Sunday, January 20, 2019

I doubt therefore I am: On Doubt Part I

Note about my long silence... I actually wrote this blog about six months ago.  I let time pass so that the sting might not be felt personally.  I mean no disrespect or unkindness.  I hope to help anyone who is struggling with doubt.

“That’s me in the corner!  That’s me in the spotlight! Losin’ my religion!”

I had a conversation with a friend who has decided that he cannot remain a Christian, at least that was what I understood from his comments. He had doubts about teachings of the Bible and about the truth of the Bible itself. Since he could not reconcile these things, he decided he must abandon his faith.

First, I want to congratulate my friend for being honest.  Something counted against his faith.  I had a famous professor of Old Testament, Dr. Gleason Archer.  Archer used to say that “If nothing can stand against your faith, nothing can stand for your faith.”  What he meant was that if you could never be dissuaded from believing you were a fideist.  A fideist is someone who will continue to believe even when the evidence is against him or her.

Though there is a large argument between “evidentialists” and “presuppositionalists”, I have always agreed with Archer and other evidentialists like Norman Geisler and William Lane Craig, among others.  We should be able to give evidence when challenged for our belief and we should try in so far as is reasonable to answer challenges to the truth of our faith.

So, I applaud my friend that he is willing to go where he believes the evidence leads.  However, I have been provoked and saddened by how he carried out that task.

For one thing he seems to have kept his doubts to himself until he was convinced that the Bible was untrue and Christian theology false or mean.  He didn’t speak to anyone until he was convinced that he must abandon his faith.  This may have been due to fear of rejection or fear of consequences, but it seems rather like a form of academic pride. 

Everyone has doubts.  We all struggle from time to time and perhaps we struggle always with some shreds of doubts.  To assume no one can help, if that’s what he did, is to be rather arrogant.  It is to assume you are somehow enlightened, while your compatriots are Neanderthals, theologically speaking.

When confronted by doubts it is often the case that we are afraid of being rejected if we voice those doubts.  That’s quite understandable.  But there is a subtle temptation connected with doubts. It’s the idea that I am one of those enlightened ones who knows the truth of everyone else’s error.

If someone had a compound fracture, with bone sticking out of the ripped flesh and blood spurting out, we would immediately do first aid.  No one would blame the person (at least then) for being hurt.  Somehow, however, when we have doubts we tend to hide.  “I can’t have doubts. I’m a Sunday School teacher. I can’t have such doubts.”  Actually at least speaking for myself, doubt is an unwanted companion that I have struggled with all my life.  Everyone has doubts of one sort or another.

When we doubt, we should remember that we live in a community. We are part of a body, the body of Christ.  When one part of the body hurts, all parts hurt.  If a person hides their doubts and then suddenly announces their decision to renounce faith, they rip the body open.  I am sorry for the harsh images, but I imagine a TV show we watch here called, “The Incredible Dr. Pol.” Dr. Pol is a veterinarian. Sometimes abscesses grow inside the body until the sac bursts and pus flows out.  If it is too late, sepsis sets in and the animal dies.  A cancerous tumor can be similar.  The tumor grows while no one knows and then suddenly it is revealed.

Doubt is insidious.  It is ever present.  We need a strategy to deal with it before the sack of pus bursts.  If we are honest with each other and allow others in, we can get help.  If, however, we become seduced to the pride of being “in the know”, we keep others away and the illness progresses.

There is a scene in one of the volumes of the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis in The Silver Chair.  The children are in the castle of Queen Jadis. They have freed Rilian from the chair.  They had almost gotten away, but she keeps them busy, talking to them.  While she talks, she a green powder into the fire in the hearth. A bewitching smell comes over the children and they start to parrot her words, “There is no Narnia.  This is home.”  Suddenly one of the characters, an unlikely hero, Puddleglum stamps on the fire with his large webbed foot. Puddleglum is a Marsh Wiggle. He is a rather awkward, ungainly, gangly, pessimistic and strange creature who is equally strange looking.  It hurts Puddleglum a lot, but he knew that the only way to end the enchantment was to stamp out the fire.  Being a Marsh Wiggle he didn’t have the same sort of sense of smell and wasn’t bewitched.

I often feel like Puddleglum.  Unlike him, however, I’m color blind.  I don’t see things the same way as others do, literally.  However, I also don’t see things the same way because I have studied apologetics and philosophy for more than 40 years.  After all my studies I have some insights into the sorts of “powder” the devil uses.

In any event in the body of Christ there are many “doctors and EMTs.” We don’t have to and shouldn’t suffer alone when we doubt.  We should seek help before it’s too late. We should turn to our community of faith to find help.

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