Skip to main content

chaplainWant to hear stories about having a clear and certain faith shattered? Talk to Army chaplains and soldiers with PTSD.

In a recent article in The Washington Post, Michelle Boorstein lets us in on “What happens when the military chaplain is shaken by war?” 

The article struck me as giving voice to a common phenomenon among the faithful, and that I also discuss in The Sin of Certainty: life happens—particularly some sort of suffering that doesn’t fit into familiar categories—and your faith gets rocked.

Only in this instance, we are looking at the face of war, something most of us don’t get near to. I deeply appreciate the perspective.

Boorstein recounts the experience of Army chaplain Matthew Williams, who as a pre-war ordained pastor thought he had a good handle on suffering: “God allows suffering because this world is temporary.”

But after seeing his friends’ faces blown apart and marriages over which he officiated crumble, his view changed.

I thought I had a handle on suffering. I thought I had a handle on understanding the sovereignty of God. I didn’t know crap. . . . At the end of the day, what I know now is: I’m alive, I believe in God, I have faith, and that’s where it stops. . . . 

It doesn’t get much deeper than that. . . . I don’t think anymore that there is some grand design . . . It just is. . . . 

Now I’m living my faith more. . . Before, I felt I had to stick with the party line. Now, I’m unaffiliated,TSOC but I believe in God and my soldiers. . . . 

Actually, if you ask me, Williams has gotten plenty deep—letting go of thinking we know when we don’t but trusting God instead.

The article is fairly brief and the comments are worth reading, too.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.