Last Saturday, the L.A. Times ran a piece by William Lobdell, their former religion reporter, telling of how he has lost faith in God as a result of his job. He lobbied to get the position after he became converted and believed God was calling him to shed light on lots of stories that weren’t being covered. He was excited when the editors agreed to let him cover the beat.
I felt like all the tumblers of my life had clicked. I had a strong marriage, great kids and a new column. I attributed it all to God’s grace.
But something happened along the way. The stories he was covering began to make him question God and his faith. He took a year of classes to convert to the Roman Catholic church, but didn’t go through with it because of the pattern of the church to protect its priests and cover up the sexual abuse scandals he had been reporting on.
He found other stories that made him question God: TBN’s pastors who live incredibly lavish lifestyles off the money they relentlessly sought from their viewers, many of whom are poor and suffering; Mormons who ostracized those who had left the Mormon church; priests who woulnd’t pay child support for their illegimate children.
As the stories piled up, I began to pray with renewed vigor, but it felt like I wasn’t connecting to God. I started to feel silly even trying …
The questions that I thought I had come to peace with started to bubble up again. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God get credit for answered prayers but no blame for unanswered ones? Why do we believe in the miraculous healing power of God when he’s never been able to regenerate a limb or heal a severed spinal chord? …
For some time, I had tried to push away doubts and reconcile an all-powerful and infinitely loving God with what I saw, but I was losing ground. I wondered if my born-again experience at the mountain retreat was more about fatigue, spiritual longing and emotional vulnerability than being touched by Jesus.
It eventually became too much for him. Here’s his conclusion:
My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago — probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up.
Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don’t. It’s not a choice. It can’t be willed into existence. And there’s no faking it if you’re honest about the state of your soul.
In a chat session on the paper’s site, Lobdell said he’s now an agnostic, leaning towards atheism. Read the article. It’s moving. These are legitimate questions he’s facing, but his answer is to abandon ship, to believe that he can’t make himself have faith, that there is no reconciling what he saw with what he thought he believed.
In a way, he’s right. On our own, we can’t make ourselves believe. Regeneration — which leads to faith — comes from Christ alone. At the same time, we’re responsible to do what God calls all men everywhere to do — repent and believe. I think he’s really struggling, but he’s landing in the wrong place. It’s not a new struggle, but it’s the latest example. God’s sovereignty and man’s suffering — especially at the hands of those who claim the name of Christ — are not easy to reconcile. In our own wisdom, we can’t.
His story has provoked a lot of reaction in the blogosphere. Just Google his name and you’ll find several sites discussing it. Your thoughts, theological or otherwise?