Apparently it was in making a documentary about St Paul that Jonathan first heard the suggestion that the conversion of St Paul was in fact an epileptic episode. Edwards' response:
"It made me realise that I had taken things for granted that were taught to me as a child without subjecting them to any kind of analysis."I think this response says to me that we need to learn a lesson from this in our ministry to young people. Of course we shouldn't be telling them that all the events in the Bible can be explained away by science BUT we should tell them that people will suggest it. We should encourage them to THINK about the Bible not merely to READ it but to read it WISELY and REFLECTIVELY.
What is it about one tiny comment like this that can unpin a whole life of faith. I remember someone else (much younger than Edwards) who decided the whole Bible must be"made-up" because the angel in the book of Isaiah needed to use TONGS to pick up the coal which he touched to Isaiah's lips in the vision. Surely an angel wouldn't need tongs - was his assertion.
Fowler's model (though in my mind not perfect) talks about the different stages of faith development and I think it's the transition between each of these stages which can be the most difficult. I'd say Jonathan Edwards may have been stuck in one of these stages and fallen between the gap. Of course i don't know him so I wouldn't want to judge but his description of the St Paul incident and his reaction to it suggests his faith was more at the
Stage 4 - "Synthetic-Conventional"and hadn't worked through the stage 5 - Individuatice-Reflective stage. Some might even argue he IS in stage 5 and in taking charge of his own beliefs has rejected those of his upbringing.
Jonathan Edwards does not seem to be missing his faith but rather rejoicing with the zeal of the convert. He puts it this way:
"But I feel internally happier than at any time of my life, more content within my own skin. Maybe it is because I am not viewing the world through a specific set of spectacles"I'd argue that he IS viewing the world through a specific set of spectacles. It's just his prescription has changed. He's not viewing the world through Christ's eyes anymore but through those of the secular humanist.
So there are three challenges to us as youth ministry practictioners:
How do we disciple our young people to THINK about their faith not just learn it?
How do we help young people move from one stage of faith to another?
How do we Christians deal with the secular humanist spectale wearers who consider themselves "neutral"?