I’ve never really had any monumental crises of faith. Seasons more prone to doubt than others, sure, but never anything like what I would call a sustained period in which my faith in the Triune God of the Bible was hanging in the balance. There are probably a number of reasons this is the case, not least of which is the fact that I think arguments for the Christian faith are usually generally convincing. My own (albeit shallow) engagement with science and mathematics leads me to the Christian faith, as does my understanding of philosophy. These external pieces play a role in my “staying within the fold,” but more important to me are the more existential and experiential aspects of my faith. What God’s Word has done in my life, who His people have been to me, not to mention the fact that the Christian faith gives one fairly good answers to the questions that keep us up at night: these manifestations of God's provision are all tethers which keep me bound to the faith of my fathers.
Perhaps it’s always been this way, but it seems like now, the existential questions are the ones which postmodern minds have the most trouble with, for if there’s a good God who controls everything, why is there so much evil in the world? Why do I experience pain and suffering if in fact God could snap His fingers and bring everything back to how it’s supposed to be? The questions about evolution and cosmology, while still in existence, are less of an obstacle to faith for most folks my age (at least this is my experience). The Enlightenment optimism of Dawkins & Co. is no longer satisfying to the postmodern mind (and heart). Can we glean a purpose for our individual selves from the Origin of the Species? Can Carl Sagan tell us what it all means? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding no. We are left, then, to create our own purpose and to decide what it all means for us. This is a tremendous amount of pressure.
If this is where the obstacles are, in the existential places, I’d submit that the Christian story offers satisfying answers to the most poignant questions which the postmodern mind asks. No other narrative does it’s own heavy lifting. Let’s look at Matty Healy, the lead singer of The 1975 as a test case. Himself an atheist and a patron of the British Humanist Society, his music offers a fascinating yet visceral look into the contents of a postmodern lack of faith. The Dawkinsian bombast is not there with Healy; rather, he acknowledges that despite his atheism, he finds himself with a number of these existential questions. In Nana, he writes:
And I know that God doesn't exist
And all of the palaver surrounding it
But I like to think you hear me sometimes.
There’s an existential reach happening here as Healy tries to bridge the terrifying gap between head and heart. The longing for our loved ones, the hope that we’ll see them again someday, all of this is for naught on atheism. These emotions we feel at the loss of someone, while perhaps real, aren’t rational. The atheistic story can’t absorb those emotions and those feelings of loss. From dust we’ve come, and to dust we will return.
The Christian story, on the other hand, validates those feelings of loss and grief. Not only that, but it also says that we will not forever suffer those feelings. This side of Genesis 3, evil, suffering, and loss are in no short supply. There’s a reason we suffer these emotions; they’re not simply a byproduct of natural processes. They mean something, and they point to something. They mean, in their foreignness, that they’re not feelings we were originally created to feel, and they point to a day when "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” In an existential age with existential questions (and in every age, really), the Christian story offers us a lens through which we can see the world for what it is, what it was supposed to be, and what it will be.