Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Barriers to Faith

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This is a neat model I have come across. I don’t know where it is from, let me know if you recognize it. It states that there are basically 5 reasons (or five types of reasons) that people reject Christianity. It’s comes down to the brain, spirit, heart, gut or feet. They either:

  • Disbelieve intellectually   (Brain)
  • Don’t understand theologically   (Spirit)
  • Disassociate socially   (Heart)
  • Bothered emotionally/intuitively   (Gut)
  • Believe it does not matter   (Feet)

In my experience walking with people as they become Christians, there are usually at least two of these things at play, a primary and a secondary concern. Let’s go through each of them slowly

Mind:  Some people do not want to be Christians because they do not think the claims of Christianity are true or accurate. they believe that the evidential base for our belief in things like an extant God and a historical resurrection are wanting, or they believe something else instead. This one is the most straight forward to me.

Spirit: Some people are less concerned about evidence as explanation. They want make sense of the ideas and understand what Christianity is about. If it made sense and sounded good they would be on board but otherwise it’s just another religion. This is the churches favorite. We like to pretend that if we could just explain the cross to everyone so that they understand it they would believe it. For that reason I don’t see this often in the wild.

Heart: Christians can be awkward. And for some people their difficulty is not so much with understanding or identifying with the ideas of Christianity, it is identifying with the Christians. Often they have been hurt by a church or Christian community in the past, and their inclination is to stay away. Sometimes they just see no reason to start identifying, the church seems like no fun and threats of hell do not make us seem more fun.

Gut: Some people are primarily concerned with the moral and ethical implications of their beliefs and do not feel good about the way Christianity would jibe with their priorities. Often this position is demonized “Well you just want to sin” not necessarily! It could be that I don’t want to be judgmental or anti-gay! One young women I spoke to was afraid to consider herself a Christian because doing so would mean her parents were wrong, and that felt disrespectful.

Feet: Even with no other barriers, apathy is plenty strong to keep someone outside the faith. Would you join the “Squared Have 4 Sides Club”? Why not? Their beliefs are true, they make sense, the people seem nice. But what does it matter? Without a compelling reason to get off the couch an object at rest will stay at rest. Call to mission and social justice work wonders here.

As is the case in any helping situation “The presented problem is never the problem” so just because someone says the words “All Christians are hypocrites” does not mean that Heart is their primary barrier, it means that that was something that they felt safe enough to say to you at the beginning of the conversation and may be something they don’t believe at all but want to see how you will react to it.

I really like that about this model. I often see mind people like me treated as if their objections are nothing more than smokescreens and they really just need to sit and listen to this emotional case. But the truth is that there are smokescreens, and there are people with emotional concerns but there are also people with intellectual concerns. Some people even pretend to have emotional objections but that’s really a smokescreen to cover for their real logical doubts.


Written by RyanGaffney

September 16, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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