes him MORE awesome, not less....UNLESS, your intention is to discredit that which you can not explain.... In which case, you walking away with disbelief makes perfect sense.
My next question is: Is it morally, spiritually, ethically right to continue in ministry if you no longer believe in God, just because it's your only means of supporting your family? When I googled 'unblieving clergy', I came across a quote by a guy named Richard Land. He said...
"It's not important that they believe what you believe. But it IS important that they believe that you believe it."
Now let me say this... I don't agree with a lot of the stuff this dude had to say on the topic, but I think he makes a good point here. I, personally, need to believe that my pastor believes what he speaks to me concerning the word and will of God. We all get weak in our faith sometimes. It's in those times that I pull on the faith of others until mine is back where it needs to be. A lot of times, I pull off of the faith of my Pastor during those times. I'm not saying that he is not human and capable of being weak in faith at times, as well. I'm just saying that when I want to believe but am having a hard time believing, I depend on him (and others) to believe it for me. I, personally, believe that's part of the reason God gives us leaders and brothers/sisters in faith.... to be strong in faith for us when we are weak. To continue to depend on the people of a God you don't believe in to support your family is, ethically, wrong...in my humble opinion. I can't really say on a spiritual tip, because I don't really KNOW their hearts. That's the Lord's call. Notice, though, how God has continued to be faithful to them, even though they have become completely faithless. Look how God continues to take care of them and their families even though they don't even believe he exists anymore. The grace of God... He is SO good.
Anyway, that's my word. I'm out. Be blessed :)