Faith and Doubt


 

The deepest, the only theme of human history, compared to which all others are of subordinate importance, is the conflict of skepticism with faith.
WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

If you have doubts about your faith – don’t feel that you’re alone.

It’s also not a new thing.

The quote above is taken from Know Doubt, by John Ortberg.  It was originally published under the title Faith and Doubt.

One review of the book is –

In this refreshingly candid look at what it takes to live a life of faith, John Ortberg takes an honest look at the misgivings and uncertainties that often shake our beliefs as we navigate through the highs and lows of life. Reflecting on his own bouts with doubt and uncertainty, Ortberg shares with readers his discovery that, rather than being a contradiction in terms, doubt and faith may be very much a part of each other. He challenges readers to consider how doubt can motivate us to study and learn, how questioning expands our understanding, and how uncertainty can lead to trust. These challenges point us toward the relief of being totally honest. The right kind of doubt can be a gift—an action-generating truth that actually allows us to deepen our faith and intimacy with God. Written to challenge, comfort, and inspire readers, Know Doubt reveals uncertainty as a cause for celebration.((Ortberg, J. (2014). Know doubt: embracing uncertainty in your faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.))

Does that sound like you?  It certainly describes me.  Of particular interest, since it’s what I did –

He challenges readers to consider how doubt can motivate us to study and learn, how questioning expands our understanding, and how uncertainty can lead to trust. These challenges point us toward the relief of being totally honest. The right kind of doubt can be a gift—an action-generating truth that actually allows us to deepen our faith and intimacy with God. Written to challenge, comfort, and inspire readers, Know Doubt reveals uncertainty as a cause for celebration.

 

Some of the keys:

  • being totally honest
  • actually studying with the intent to learn
  • being willing to trust, once we have answered our doubts

 This book was first published in 2008.  It’s available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Etc.  

Another one, going back to 1740, is 

AN APPEAL
To all that Doubt, or Disbelieve
The Truths of the Gospel,

WHETHER
They be DEISTS, ARIANS, SOCINIANS,
Or Nominal Christians.
IN WHICH
The true Grounds and Reasons of the whole
Christian FAITH and LIFE are plainly and
fully demonstrated
By WILLIAM LAW, M.A.

How’s that for a title?  This one’s from England.  And written in Old English.  For anyone that may be willing to have a go at it, you can get it free from Google Books (it will open in the reader, although it’s page copies) or in HTML format from http://www.ccel.org/l/law/appeal/appeal.htm.

The very beginning of An Appeal to all that Doubt includes these words –

I Have Nothing to say by way of Preface or Introduction. I only ask this Favor of the Reader, that he would not pass any Censure upon this Book, from only dipping into this, or that particular Part of it, but give it one fair Perusal in the Order it is written, and then I shall have neither Right, nor Inclination to complain of any Judgment he shall think fit to pass upon it.

This adds two more important keys –

  • Don’t just “dip” into the topic.  Study it for what it’s worth.  It’s an important subject, so study it like your life depends on it.  Because it does.
  • There is somewhat of an “order” to the subject of faith.  Don’t jump into the deep end without understanding the basics.  The Apostle Paul talks about us building on the foundation laid by Jesus.  A builder wouldn’t build on a foundation without understanding much about that foundation.  Things like how strong is it, how much weight can it support, how can the building be attached to it, Etc.  In the same way, before we can work on our own faith, we need to understand Jesus, upon whom we are going to build.

There are many more books, to be sure.  I own many of them.  I have had, and sometimes still have, my own doubts.  Faith without them is blind.  Moments of doubt are how we grow.  It’s how we learn.  Because we’re challenged to learn.

When we have doubts, we have a couple choices.  One – we can give in to them.  BTW – I think ignoring them is the same as giving in to them.  Two – we can challenge them.  I don’t know about you – but I got tired of giving in to them.  

I read too many posts where people are giving in.  Giving up.  And encouraging others to do the same.  Why?  Because they think they are right.  But believing in nothing – what kind of way is that to live?  I’ve read where people say believing in God as opposed to believing in nothing is stupid – or words to that effect.  I will say – it’s not a good reason to continue to believe in God.  However – I see nothing wrong at all with having that be your starting point!  If that’s where you’re at in life – God or nothing – by all means, choose to investigate God!  Choosing nothing takes no effort.  Choosing God takes effort.  But it’s worth it.  And please, don’t listen to the scoffers who choose to not listen to all the points above – especially the ones from An Appeal to all that Doubt.  It’s worth doing.  Do it right!

I must have truth. Therefore I doubt. If I did not doubt, I’d be just another one of those suckers P. T. Barnum was so grateful get born once a minute; I’d fall for every carnival sideshow delusion that comes along. And I scorn delusion.

I must have hope. Therefore I believe. If I did not believe, I would cave in to despair. And I dread despair.
In addition to believing and doubting, there is choosing. I must decide which road I will follow. I must place my bet.


How to proceed

So – I’m not actually going to get into my own thoughts on resolving doubts.  Rather – to know what I think, read anything else on my site.  Then go check it out!  Do your own verification.  Check to see if I quoted the Bible correctly.  Remember – Adam and Eve got into all that trouble because they didn’t go back to check with God about whether or not the serpent quoted Him correctly.  And look what happened!

Check out the non-Bible stuff I write about.  Is it true.  Did I interpret correctly.  Are the conclusions valid.  I’m satisfied with them – for my life.  But we’re talking your life here.  You should show enough interest in it to be sure.

But then – when you check out other sources – do the same for them!  Like is said – It’s your life.  It matters!

There’s one other really important decision you need to make up front as well.  What do you want out of all this work?

  1. Do you want to believe in God?
  2. Do you want an open / honest investigation, with an open mind?
  3. Do you want to not believe in God?

This is really important, because it’s very likely going to influence the way you do the research, and the thought process you follow in evaluating it.  For instance, if you search on the internet – there are plenty of sites that will tell you why we believe in God.  There are also plenty of sites that do believe in God – but don’t tell you how they got to that point.  There are also plenty that will tell you why they don’t believe in God.   I think it’s important, when you check them out, to recognize their point of view – and evaluate them accordingly.

For those of us that tell you why we believe in God – I’ve already given you an approach.

For those that believe in God, but don’t tell you why – look at what they say.  Is that something you want?  If you do – ask yourself – why?  If not – ask yourself – why not?

For those that don’t believe in God – go back to the top of this post and check out all the points from the books.  I firmly believe that if we honestly seek God – whether that be with the intention of finding Him, right from the start – or whether it’s looking for answers to questions that cause us to doubt – not only will we find Him, but He’ll find us as well.

Why do I say these things?

This is about Thomas – one of the disciples.  Even though he had been with Jesus and the other disciples, he wasn’t going to believe that Jesus was resurrected until he had real physical proof.  He doubted.  That’s how we got the phrase still used today – Doubting Thomas

Jn 20:24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
Jn 20:26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Jn 20:28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jn 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 And look what Jesus said.  Whether we have doubts or not – it’s possible to believe – and we will be blessed for that belief.
Doubts are OK.  It’s failing to resolve them that causes problems for us.  Failing to properly investigate those doubts will lead to unresolved doubts, just as surely as not investigating them at all.

And – there will be more doubts later.  It’s not like it’s going to be a one time thing – and then no more doubts.  I wish that was true.  It wasn’t for me.  And it hasn’t been for anyone that I’ve read or talked to.

Here’s a couple more verses – to cover “not only will we find Him, but He’ll find us as well “

Lk 11:9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
11:11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

and

Rev 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

You see – it’s both ways.  We have questions – we can ask Him – and He’s already waiting for us with the answers, even before we ask.


 What’s in Know Doubt?

I’m not saying you have to read Know Doubt.  I liked it, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the one for everybody.  If nothing else, look at the introductions below from each of the chapters.  Maybe it will motivate you to read this book.  If not this one, hopefully it gives you some ideas on how to search via other means.

  1. FAITH, DOUBT, AND BEING BORN

    The deepest, the only theme of human history, compared to which all others are of subordinate importance, is the conflict of skepticism with faith.
    WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

  2. WHY BOTHER?

    Faith is a free surrender and a joyous wager on the unseen, unknown, untested goodness of God.
    MARTIN LUTHER

  3. WHAT KIND OF BELIEF REALLY MATTERS?

    Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.
    MADELEINE L’ENGLE

  4. LONGING FOR HOME

    I have become aware, not by my own wish, almost against my will, of an existence of another life of far, far greater importance and beauty than this physical one.
    HUGH WALPOLE

  5. THE LEAP

    Faith is a footbridge that you don’t know will hold you up over the chasm until you’re forced to walk out onto it.
    NICHOLAS WOLTERSTORFF

  6. EVERYBODY HOPES

    Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.
    C. S. LEWIS

  7. THE STRANGE SILENCE OF GOD

    We may cry out with longing and despair to the cold uncaring universe . . . but we will only hear silence in return. The universe is mute, devoid of all power to either affirm or deny the worth we place on either ourselves or on others. So be it. We do not matter to the universe.
    KENNETH A. TAYLOR

  8. WHEN DOUBT GOES BAD
    Life is just a dirty trick from nothingness to nothingness.
    ERNEST HEMINGWAY

  9. THE GIFT OF UNCERTAINTY
    Almost nothing that makes any real difference can be proved.
    FREDERICK BUECHNER

  10. WHY I BELIEVE
    My business is not to prove to any other man that there is a God, but to find him for myself.
    GEORGE MACDONALD

  11. THE CATCHER
    I just cannot read the Gospel story without knowing that I am being sought out in love, being called to life’s most sacred task, being offered life’s highest prize. . . . But I am not now arguing. I am only confessing.
    JOHN BAILLIE

Conclusion

Did you notice – some of those quotes don’t sound at all like writer has reached a solid conclusion for God?  Some of them haven’t.  That’s why they’re included.  To show that there are possible answers, even to those difficult statements.

My personal favorites are 3, 6 and 10.

WHAT KIND OF BELIEF REALLY MATTERS?  Because I fear that too many people with “not real” belief are out there, not realizing they don’t really get it.  Maybe that’s a result of incomplete investigation of what Christianity is about.  Maybe it’s because they’re unwilling to really do what Jesus asks us to do.  Certainly a host of other reasons as well.  I mention this because – if your goal is to find out what Christianity is really about – you need to go beyond these beliefs.  Don’t settle for what one author called Jesus of Suburbia (another good book by Mike Erre –

Like the first-century Pharisees, we’ve reduced Christianity to a set of propositional beliefs. Truth is, we’ve gotten away from what it really means to be a Christian. In The Jesus of Suburbia, Mike Erre reveals that we’ve created a Jesus in our own image. In a fresh, startling manner, Erre helps us understand that the real Jesus is calling us to live, act, and think in ways that overturn the status quo.

EVERYBODY HOPES  C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors.  He looks at Christianity and life from a point of view that’s just easy for me to relate to.  

WHY I BELIEVE  Like the quote says – all I can tell you is why I believe.  You are not me.  Maybe you can read what I write and say – yeah – I get it.  But maybe not.  You may not be able to relate at all to what I write.  Your circumstances may be totally different.  God created each of us as unique people  We’re not an army of little robots.  We should all have the same destination – eternal life with our Creator in Heaven.  But we most certainly will not all get there in exactly the same ways.  We are different.  Our experiences are different.  And we get to make choices all along the way.


And I think that last one really sums up my goal here – with the post and with the site as a whole.  Not to make you like me – believing because I believe.  Or even for the exact same reasons that I believe.  Maybe you will.  Maybe you won’t.  It’s OK.  If I can get you to honestly seek God – then my part is done.  Even my writing, I pray, is not from me from from the Holy Spirit – from God.  But your knowing Him – that’s between you and God.  I’m just hoping to sort of do an introduction – get you thinking – hopefully started in the right direction – but actually knowing Him – only you can make that decision.

I pray that this helps.  

And I pray that some day – we’ll get to meet in Heaven and compare notes on our journeys.

Have a blessed journey.

 

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