The Doubting Christian
“Just share your testimony, they can’t argue with what God has done in YOUR life!”
“When I doubt, I just remind myself of that one moment in my life that I made Christ my Lord.”
“If you cannot remember that moment, friend, repent and make Christ your Lord, today could be that day for you!”
“You are asking questions you don’t need to be asking, you are venturing into a ‘slippery slope’”.
Ever heard anything like this? Pretty common in Church spheres. It serves many functions. 1) It makes preaching revivals a little more exciting because you can solicit responses, and watching people walk down aisles at church gets us all jacked up. 2) We do not actually have the necessary response to people struggling with doubt, so we throw this out there as a straw man. 3)It can be a common tool used to sweep away the fear and insecurity that comes with serving a God that cannot be seen or known in an actively physical way (the way you drink coffee with your buddy). Many days I can remember praying in earnest to a God I was unsure even existed, like I was simply pouring my guts out to the surrounding four walls and nothing more. This is a frightening feeling for someone who has surrendered his life to the service of this God, so why all of the sudden was I sitting there wondering if He was even a real thing?
It is in those moments of doubt and fear that I would always hear people spewing the stuff quoted above. Doubts are considered a dangerous and evil thing in the life of the Believing Christian. But why? Jesus and the prophets and Paul all speak against doubt, but not in the context of sin, but rather a weak faith. The more spiritually neurotic of us, in many cases, need these doubts. For some of us, the notion of believing without doubt is oxymoronic. How can we believe and stake our lives on something we have not investigated? Why would I invest my life savings in a corporation without as much as discovering whether or not it exists?
Further, I can remember times when sharing my doubts rattled the cages of those I was sharing with, and it began to occur to me why we speak so simplistically about doubt.
The fact is that I was presenting a threat to someone’s entire system, and they were not prepared to deal with that. The response was defensiveness, and a retreat to the ‘moment’ mentality that many Christian’s end up hinging their entire belief system on. Sharing with me that I need to be working myself back to that original prayer that started my Christian walk (When Jesus and I went Facebook official), and I would feel better.
My theory is that I am not just simply surrounded by millions of people with a stronger faith than me…
There appears to be a theological insecurity wrapped up in the foundation of men and women who claim Christ as Lord. My question to these men and women is simply this: do you have any other reason, other than grasping at events (we end up calling answered prayers), or a feeling in a worship service(we call it the Holy Spirit, but in most cases its a fog machine or synthesizer), or your ‘moment’ to believe? Have we actually wrestled and drawn conclusions on our own? Or are we just regurgitating?
If all we can rely on is this ‘moment’ of salvation, perhaps we should keep pressing forward in our understanding of who He is.
The unfortunate reality for some of us is that we haven’t even allowed ourselves to investigate to the point of critical thinking, much less fully fledged doubting the core truths of Christianity (because slippery slopes and stuff… right?). Some of us are just okay with whatever we are told. We believe what our pastors tell us. We throw around the terms “orthodoxy” and “heresy” so flippantly that we are afraid of questioning the system in place. We somehow forget that theological systems such as denominations are manmade entities. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Billy Graham and the like were JUST HUMANS. Just as subject to the fall as we all are. Just as sinful and putrid. So where does this reckless abandon to submit to their beliefs and teachings come from? I believe it is a misplaced trust and simple ignorance to the forming of these systems and the people that taught them to us. It took perpetually critical men and women who observed the institutions in place to see it corrected and progressed in a way more honoring to God. We trust the one in place because it has been there our whole lives, but is our faith in the human mind such that we would trust their theological positions without investigation? I’m talking about your pastor, youth pastor, mentor, peers, etc. Are you willing to revisit the things you were taught and pursue a better understanding that comes from your OWN investigation?
The reality of the situation is that we can’t even read our Bibles objectively. Preaching the Word of God in many cases is simply run through the framework of one’s Calvinism or dispensational theology. Though Calvin did not commentate with an agenda necessarily, the formalizing of his theology has become a system we abide by. In other words, our system precludes the message, and the message is worded to fit the teacher’s framework. (is this not manipulation?)
I want to go down as an enemy of this kind of thinking. I believe simply buying into the built up system just because its the one everyone buys into is foolish. For instance, most of us take comfort in the phrase, “only God can judge me,” which should be the single most terrifying thing we ever hear, yet its a popular phrase, but we should not take comfort in it, nor buy into the narrative it communicates (people are our greatest enemy rather than our sin before a holy God).
I believe the man or woman who doubts their salvation or even the existence of God will ALWAYS be better off in the long run than the one’s who don’t.
The challenge I have is for the doubter, and the ‘non-doubter’ alike. Doubters, go doubt. Sure, the notion of a magic man in the sky pointing and zapping is not good for the natural process of logic your brain follows, but you know that there are good and compelling reasons to believe in an intelligent designer. And if not, then walk away, if you can, you never were, reach out to your local church and talk to your pastor about this.
Non-doubter, how have you made it this long without an issue? My challenge for you is to take a minute and observe the things you believe. Ask yourself what your personal convictions are. How do you feel theologically about alcohol? Tattoos? Mixed linens? The end times? Prayer? Money? Now follow these up with a brief look at how you arrived at those convictions. Are they your convictions? Or are they someone else’s that you just adopted as your own on the basis of trust? If the grey areas of personal conviction are just adapted versions of some sermon you heard your youth pastor give a decade or two ago, what’s to say you haven’t done the same thing with the blacks and whites of Christianity? Christian, form your mind through study and prayer and investigation.
My point is this: plunge into your doubts, your faith is strengthened by it. Embrace the discomfort, He is kind and gracious to those who doubt (read any of the Gospels… or the entire Old Testament). He remains steadfast, and even desires to see us through these seasons (Jn 20:27). Worry that you are wrong about this whole thing. Worry that you have no salvation and that you have only convinced yourself of something (Mt 7:21–23). Allow things to bug you, because the beauty of the Gospel is that Christ has promised to never leave you (Mt 28:20). The Holy Spirit dwells in the very soul of those who claim His lordship in their lives (Jn 14:26). Doubt just means you have a brain. So relax. Believe what Scripture says about His presence in your life (Rm 8:26). Walk through your seasons of doubt in the objective knowledge that He guides you through it, even though you don’t feel it subjectively. Remember that you are SEALED (Eph 1:13) and declared RIGHT (Rm 5) with God, and walk on.
You are not a heretic if you have questions that other people cannot answer.
Doubts are not the same as approaching a cliff. Doubts are the apparatus by which we learn whether or not there is a cliff, and how to proceed responsibly in the knowledge that it does. Doubts are like driving school. The answer is not to simply get your mom to drive you around for your entire life because its dangerous and you trust her. You have to learn the skill. You have to mature and take ownership and responsibility. The same is true with this belief system. Lean on leadership, but move forward. Seek, learn, doubt, and pursue His glory in your life. Christianity, though clearly a communal religion, has an element that is uniquely for you and the Lord alone. Don’t believe because everyone around you does, or because you do not know anything else. Take responsibility and ownership of YOUR belief system and wrestle with it to move through this life more responsibly and with a peace that could have never come from you (Phil 4:7).
Relax. Take your doubts in stride. Breathe, and proceed. He is good and steadfast, the journey is a good journey, and He is guiding it.
The reality is that your doubts will either bring you full circle back into a restored and increased joy in the salvation He has given you, or help you to understand that you are not a Christian, and that clarity is a healthy thing because now we can work from there!
Agree? Disagree? Let’s discuss.