Charles Shingledecker knows all about the difficulty of doubt. For years, he suffered with the feeling of being alone when long-standing doctrines and traditions raised uncomfortable questions in the silence of his private thoughts.
Generally, the Church has done its utmost to enforce that feeling of isolation. That’s certainly what Chuck discovered when he first tried sharing his doubts with other Christians.
The various institutions of Christianity would rather not deal with the stumbling blocks that challenge believers to remain on the path of faith. Chuck’s inquisitive nature left him with no choice but to do so. Now, in this book, he illuminates the dark places with candor, compassion, and a good dose of irreverent humor. He describes archaeological and scientific discoveries that discredit biblical literalism, the illogical aspects of Christian dogmas like the Trinity and Virgin Birth, the moral consequences of the doctrine of hell, and the failures and sins of institutional Christianity. Even the existence of God is not exempt from his honest inquiry.
All the while, Chuck remains a person of faith, a faith that enables him to look beyond the cold, hard edges of a purely material world and contemplate the holy and transcendent. But he will readily admit to being a Doubting-Thomas kind of believer.
With an understanding smile, Ed calls him a “part-time Christian,” and he’s fine with that. Freedom to Doubt even says as much:
Some days, I wake up an atheist, and go to bed a devout believer. Some days, I “know” that God exists, and on other days I’m pretty sure he doesn’t. Some days I’m angry at God, the Church, Christianity, and religion in general. At other times, I can appreciate the beauty in faith and religion. [p. 176]
Chuck was baptized Roman Catholic and raised in a religiously tolerant home. He was “born again” at the age of nineteen and spent most of his twenties trying to silence a “still small voice” of doubt that pointed out all of the contradictory claims found within the Bible and the various Christian traditions. His love and respect for history, mixed with a desire to discover which of the Christian denominations was most true, took him on an unexpected journey.
This got him introduced to the writings of Biblical scholars, archaeologists, historians, theologians, and eventually the Church fathers. A decade after his quest began, he joined the Eastern Orthodox Church, and was tonsured (ordained to the lower order) of Church Reader in 2004. Several personal tragedies and a sudden onset of multiple health complications challenged Chuck’s faith in new ways, forcing him into his own personal dark night of the soul–a reality he’s come to embrace as a Christian and a writer.
Chuck’s first book The Crazy Side of Orthodoxy was published in 2011 by Regina Orthodox Press. In addition to his book publications, Chuck has had editorials published in various newspapers as well as opinion pieces addressing the current state of his own Eastern Orthodox tradition.
He’s dedicated a significant portion of the last fourteen years to familiarizing himself intimately with the historical-critical method. As a young Christian, Chuck didn’t just want to know what the Bible said, but why it said it. To do that, he had to immerse himself in the lives of the people who wrote the Bible, to understand the cultures and worlds in which they lived. He engaged deeply with the biblical texts and theological writings, applying the historical method in a quest to get a glimpse of an ancient mindset that is otherwise lost.
This dedication to taking seriously both his faith and doubt immersed him in the field of Biblical studies and Christian origins. His thousands of hours of reading include a spectrum of theological authors including NT Wright, Walter Bauer, the Dutch Radicals, John Dominic Crossan, Rudolph Bultmann, and our very own Robert M. Price. His home library includes the entire Church Father’s collection in hardcover and books by Bauer that have been out of print for decades.
Chuck’s more than 120 hours of online attendance of audio and video courses include Yale’s Open Courses Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature by Dale B. Martin, Introduction to the Old Testament by Professor Christine Hayes, Bart Ehrman’s Lecture series, Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program: Historical Jesus, taught by Thomas Sheehan, and Dr. David Calhoun’s audio lecture course Ancient & Medieval Church History by Covenant Theological Seminary. He’s spent another 200 hours listening to various lectures and podcasts, including Rabbi Tovia Singer’s Let’s Get Biblical Series, Phillip Harland’s Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean, and of course Dr. Price’s show The Bible Geek.
In addition to his studies and writing, Chuck does occasional contract work for Tellectual Press, helping out with some of our editing and proofreading. He enjoys working on the annual fireworks show in his area and chasing the Northern Lights when they appear without clouds in the way.