Science, scepticism, doubts and beliefs

Can a Christian have doubts?

Answered by  
"Doubts", Henrietta Rae, 1886

“Doubts”, Henrietta Rae, 1886 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we think of doubt and scepticism, we often think of something that is incompatible with faith. However, the Bible has a positive attitude towards being sceptical — in fact, it commands us to be! For example, in 1Thess. 5:21 (NIV) Paul says:

Test everything. Hold on to the good.

God knows there are a lot of false ideas in the world, so he wants us to test the concepts that present themselves to us to see if they are good or not, reject the bad and hold on to the good stuff. John has similar advice in his first letter:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. [1John 4:1]

When it comes to the arena of ideas and beliefs, scepticism is to be part of the characteristics of a Christian. We can often be afraid of doubt, seeing it as always the antithesis of belief, but it is, in fact, as an element in the process of scepticism that leads us to test everything, a necessary component of a Christian’s life. If we don’t have some level of scepticism we will end up believing all sorts of rubbish, things that are false and incompatible with Christian faith.

A Christian faith is a faith that requires evidence; based on a sceptical review of the evidence, it sorts out the good from the bad and holds onto the good.

The limits of scepticism

What we’ve seen of scepticism so far implies that we needn’t continue to be sceptical about something that we have verified to our satisfaction. Once we have verified something, we can trust it. This is what Paul is talking about when he says,

‘Test everything. Hold on to the good’

(i.e. when we have found something to be good we no longer need too test it but can rather trust it), and it is true in everyday life, as well as in science. So, once we have verified the evidence for faith in God, we can release our doubt and trust the evidence.

When doubt turns bad

Science & Faith (song)

Science & Faith (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However much faith we have, there will probably be time when we still doubt, doubting, perhaps, even the existence of God. This is pretty natural and usual. All sorts of people often have irrational doubts about all sorts of thing, be it their upcoming performance in a job interview, or the ability of a plane to stay airborne. These doubts are irrational because they go against the evidence: you’ve interviewed fine in the past; thousands of planes fly everyday without major problem. Likewise with belief in God: after we’ve weighed the evidence and found it affirming in favour of belief in God, our subsequent doubts are irrational. In the words of Paul, we are no longer ‘hold[ing] on to’ what we have previously verified. When this happens, we need to remind ourselves of the basis of our faith, the evidence that brings us to belief, be that the witness of the Jews, the evidence of the empty tomb, etc.

For some people, their main struggle as a Christian could be over a specific moral issue. For others, this may not be a problem but, rather, their Christian fight could be over faith at its basic level. Neither is unusual, and both require the effort of reminding yourself of the truth of the matter and holding on to it. Mentally walking through this process is commendable.

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Preceding:

Some one or something to fear #5 Not afraid

Where is the edge

Caricaturing and disapproving sceptics, religious critics and figured out ethics

Science & Faith

Science & Faith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Please do find also to read:

  1. The truth is very plain to see and God can be clearly seen
  2. To mean, to think, outing your opinion, conviction, belief – Menen, mening, overtuiging, opinie, geloof
  3. Self-development, self-control, meditation, beliefs and spirituality
  4. Control your destiny or somebody else will
  5. Answering a fool according to his folly
  6. Faith, things a person believes
  7. Belief of the things that God has promised
  8. Faith is knowing there is an ocean because you have seen a brook.
  9. Faith antithesis of rationality
  10. Concerning Gospelfaith
  11. Uncovering the Foundations of Faith
  12. Life and attitude of a Christian
  13. Walking in love by faith, not by sight
  14. Trusting, Faith, calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #1 Kings Faith
  15. Faith and trial
  16. Being Justified by faith
  17. A Living Faith #1 Substance of things hoped for
  18. A Living Faith #2 State of your faith
  19. A Living Faith #3 Faith put into action
  20. A Living Faith #4 Effort
  21. A Living Faith #5 Perseverance
  22. A Living Faith #6 Sacrifice
  23. A Living Faith #7 Prayer
  24. A Living Faith #8 Change
  25. A Living Faith #10: Our manner of Life #2
  26. Faith is a pipeline
  27. Faith and trial
  28. 1 Corinthians 15 Hope in action
  29. Living in faith
  30. The professor, God, Faith and the student
  31. Everything that is done in the world is done by hope
  32. Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark
  33. Wondering
  34. Earnestly Contending for the Faith
  35. A Jewish Woman and a Test of Faith
  36. What’s church for, anyway?
  37. Don’t let anyone move you off the foundation of your faith
  38. God receives us on the basis of our faith
  39. Feed Your Faith Daily
  40. Remember there’s a light in the next day
  41. It is a free will choice
  42. Irrationalism and irrationality
  43. Let me keep to “first importance” things

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  • The Reasonableness Of The Christian Faith (christianreasons.com)
    It is in vogue now for Christians to simply reply ” I just believe” when confronted with a supposed inconsistency between their “faith” and “reason” , especially when “reason” is assumed to be the exclusive property of the sceptic. It’s as if Kierkegaard was the final authority for us, and not, say for instance, the Apostle John, who states that the reason for his Gospel is to give evidence for belief in Christ Jesus.
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    We have solid forensic and philosophical evidence for our orthodox Christian beliefs, so instead of just shrugging your shoulders, and retreating into the “I just believe” mantra, try thinking through your beliefs, and why you believe them. Do the fruitful work of an apologist. Study Scripture, read good apologetics books. Be prepared to give an answer, not just to be right, or win an argument, but to actually engage in spiritual warfare, and pull down worldviews and smug defenses, as 2CO 10:4-5 tells us to do.
  • Scepticism (andramccallum2013.wordpress.com)
    Scepticism is unpopular. Socrates’ scepticism got him murdered by the Athenian polis. Opponents argue (sceptically) that scepticism is untenable and (less sceptically) that it flies in the face of common sense and ordinary beliefs. As David Hume admitted, one of the characteristics of scepticism is that “it admits of no answer, and produces no conviction.” More picturesquely, Novalis quotes the proverb “Philosophy bakes no bread.” Undermining conviction and consequent moves to impose that conviction on others through indoctrination, censorship, bribery, casuistry, coercion, etc., irrespective of whether that conviction is supposedly ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, is the very point of scepticism.
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    The point is that the problem posed by sceptical probing is not what people believe, but what evidence is there for those beliefs and whether this evidence is adequate. No one should be prevented from expressing their belief; however, everyone should be immediately challenged to produce for public scrutiny the evidence which compels their belief and which they would have compel ours.
  • Question everything: scepticism as a way of life (philosophyforchange.wordpress.com)
    Bouyed by the efforts of an army of lobbyists, and a cash-strapped media keen to exploit controversial debates, the climate sceptic movement, in particular, has been extremely successful in popularising the sceptical attitude, which is widely perceived as the appropriate stance of struggling working and middle class folk (the ‘battlers’, as we say in Australia) towards the policies of perceived elites. On the other side of the debate (such as it is), we find scientists and progressive journalists struggling in vain to persuade the sceptical public that science is itself a sceptical enterprise; that it is driven forward through the process of disproving, or ‘falsifying’, the results of previous research, and thus that any consensus view (such as that expressed in the quadrennial report of the International Panel on Climate Change) is based on a firmer foundation than people might expect.
  • The Reasonable, Evidential Nature of Christian Faith (str.typepad.com)
    Skeptics sometimes portray Christians as both “unreasonable” and “unreasoning.” The Christian culture only exacerbates the problem when it advocates for a definition of “faith” removed from evidence. Is true faith blind? How are true believers to respond to doubt? What is the relationship between faith and reason? Richard Dawkins once said:“Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that.”
  • [cancer|religion] Faith, science and the afterlife (jlake.com)
    Science works in a completely testable, repeatable manner for anyone, anywhere, with the right education, data and equipment. Faith is so profoundly individual that there are about 41,000 Christian denominations in the world, and thousands, possibly tens of thousands of other religions. Many if not most of them proclaim a monopoly on the truth, but they cannot each and all in their tens of thousands of revelations be in sole possession of the truth. To hear most religionists tell it, only one faith can be right. Theirs. In other words, faith is not testable and repeatable for anyone, anywhere; rather, it is profoundly individual.
  • What’s the Belief of Your Mind? (mindbehindtheface.wordpress.com)
    I think, if what I want doesn’t come through, I’ll be so hurt. Hence, my fear of disappointment keeps me from believing and receiving. That’s quite tragic! I wonder what my life will look like if I truly believed without doubt. If I had faith “as small as a mustard seed” Matthew 7:20. I wonder what mountains I will be able to move.
    +
    Light, Darkness & Subconscious Consciousness
    We have been told a lot of lies from the beginning of our lives from society. Try to build the word satan and santa out of these letters: s,t,a,n,a. You see? There are no added or unused letters to make those spellings. It’s been in front of our faces the whole time, but we just did not see it before; however, our subconsciousness did. Possibly you already knew. The light comes from darkness, but the light is ours to keep, for construction.
  • can a good person be a bad Christian? (somuchandsomuch.wordpress.com)
    How in the world do you know that you are being Christian the “right way” and they are being Christian “wrong”? Even when I was certain of my belief in God, I was still not convinced that I was absolutely right. I never viewed my beliefs as infallible, or the ideas I held to be true as universal. Maybe that’s why questioning it all has come about. Maybe my doubt was deeply seeded and inevitable.
  • Christian Agnosticism & Touching Earth (jerichobrisance.com)
    Things of the spirit cannot be interrogated by the same means as other truth claims. At bottom is an agnostic claim: we simply cannot “know” things in this realm, nor prove them, and certainly not disprove them, by any path of critical thinking or evidence.
  • From the Blog: Are we really seeing a Christian Spring? (rationalist.org.uk)
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30 thoughts on “Science, scepticism, doubts and beliefs

  1. Hi – I’d like to say that this argument is fundamentally flawed for 2 reasons:
    1. Your example of considering the irrational fear of plane crash involves a person being in fear, noting a prior conclusion they had, REASSESSING THE EVIDENCE and reaching a conclusion. You’re advocating no reassessment of the evidence in the case of faith.
    2. The approach of resting upon your initial assessment is ok if (and only if) your initial assessment was correct and no new evidence ever comes to hand that contradicts the original assessment. For example, people used to claim that earthquakes occurred due to the anger of God – now we know it’s due to plate tectonics.
    Hope you consider
    Scott

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    • The people claiming that it was God presenting earthquakes to people as a punishment do not know the Bible. God has not done such a thing. We also always point to the natural causes of disasters either finding their origin because of natural causes or of stupidity of human beings, e.g. cutting trees and therefore taking away the roots which could keep the ground together, causing mudslides.

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      • Sorry, but think you missed my point.
        My point was that prior to the scientific discovery of plate tectonics (let’s say 150 years ago), basicaly everyone (myself included) would have attributed the movement of the earth to God. Under your approach you’d have studied the evidence available 150 years ago, reached a conclusion and would not re-visit it. What I’m saying is that basically all conclusions should be constantly challenged – this is the essence of learning & discovery.
        To argue that if, for instance, you reached a conclusion a a child/young adult that the God of the Bible is real & no further examination of this conclusion is neccessary is to advocate non-critical thinking. This leads many Christadelphians to actively seek sources confirming their beliefs and actively avoiding sources that challenge these beliefs – pure confirmation bias.

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        • We do agree that perhaps many Christadelphians, like some other and more fundamental Christians(cfr Pentecostals) can have a formation by their parents from childhood which make them not to do any questioning further or to do any further research about God. Luckily there are also others who keep doing research and comparison between different thoughts to not only “actively seek sources confirming their beliefs” but not being afraid of also looking at sources that challenge our and the beliefs of others. When you look at several of our websites you will notice that we are not afraid to read works from other denominations, even from philosophers and atheists, and advice our members to do likewise. On this website you may already see the different opinions presented next to each other. We are not at all afraid of contradicting opinions and we do hope the different ideas do not put off our members to do a thorough continuous research.

          We do agree in all the Christian denomination, and as such also in ours, there are many different groups in one denomination, whereby there are people who are very conservative and only want to keep to the given strong values of which they consider they may be sure. Their avoidance than to read any other ideas or to come in contact with other ideas is according to us a weakness, or shows how much they are afraid to become wrongly influenced. In more than one denomination you might find groups who believe only one Bible translation is the right one or may be read and no books from people of other denominations may be studied.

          You will notice that we do not avoid sources that challenge our beliefs, nor the general Christian beliefs of the many denominations there are. We advice people to compare the many Bible translations and to find as much study material as they can, to make part of their continuous search for the truth.

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  2. A very thoughtful reply – thanks – much appreciated

    What doesn’t gel with me however is this – why would an all knowing, super smart and omniscient God not ensure that the scripture were clear enough to leave no room for interpretation? The Bible is meant to be his one major written work, and even through the use of man to write it, surely he could have ensured the scriptures don’t have room for interpretation. Surely he must have seen the confusion coming & people following incorrect interpretations through no real fault of their own?

    Thanks again for post

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  3. By the first action taken by man against their creator they doubted His right to decide everything, so god allowed them to think for themselves without imposing any strict regulation. Out of love He did not want them to be on their own. Therefore as a Good Father He gave them His advice. Like we as parents can give advice to our children they all may interpret our sayings differently or take liberties with our thoughts. In the same way the creatures of God take the same liberties and some may twist the words. This twisting makes them to react differently on one or the other saying.

    You can see that in many faith-groups which keep onto the Holy Trinity. Because they said God is the same person as Jesus they had to adapt the words written in other place or interpret them in a certain way. In case Jesus is God and Mary is the mother of Jesus, than Mary had also to be the mother of God, for example. In case you say the Word is a person or the Wisdom is a person, namely the person God than you must make Him to be a He or a She because the Word is masculine or the Wisdom is feminine. (Be careful this is what certain denominations say not us. According to us God is Spirit :> John 4:24)

    Those who took on dogmatic teachings at many places in Scriptures they do have to turn the things said in the chapter into the idea of their doctrine, instead of taking the words like they are really written there and for what they really mean. That is the reason why we are against any form of doctrine and advice people just to read the words in the Holy Scriptures with the understanding of what they mean in the original language, and to take them for what they say black on white.

    As God has given freedom to man at the beginning of time, to allow them to rule the world and to find out things on their own, we now have to bear the consequences and live with the possibility of different interpretations. But when people would be prepared just to take the Words of God for what they say, black on white, and would listen to their inner voice, god will be prepared to guide them and to give them inner feelings and insight so that they really shall find the Truth. But it is that preparedness to listen to the heart, which shall make it in many cases difficult, because most people do want to keep onto traditions and want to belong with the majority. They shall have to understand that perhaps the lovers of God do not belong to the majority of the world and that it is that what Jesus is about talking of the small gate to enter the Kingdom of God.

    In case God would not have left any place for interpretation and would have limited the mind to think different things He could again be blamed for the same thing as in the Garden of Eden. Now any body has received brains to think and interpret and the ability to use them. How we want to use them God allowed in the freedom He has given humankind.

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  4. Must say I again appreciate your effort
    Perhaps I should use a metaphor. Imagine I wrote an instruction pamphlet for a life-or-death medicine. Would it not be a good idea that the instructions were absolutely clear. To do so does NOT infringe on the users free will – just gives them the best chance of survival.
    I’m sorry, but if the Bible was clearly written it has NO IMPACT on free will – people can still choose whether or not they adopt the clear instructions.Don’t you agree?
    Unfortunately many Christians claim ‘impediment to free will’ as a cure-all excuse.
    Scott

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    • Yes we would agree on the fact when God would have taken care that the Bible would be in a clearly written language, everybody could understand correctly, people should and could have had the opportunity to receive the full insight straight ahead, the Book not having an impact on free will in essence, except having people to choose whether or not they adopt the clear instructions. But would you not think it is so already now. Clearly you think it is not clear enough yet.

      But when is something clear enough. Look at the instructions which are accompanying the furnitures of Ikea. In our country the official languages (Dutch, French, German) are provided with the business languages English and Mandarin, plus with some of the much spoken languages in this country, Arabic, Spanish, plus the Scandinavian languages. Additionally there are simple drawings added for the different steps to take. Having the many languages and easy step plan still many people do not succeed to put everything handy together.
      So when is something clear enough for people?

      In the Bible when people would take the Words black on white, like they are written, to us everything seems quite clear, but most people do want to keep reading the Bible from their point of view with their dogmatic teachings, and than enters the many problems , because than at several places they should have to look for adaptations or dogmatic twists.

      For example when there is written “This is my beloved son”, those who believe in a Trinity, say than this must be the “god the son”. When they than look at the young girl who put Jesus on earth and who is the mother of Jesus, this virgin than has to be the mother of God as well (when Jesus is God). As such you get many pharses which have to adapted to the concept of that thinking though nowhere in Scriptures you shall find such a thing said. But than they start twisting they sayings of the bible making subjects suddenly persons, confrater making the ‘Word’ Jesus and the ‘He’ a masculin god, the ‘Wisdom’ the ‘She’ a feminin god, though Scriptures tells us God is a Spirit (John 4:24). That Jesus after his resurrection shows his disciples the wounds to proof he is no ghost, is then expressively overseen by those who believe in the Holy Trinity, or suddenly they say ‘Oh yes, but there is Jesus a man.’

      In our eyes the Original words are very clear, and the many translations, sometimes also translated from a doctrinal view are also clear when people would not mind comparing the translated words in all phrases of the same book. When they consider the translated words and the meaning given in all places they would see that all bible translations do say the same and can have the same clarity If people would just take the words like they are standing there on the pieces of paper, and would not continuously fall back on Their assumptions and dogmatic teachings.

      therefore we advice people to put aside everything they previously have learned and to look as a ‘virgin’ to the pure words, letting them come in their head like they are printed in the book, and that way much clarification can come in the head. Than the Holy Scriptures shall be easy to understand.

