The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt

Sooner or later, we all enter into the valley of grief, of doubt, of disillusionment.

Sooner or later, we all find ourselves among the searchers.

So notes historian and professor Joseph Loconte, on the core catalyst for his noted new book, The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt.

Loconte uses as a jumping-off point the New Testament account of The Road to Emmaus (i.e., just days after Christ’s crucifixion, two of his disciples encounter their just-risen Lord on a road, discovering it’s him only after a long walk, deep conversation, and a meal).

These two searchers experienced an instant of unshakable faith after a terrifying day in the shadow of a Roman cross, a very long Saturday coming to grips with all their hopes buried in a tomb—not to mention the often controversial three-year ministry of Jesus that left many of his followers not quite sure what to make of him. Their quest had been a lengthy one, and it had reached a breaking point until Easter Sunday and that walk to Emmaus.

Here’s Loconte offering a visual overview of the essence of The Searchers:

Loconte breaks it down further in the pages of The Searchers:

We assume that people living in the first century AD were more prone to spiritual “experiences” than we are as enlightened, sensible, modern people. The Jews accepted the possibility of such experiences. Surely these followers of Jesus, we reason, are desperate for some sign of hope after his brutal execution, some message from heaven to reassure them that their faith in him was not a tragic fantasy. They want to believe.

Many scholars of the Bible treat the accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection in just this way: the disconsolate disciples will believe almost anything in order to regain their psychological equilibrium. Their frame of mind, we are told, is like that of Fox Mulder, the credulous FBI agent from the TV show The X-Files. A recurring theme of the series was a haunting memory from Mulder’s childhood, when his sister was mysteriously abducted by aliens from outer space. Mulder’s faith in the existence of UFOs was constantly reinforced by his desire to find his sister alive. A poster over his desk with a picture of a UFO carried this caption: “I want to believe.”

But if this was the psychological mood of these two men on the Emmaus road, then we’re faced with a very odd tale indeed. “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” What can this mean? If these disciples are so anxious for a spiritual experience—a supernatural reunion with Jesus, for example—then why aren’t they immediately overwhelmed with fear, shock, or joy at seeing Jesus alive?

…For now, let’s admit that although we’re a long way from the people who lived in the first century, we share at least one thing in common. We often have a hard time recognizing the spiritual dimension to life. Whatever else they believed about the supernatural, these disciples had to face a world of physical hardships that often left little room for thoughts of God. Indeed, many Jews in Jesus’ day complained that the God of Abraham had abandoned his people. As one of their prophets lamented: “You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through.”

The two men in our story must have asked the same question we ask: If God exists, if there is no place in the universe where he is not present, then why does he seem so absent from our everyday experience?

In the illuminating pages of The Searchers, Loconte further mines the meaning of this famous exchange and does so drawing from literature, film, philosophy, history, and politics—all of which add breadth and credence to his point of view.

Above all Loconte’s warmth shines through his words, and it generously serves readers who’ve experienced (or are experiencing right now) the shaking of their faith and belief. He shows that doubt not only is a fundamental human experience but also that it’s okay to experience it…especially because where the road of doubt ends, faith can begin anew, both for those who lived in the first century and for us today.

TheBlaze’s very own S.E. Cupp interviews Loconte (see video below) about how the universal quest for faith is variously manifested. The most refreshing aspect of this congenial exchange is Cupp’s candid acknowledgment of her atheism right alongside her continued interest in spiritual things. Laconte is right there with her, offering perspective and encouragement—a wonderful primer for the civil exchange of ideas, something our citizenry desperately needs right now. Check it out:

With the London Games now behind us, Loconte also writes about how the Olympics can inspire us to be more God-like. Check out the video (below) of Loconte discussing this very subject:

And here’s Loconte discussing faith and doubt in the face of evil (specifically the Aurora, Colorado, shootings) with the Real News from TheBlaze crew: