Monday, June 16, 2008


"There lives more faith in honest doubt, / Believe me, than in half the creeds." -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Our only child is our son Seth. He will turn 20 next week and is a student at the University of Washington. He is attempting to earn a double-major in Physics and Chemistry and then (as of this writing) plans to enroll in medical school with the goal of becoming a neurosurgeon.

We are a very close little family, the three of us. Seth knows that he can talk to us about anything (and he does).

Seth was raised in a Christian home and has been part of churches all of his life. He has seen the good, bad and ugly of modern Evangelical Christianity. The church that we were part of when he was a teenager left a particularly bad taste in his mouth because of some of the nastiness and pettiness that occurred as the church was in its death throes (caused by financial malfeasance and charismatic lunacy on the part of the senior pastor).

Seth rejected the only form of Christianity that he had ever known. For the record, so have I. The difference is that I've sought to get at the heart of following Jesus without all the man-made crap added on. Seth, on the other hand, threw the baby out with the bathwater. He now refers to himself as a "Deist"--meaning that he does believe in God, but more-so in the transcendent sense than in the imminent sense. He doesn't quite know where to place Jesus in such a theological matrix, so he is setting Christ off to the side for now.

Strangely, this doesn't bother me as much as you might think. Seth is a scientist and, as such, seeks truth via empirical observation. What he has observed of Evangelical Christianity--especially the Fundamentalist Charismatic variety--has not impressed him. Seth is a very honest young man, with a low tolerance for bullshit (something he inherited from my father). He likes the absolutes that he finds in physics and mathematics.

Mixed in with his scientific aloofness towards Christianity, there is a chip on his shoulder from what he has observed as a church-kid. Yet, he says he is leaving the door open for Jesus. He just wants/needs to have his own encounter, not live off of the experiences of others (such as his parents). I can understand and appreciate that--having had such an encounter myself with the Living God when I was about Seth's age (and apart from any church setting).

Quakerism is often referred to as an "experimental" and "experiential" faith. It seems well suited to the scientific mind, as evidenced by the large number of scientists that have been Quakers. I'm hoping that, eventually, Seth can find a haven in Quakerism--as his mother and I have. But I'm content to wait and let God work. Right now Seth's attention is on college and girls and exams and girls and social activities and, did I mention, girls?

The Amish have a custom known as rumspringa, where their youth go out and experience the world before (hopefully) returning to the fold. The overwhelming majority do return and have a deeper appreciation of the choice they are making. As a Christian Universalist, I'm not motivated and stressed about the prospect of an eternity in Hell. Of course, like any parent, I worry that he'll make good choices and not get into (too much) trouble during his journey. So far, so good.

I continue to delight in Seth, as I know God does (just as He delights in all of us). I will continue to be fully there for him (as I know God is fully there for each of us). But Seth wants his own encounter with God. All I can do about that is wait and pray and trust that, in God's time, Seth will come to own for himself the incomparable joy of following Jesus.


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