Sunday, March 11, 2007

Numbers, Denominations, Proof, and Faith

Two things caught my eyes scanning the news this Sunday afternoon.

First is the 2007 annual report of the National Council of Churches announcing how many members different denominations have on their respective rolls this year. The numbers make the papers; but they are old news for most people in the church. Denominations are rising and falling. So what's new about that. The same ones are in decline that have been in decline for the last 20 years. We are all too well aware of the pews that are empty and the one's that are full in our churches these days. The better question that we should encourage the media to ask is what moves people to embrace faith in Jesus or not. Membership in a congregation is only one small part of the equation. Sure demographers can measure the numbers on the roles or in the pews; but there is no human who can chart the work of the Holy Spirit that causes people to embrace Jesus.

Second is a story about the "forgotten tomb of Jesus" written by Pamela Miller in the Star Tribune this weekend. Miller quotes St. Olaf Professor James Hanson offering a great answer to the questions that are asked by the skeptics who look our faith and try to find the holes. Prof. Hanson, "... faith is never going to hold up to pure historical analysis. That's not what it's about." Hanson's right.

Faith hinges on the unknown otherwise it would be certainty and not faith. If you are looking for something solid and logical that has no hole you aren't looking for faith you are looking for something completely different. Faith is all about the holes in the story of Jesus and our trust, even though we haven't seen him in his presence and in his rising from the dead. The current crop of holes, ranging from the latest Tomb of Jesus that's been discovered to the DaVinci Code, challenge those who insist their faith has no holes, but for those of us who have doubts and yet still believe this is nothing new or even earth shaking .

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