Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"They were not ordained to make us happy"

Daniel Dennett's recent study of pastors who have lost their faith yet continue in the pulpit has received a lot of attention. David Mills doesn't believe that there are very many in that category, nor does he think such behavior can be excused, but he does think that "contact with God's people" can be disillusioning:
.... But all that aside, I think the study raises a matter that Christian laymen do not think about, or think about often enough: the spiritual difficulty of being a pastor and the effects of serving people who want more from them than any man could give.

It is not an easy job, and it is one with peculiar strains, stresses, temptations, and pains. A man can easily be driven to question or to disbelieve in God by sustained contact with God’s people. In its simplest form, being a pastor can send a good man into depression and being depressed will color how he sees the world, particularly how he wants to answer the question of the reality of the God who had (he thought) sent him into the ministry. ....

Much more could be said about Dennett’s study, and by no means am I trying to excuse men who pretend to believe in God when they don’t, and by this deceit take the money and respect of good people who trust them to mean what they say. They are in a hard place, but that doesn’t excuse what is in essence theft.

But I think that the study does provide us a chance to reflect on the life our pastors live, and what exactly it is they have been called to do, reminding ourselves that they were not ordained to make us happy. .... [more]
There May Be a Reason for Atheist Pastors » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog