Can a Christian have doubts?
“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) (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.
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 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Please do find also to read:
- The truth is very plain to see and God can be clearly seen
- To mean, to think, outing your opinion, conviction, belief – Menen, mening, overtuiging, opinie, geloof
- Self-development, self-control, meditation, beliefs and spirituality
- Control your destiny or somebody else will
- Answering a fool according to his folly
- Faith, things a person believes
- Belief of the things that God has promised
- Faith is knowing there is an ocean because you have seen a brook.
- Faith antithesis of rationality
- Concerning Gospelfaith
- Uncovering the Foundations of Faith
- Life and attitude of a Christian
- Walking in love by faith, not by sight
- Trusting, Faith, calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #1 Kings Faith
- Faith and trial
- Being Justified by faith
- A Living Faith #1 Substance of things hoped for
- A Living Faith #2 State of your faith
- A Living Faith #3 Faith put into action
- A Living Faith #4 Effort
- A Living Faith #5 Perseverance
- A Living Faith #6 Sacrifice
- A Living Faith #7 Prayer
- A Living Faith #8 Change
- A Living Faith #10: Our manner of Life #2
- Faith is a pipeline
- Faith and trial
- 1 Corinthians 15 Hope in action
- Living in faith
- The professor, God, Faith and the student
- Everything that is done in the world is done by hope
- Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark
- Earnestly Contending for the Faith
- A Jewish Woman and a Test of Faith
- What’s church for, anyway?
- Don’t let anyone move you off the foundation of your faith
- God receives us on the basis of our faith
- Feed Your Faith Daily
- Remember there’s a light in the next day
- It is a free will choice
- Irrationalism and irrationality
- Let me keep to “first importance” things
- 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.
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.
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)