Question:

I have recently wondered how you can truly enjoy (and endure) your line of work with your loss of faith. It would seem to me that the mental dissonance would lead to great frustration and personal anguish in studying and teaching about something which you know is not historically true and has led you away from your faith….not to mention all of the flack you must have to dodge from the average person on a daily basis, including your beginning students, knowing that you will never change the minds of your most rigid fundamentalist critics.

How do you deal with it…with any enthusiasm? I left church work because of that….what’s you secret?

Response:

It’s a good question, but there’s an easy answer, I think. It would probably be a real problem for me if I were teaching in a seminary or divinity school, or even a Christian college; in that scenario I think I would be completely torn and agonized the whole time, training ministers or teaching young people the Bible and the history of early Christianity, while personally not believing it. There I would be swimming against the tide the whole time. I do have friends who teach in that context – lots of them, actually. Some of these teach at schools that take a far more conservative line than they do; the students all believe that the Bible is the Word of God and are unwilling to engage in critical historical analysis of it, but my friends, their teachers, while themselves still believers, do not see the Bible that way. They (my friends) certainly believe in God and think that Jesus is the son of God (in some sense). But they know that the Bible is a very fallible, human book that needs to be studied like other great literature from antiquity. They try to teach the historical critical methods, but it is like talking to a wall the whole time – or worse, it is like being put up against the wall.

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