Posts tagged Doubt
I don’t read scary books, but apparently a lot of people do. Stephen King, Mr. Boogyman himself, has sold over 350 million books. In fact, there is a forest strictly devoted to milling paper solely for his books. Okay, maybe I made that bit about the forest up, but the fact remains that his macabre mind has slain a lot of trees.
Last week, National Public Radio interviewed Mr. King, and he was asked about his beliefs in God. King asserts, “If you say, ‘Well, OK, I don’t believe in God. There’s no evidence of God,’ then you’re missing the stars in the sky and you’re missing the sunrises and sunsets and you’re missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design.” Here, he waxes both theological and philosophical. King echoes the thoughts of Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, who once said, “The order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of mind which ordered the universe” often leads men to believe in God. The Apostle Paul also makes his case in the same manner. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NIV)
Creation points us toward a creator. Here, Mr. King employs, whether knowingly or not, the teleological argument for the existence of God. Quite simply, creation works so cohesively together it seems apparent that it was designed by an infinitely powerful and creative mind. There are a number of constants in our universe that are so precise, had they been off just slightly life would be impossible. The odds that these life sustaining values arose solely based on chance is inconceivable. William Lane Craig asserts that the odds of these constants arising based on chance would be similar to “firing a bullet toward the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and nailing a one inch target!”
Later, King states in the interview that he also has his doubts about God. He shares, “But, at the same time, there’s a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, ‘Well, if this is God’s plan, it’s very peculiar,’ and you have to wonder about that guy’s personality — the big guy’s personality… I choose to believe in God, but I have serious doubts.” Here, I appreciate the honest way that he expresses his wresting match with faith. He looks at the cosmos and sees the hand of God, but he also struggles with big questions that cause him to doubt. Faith and doubt, these are opposing sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the presence of the other.
People that seek truth wherever it may lead often wrestle with questions and experience times of uncertainty and doubt. They also surge through periods where their faith is bolstered and rock-solid. It is interesting that King says, “He chooses to believe.” He could have meant several things by this statement, but I think at times when it comes to faith we must choose to believe in the midst of uncertainty and strive for answers and understanding. It was C.S. Lewis that once said, “Faith…is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
Often, Christians feel as though doubt, whatever the cause may be, means that they have lost their faith, are less of a Christian, or are distant from God. Doubt is often cast in a negative light. Yet by suffering through those periods of spiritual drought our faith often grows. You see, I have struggled with questions of my own, but instead of keeping my struggles a secret or becoming worried that I would lose my faith I chose to believe. I pressed forward. I prayed for answers. I talked with people. God has been faithful to answer my questions slowly throughout my spiritual journey. It is interesting for me to look back and see the questions that use to shake my faith, now only to realize that those questions are not even close to being a stumbling block for me. God is faithful.
Stephen King is right when he says that sometimes God is difficult to understand. Yet, I don’t have to completely understand God in order to have faith. The fact of the matter is, if I could fully comprehend God, He would no longer be God. He would simply be an equal. God reminds us in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” While God has been faithful to answer many of my questions and provide me with greater understanding of who He is, some of my questions will have to wait. Perhaps my finite mind could not even fathom the answers in my present state. At any rate, God has provided me, and I think all of humanity, with enough evidence for faith to be reasonable. He has answered enough questions for me to keep the faith, fight the good fight, and finish the race laid out before me.
I admire Mr. King for his honesty and candidness about his faith. I hope he continues to look for the evidence, wrestle with questions, and choose to believe during times of uncertainty. I hope, if he hasn’t already, that he would read the Gospel of John and fall in love with Jesus Christ as many of us have. I hope that we all keep searching and looking for truth. The believer must not let doubt keep him from asking questions and growing. I have known many that struggled with their faith for years because they would not allow other believers to be a part of their doubt. We are not alone in our struggles. More times than not other people have struggled with the same questions we have. We can only get answers if we seek God, read, study, and allow others to speak truth into our lives.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
When I first entered college, I was opened up to a great many new ideas. Questions I had never even thought to ask were posed to me. New worldviews I had never considered were showcased. Christianity was presented in ways that were foreign to me. I heard discussions about how people approach Christianity differently and interpret scripture in contrasting ways. I had entered a Christian college, and yet a flood of new ideas competed for a place of acceptance within my worldview. There is no place that challenges a person’s beliefs more than the university campus.
Going into college, I had questions about my faith that I was uncomfortable with. At this point in time, I had never heard of apologetics. I would discuss things with people and search for answers the best I could. At one point, I remember just suppressing the questions in my mind. I grew weary of wrestling with questions I couldn’t answer. I remember a friend describing to me that one of his friends decided to walk away from Christianity. I worried what would happen if eventually I was presented with an argument against my faith that I could not account for, so I tried to force the questions out of my mind. I think a lot of Christians do this (and not just Christians, but people from all stripes). The problem is, when we suppress questions that are extremely important to the cogency of what we believe it creates anxiety and cognitive dissonance. Due to the anxiety and dissonance, the questions keep working their way to the surface, demanding answers.
I remember one day, feeling very pressed for certain answers. I decided that I had to seek truth, and be comfortable with following wherever truth lead me. I started talking to people about my struggles. I started looking for books that would give me understanding. Early on, I felt there were some conflicts between my faith and science. I approached a biology professor about some of my questions, and she equipped me with a strong apologetic early on. She reminded me that Science remains in a state of flux, but God is consistently God. She pointed out that we need to search for truth and seek answers, but that when we follow truth ultimately it always leads back to God. This relieved my mind some, and bolstered my confidence to find answers.
