Practical Agnosticism

I am an associate pastor at Church of the Saviour in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  One of the roles that I am assigned to is to oversee and pastor a Sunday night worship service geared towards young adults and those outside the church.  In the design of this service (which will launch on February 26th), we identified a people-group that potentially might be interested in what we do.  We called them “agnostic,” but not in the traditional sense.

Wikipedia defines agnosticism as “the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable.”  This definition can lead to an interesting set of responses.  If issues of God and faith are deemed “unknown,” perhaps there is room left for one to seek, to ask questions, and to ponder the existence of God.  If they decide it is “unknowable,” then matters of faith and God are simply irrelevant on any practical level.

You may take this statement with a grain of salt seeing that I’m a pastor, but I think finding out truth on the existence of God is a monumental life-quest.  In fact, now that I can firmly say that I have encountered God, it is THE QUESTION.  This is why, while I whole-heartily disagree with atheism, I appreciate that one has taken the time and effort to draw some type of conclusion about God -and hopefully any good atheist will continue that questioning as much as I would expect any person of faith to.

Most agnostics, I believe, do not treat the truth about God as any priority to be sought after.  So while it is possible that one can call themselves an agnostic and still question the existence of God, I simply do not see it very often.  And while I would certainly welcome any and all people into our worship service on Sunday nights, these are not necessarily the one’s we’ve identified in our pursuit for “agnostics.”  What we are referring to is something that we have called “practical agnosticism.”  There are droves of people who say that they believe in God or even call themselves a Christian, but simply do not allow that identification to affect their lives in any meaningful way.  So on a practical level, it is as if the issues of faith and God are irrelevant to their lives.

You see, Christianity has always been more than checking the “yes” box to the question of whether God exists or not.  It’s also more than a social identifier.  “Faith” and “faithfulness” are one in the same in the Greek New Testament.  Faith is faith-in-action; and it simply cannot be dismissed from everyday life.  Rather, faith is something to be experienced in a tangible way.  People don’t want to just hear that God exists from a preacher, they want to experience that existence.  Unfortunately, church’s all too often do not become the avenue to experience that reality.  A poll taken from young adults who have now left the church says that “God seems missing from my experience of church.”  Wow.

Now I believe that God is always chasing after every individual with God’s love.  So whether someone is an agnostic by choice or simply by practice, I hope that our efforts can help reveal the reality of God’s existence through our faith that is experienced in life.

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