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      • Interesting reply – thanks
        In relation to Ikea instructions, i understand what you’re saying but we aren’t talking about building a coffee table are we? That’s why i took the example of a life saving medicine. This is LIFE OR DEATH writings – the stakes are higher than Ikea instructions. Additionally, the Ikea company doesn’t claim it’s instructions were written by GOD!
        Though you claim everything in the Bible is very clear, the sheer number of interpretations and around 41,000 denominations of Christianity are an overwhelming testament that clarity cannot be used in relation to the writings of the Bible, and the message therein. You say you clearly understand it – others would vehemently disagree that you have the correct reading of the Bible.
        The worst thing is that God is apparently All Knowing – God knows all things – 1 John 3:20; Psa.147:5; Heb.4:13. This includes the past, the present, and the future. It includes actuality, and contingencies. That is, he knows what will happen, and he knows would “could” happen. This means he knew the writings of the Bible would lead to confusion when it was written – this is not something I would do, let alone an all wise, loving & knowing God.
        Just one other small item, which I hope doesn’t attract too much unwarranted criticism. You mention the original words of the Bible. I’m not sure of the Old Testament, but in relation to the New Testament, we simply don’t have the original words. We have NO original documents. We have copies of copies of copies, with multiple variations and errors. This is established fact – please research for yourself.
        Kind regards
        Scott

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        • Hi
          Just wondered if you considered my comments above and verified my assertions re access to original documents & message?
          Kind regards
          Scott

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          • Yes we did consider your comment and looked again at the original writing by Luke Buckler. In the past we studied and still do look at many old transcripts and we keep following up new findings.

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  6. Must say, I’m very impressed that you consider feedback – this is something that is rare for Christadelphians.
    Kind regards
    Scott

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    • Dear Scott,

      first of all thank you for having found this website and your willingness to give remarks or to question matters. We sincerely appreciate it that you wanted to take the time to react.

      It is a pity, not to say a shame, you did encounter already Christadelphians who did not want to answer your questions. We do not know which websites or people it could have been, but dare to ask you to consider perhaps they where not able to give an answer that could please you or perhaps they did not find the time to reply or just forgot it in their daily activities.

      You have to know that Christadelphians are not paid clergy. So all the preaching work, writing, phoning etc. has to happen on a voluntary base. Most of us do have to take care for an income and have their working hours next to their preaching work. This means they have to divide the work and try to make everything work. finding time than to answer sometimes difficult questions can than sometimes put aside because priorities have to be made.

      At this Website, though it is not something like a forum, we hope to be able to help as many people as possible. Knowing that we are just ordinary human being we also sometimes (not to say often) shall have to face our own limitations and perhaps would not be able to give a reply which will satisfy the reader. I am aware that many Christadelphians are preferring to stay safe in their own ecclesia and don’t dare to go into deep discussions, but I do think that is more a general problem having to face the negative attitude to anything that ‘smells’ like ‘religion’ and ‘God’.

      To our best knowledge we can only try to give a reasonable answer and only can hope some readers who come along too shall be able to add some wisdom.

      In the hope to find you reading more articles and hoping to be able to give some answers,

      yours sincerely,

      Marcus Ampe

      Like

    • Christadelphians are just ordinary people like everybody else. The only one Big Problem is that we are not with many. Our views are also not very popular which makes that often Christadelphians receive terrible e-mails in their mailbox. That has made them very reluctant to answer any question being asked at a forum by somebody they do not know. Often Christadelphians do like to get to know the person better before they go into conversation with him. Perhaps when you did ask a question to one of the few Christadelphians he or she did not know you enough to be sure his reply would give away his or her e-mail address and he or she would become bombarded with lots of spam or hate mail.

      Many of us have very bad experiences with our preaching. As well on the electronic as in the real life world we encounter many harsh reactions because we do not believe in the Trinity and because we prefer to live according to the commandments of the Divine Creator God.

      They forget that, or perhaps they test how far they can go, Christadelphians follow the pacifist teaching of the Nazarene Jew Jeshua (Jesus Christ), which we consider to be the Messiah or Saviour, who really died for the sins (= wrong doing) of us all. following Jesus his teaching we want to share our love for everybody, no matter which race, culture or even whatever thought they may have. that makes it very difficult for others to accept and to comprehend.

      On this site, the writers do hope to be able to come with some answers to questions people might have. Certain questions shall need to have an article, so perhaps the answer might not be given straight away, but could be answered in some longer note. (Lets hope.)

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