Recently I returned to Oklahoma where I had the joy of reuniting with my college mentor. I attribute my abandonment of a promising career in Aerospace Engineering and embracing full time ministry for Christ to God working through my mentor. Now, after 15 years of satisfying Christian ministry, I reflected on the origins of my journey. I asked him what he had seen in me that justified his recommendation that I pursue ministry. He reminded me that he was looking for F.A.T. men. Far from being an insult, FAT was his acronym for Faithful, Available, and Teachable.
Fast forward many years from that time and reverse the roles. Now I would be somewhat of a mentor to Brett Bavar. Although never using the acronym F.A.T. with those I was discipling, the characteristics fit Brett in the context of Christian ministry. Because of these demonstrated qualities, I appointed him president of our Purdue Student ministries (PBF). Brett was rather quiet and did not have as engaging a personality as our previous president. But I would rather train F.A.T., quiet men than engaging S.T.U.D. men (Self Absorbed, Troubled, Unavailable, and Dense). As Brett states, his first year as PBF president was challenging. But, because of his learner’s spirit, he grew in maturity and leadership. The second year was much better. The climax of his ministry at Purdue was when his leadership around a new ministry initiative called FaithWorks temporarily unified the often-fragmented Christian community on campus. Like my mentor had challenged me, I certainly thought Brett had the qualities for full-time Christian service and he was considering this.
As Brett served in the college ministry, he communicated our purpose many times to the students, “to connect students to compelling life answers through meaningful relationships and establish them with a distinctly Biblical worldview to live out a Christ pleasing, fulfilling life.” A little ironic that a two-term PBF president is rejecting this worldview because of doubts that have apparently blossomed into full-fledged atheism/agnosticism. I had no knowledge of the doubts that he expressed in his blog Absque Fide (without Faith) which led him down this path. Had the doubts been expressed at the time of my ministry with Brett, they would not have greatly concerned me. The doubts would have been the means by which a compelling worldview could be tested and strengthened as Wolfe stated in my previous blog entry. Carefully dealt with doubts provide great opportunities for the justification of belief.
I want to acknowledge at the outset of this response that I empathize with Brett’s fear/pain/anxiety through the process of wrestling with these doubts. Many times through my seminary career I entertained assertions that would begin to rock my worldview. If I could not ultimately justify the assertion or reject it in my worldview, or, instead refine my worldview in some way, then I knew the assertion would lead to abandonment of traditionally held views. Any serious thinker has experienced this and it is scary! Sometimes we do need to abandon certain unwarranted beliefs that we have or refine them. The process is not easy and the disorientation/pain/fear/anxiety can be great. Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for him (1 Sam 12:23).
Brett couches his journey in terms of primarily three initial observations he made from his experience. From these observations he drew certain conclusions. Because Brett spends the majority of the report of his journey on the initial observations and subsequent assertions, I will spend a significant portion of my response addressing these. I understand these assertions led him to think deeply about the question, “Why do I really believe Christianity?” However, Brett does not speak much about any specific reasons as to why Christianity was unwarranted in his estimation. Therefore, I really cannot address any warranting “reasons to believe” Christianity that he deemed unsatisfactory.