Happy Halloween! I hope that you’re all ready for a fun night of costumes, candy, and apples in various amounts. By the way, have you heard about the off-broadway production called The Christians? I just read an article about it and it sounds like something that I’d quite enjoy. From the article I read, the play also raises an important and interesting question: when an individuals profession relies on their theological and/or religious beliefs (whether this be a pastor, missionary, parachurch minister, seminary professor, etc) when does it become unethical for that individual to assume the privacy of their beliefs? There have been many people who faced this question in different situations. Some, like Dan Barker, keep their change of belief secret for a time, or even deny to themselves that their beliefs and convictions are changing. Others, like Bart Ehrman declare it publicly, or even make it a point of argument in their professional work.
This question may be more complicated than it seems as well. Not only is financial and physical well-being tied into religious/theological belief in these situations, but in many cases the weight of two changing beliefs may not be the same. For instance, could a pastor who has publicly preached against drinking, and who leads a congregation that generally considers drinking of any kind to be sinful, rightfully keep secret a change of heart about whether the consumption of alcohol is sin? For instance, could he tone down his sermons, perhaps stop preaching that drinking is sin, but still warn against drinking in excess and refrain from any further public disclosure about his change in belief?
Could a pastor who is having a similar change in belief about the sinfulness of homosexual activity do the same?
What about a pastor who has come to believe that the bible is not the authoritative word of God? Or a pastor who has rejected the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ? Should these pastors publicly proclaim their change in belief? Continue to teach and preach doctrines that they are now convinced are not true? Offer to step down from their positions in light of their change in belief?
As always, write a 1000 word story presenting and defending your answer to the question. How should a religious professional handle his/her change in religious/theological belief?