So from that day forward, I started challenging my beliefs and seeking answers to my questions. Looking back, many of my questions at that time were extremely naïve, but they were a big deal to me at the time. I found books that presented massive amounts of information. Sometimes I found answers to questions I was yet to ask, and sometimes my search for answers led me to more questions.
Over the years, certain beliefs have changed in light of new and convincing evidence. Other beliefs have solidified as I was presented evidence that was very supportive of what I believed. It has been a wonderful journey of faith, doubt, questioning, learning, and finding answers. I am so thankful that I started asking questions and looking for truth regardless of where it brought me.
I share this story for a couple of reasons. First, a big part of apologetics is knowledge driven. Debates wage back and forth. People search for answers. Books are read. Journal articles are scoured. Lectures are listened to. Books are written. Blogs are posted. Apologetics is steeped in academia and cuts across a great many fields including, but not limited to, theology, science, ethics, philosophy, etc. A mistake the apologist often makes is focusing only on this side of apologetics. We must balance the intellectual side with the personal touch. My professor took time to listen to my concerns, share her own perspective, encourage me, and point me in the right direction. We must remember to express love and give of ourselves when it comes to giving an answer for the hope that is within us. Our lives should also reflect what we proclaim to believe. We can be scholarly and present wonderful arguments for what we believe, but if we do not do so out of a heart of love we are not accomplishing anything. We become as the apostle Paul says, nothing more than a clanging symbol. As Gypsy Smith so eloquently stated, There are five Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, and some people will never read the first four.” The message must be seen in the apologists’ life before it is heard.
The second reason I share this story is to assert that we never come to a point where all of our questions are answered. I have found answers to a great many questions that I have had throughout the years, but there are some that will probably elude me until eternity. We have to be alright with not having all the answers. No worldview provides answers for every single question in a fully satisfactory way.
Apologetics is about giving the reason for our hope, and showing that Christianity has a prominent place in the marketplace of ideas, all the while exhibiting the love extended to us by Christ. For those moments where we arrive at a wall in our understanding or having our questions answered, we continue to look for truth. We pray for understanding. But most importantly, this is where the faith comes in. A certain amount of faith must be present for any belief system to operate.
We seek truth. We continue to look for answers. We rest on faith. We look at God’s faithfulness in the past and we trust Him with our future. We share the reason for what we believe and point to God’s love, mercy, and goodness. We give strong arguments for the hope that is within us.
Let’s not forget the personal side of apologetics, and let’s remember that not every question can be answered fully. One day all will be revealed. In the meantime lets seek truth and love people.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. – John 14:6
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
I use to know a guy that cleaned port-o-potty’s for a living (sounds like a glamorous job right?). Every few days he had to hose these portable poop-stops out. One thing he noticed while cleaning them out was a substantial amount of vitamins in the bottom. People would take their gel coated one a day’s, and they would slip right trough them completely intact. Sometimes, the exact thing happens with our beliefs. We simply swallow them without ever considering the validity of those beliefs. Then one day something comes along that calls our beliefs into question, and our worldview comes into serious doubt.
In the Christian community, sometimes “doubt” is considered a dirty word. “You are doubting? You better check yourself? Do you even know God?” I believe this is problematic. Instead of encouraging people to examine what they believe and get answers for their doubt, they are often told to stuff their doubts down and ignore them. Overtime, these doubts build up, a crisis occurs, and their faith cannot weather the gale force winds. Beliefs that are never questioned or examined tend to be shallow. Sometimes, doubt is what drives one’s roots deeper and deeper into solid ground.
I have had conversations with people who lost their faith in God. I have met some who read something, and it casts doubt in their minds about God or His existence. I have seen others question God due to events that happened in their lives. They question God’s goodness, His plans for them, or His provision. I have had seasons of doubt myself. What should we do as believer’s when we question? Seek truth. Always seek truth. When we are willing to follow the truth wherever it leads, I believe it will always lead us back to God. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) When we seek truth. When we look for answers to questions. When we weather through a dark night of the soul. We will find God, because He is truth.
We must remember that without doubt, there could be no faith. Faith and doubt coexist in a strange dance. Doubt can actually strengthen our faith. Ever single time I have asked hard questions and looked for answers my relationship with God has always been strengthened.
One day, we will no longer have to be subjected to bouts of doubt. One day we will see Jesus face to face. There will be complete certainty. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)
So how does God view our doubt? Is He disgusted that we could ever doubt His provision, presence, existence, or goodness? I think we can find an example in scripture as to God’s response in our periods of doubt. Remember Thomas? He had a doubt problem. So much that he got the nickname “doubting Thomas”. He did not believe in Jesus’ resurrection even though his cohorts testified to its happening. How did Jesus respond to Thomas? Did He berate or humiliate him? No, He simply said come, look, believe. God is gracious in our periods off doubt. You doubt? Come. Look. Believe. Seek truth, always.
If our faith is true, it can certainly handle our doubts. Sometimes doubt can even help us gain a correct understanding of life, God, and scripture. Because at times our beliefs are incorrect and need to be challenged so we can come to a correct understanding of who God really is.
Certainly, if we are constantly doubting there could be a deeper problem. I have met people that want every single question answered before they will commit to a belief in Christ. We may never have every question answered because we see through the glass darkly. Yet, we can have the important questions answered.
Have doubts? Seek truth. Always seek truth. God commands us to do so, and if we are honestly seeking the truth, we will find it.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed