Have you heard of sharks that can walk on land? Or the “city-killing asteroids” being discovered in an uncharted region of our solar system? Or the company that wants to pay you $100,000 a year to taste candy?
As you might guess, the first two stories aren’t the threats they appear to be. The third is real, though, though it involves more than just eating candy. The good news is that it comes with an extensive dental care plan.
We should very much doubt what we see in the news. In these times of clickbait, fake news, and agenda-driven reporting, stories aren’t always what they seem.
However, doubt can be devastating when it causes Christians to question or even abandon the foundations of our faith. A recent conversation made me realize this fact.
A New Friend’s Struggle of Faith
Pope Francis is spending the week in Canada as a ‘penitential trip’ as he seeks to apologize on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the abuse Indigenous children suffered in church-run residential schools. “I humbly ask forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against indigenous peoples,” he said yesterday.
Between 1881 and 1996, over 150,000 Aboriginal children were separated from their families and brought to these schools. Horribly, many of them were starved, beaten and sexually abused in a system that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called “cultural genocide”.
Saint John Paul II also apologized in the year 2000 for the sins of Catholics throughout the ages against women, Jews and other religious minorities. The Southern Baptist Convention issued its own apology to victims of sexual abuse, as did Presbyterians and Methodists, among others.
These stories came true for me as I recently spoke with a new friend. Our conversation shifted to spirituality, and he told me that he grew up in the Catholic church and remained faithful to the church all his life.
“Now, though,” he said, shaking his head, “it’s just too much. All the abuse and scandal. I don’t want to go to church anymore. I asked if he had considered going to church. other denominations, but he had not. It was clear that the doubts that smoldered in his soul were deep and deeply painful.
“Why Does the Way of the Wicked Prosper?”
Yesterday we focused on overcoming temptation and sin. Today, let’s seek biblical victory over doubts. This is a personal subject for all of us.
Famous historian Will Durant sent questionnaires on the meaning of life to a number of famous people. After reading their responses, he published them in a chapter he titled “An Anthology of Doubt.” Who has not contributed to this chapter?
Researcher George Hunter says, “The number one factor in the secular public today is not guilt but doubt. The laity doubt the claims of the gospel, in part because of the plural truth claims people face today. They also doubt the intelligence, relevance and credibility of the church and its advocates.
Christians are certainly not immune to such doubts. When the first Christians encountered the risen Christ, “they worshiped him, but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). Jeremiah asked for all of us, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? (Jeremiah 12:1).
What do we do when we doubt our salvation or our faith or our God? How can we help someone else overcome their doubts?
Four practical answers
A: Be prepared for your doubts.
According to CS Lewis screw letters, the stronger your faith, the more likely you are to be attacked by doubt. Doubt is part of Satan’s strategy to paralyze and paralyze your faith and prevent your use by God. The stronger your faith, the more threat you pose to the enemy. So be prepared for doubts to come not because your faith is weak, but because it is strong.
Two: Be realistic about your doubts.
Our doubts and questions about God often come from questions to which we do not understand the answers. We want to understand the nature of God, or his eternal plan and how this crisis fits into it, but our minds are finite and fallen. Saint Augustine was right: “If you can understand it, it is not God. And Tennyson added, “Nothing worth proving can be proven.”
So be realistic about your doubts. Do you question what you cannot humanly understand? Are you asking for proof that cannot exist?
Three: Be honest about your doubts.
The only doubt that causes permanent damage is the one we don’t admit. Isaiah 1:18 in the original Hebrew records God’s invitation, “Come, let us discuss it.” God knows your questions, your doubts, your struggles. Be honest about them with him.
Four: Be biblical about your doubts.
Judge what you don’t know by what you do: God’s Word is true, and Jesus is His Son and our Savior. Find help from the word of God and his Son for your doubt, your question, your problem. Ask a trusted Christian friend to study the scriptures with you and pray for you. Don’t let doubt linger and fester in your mind. Bring him to the light of the Word of God now.
(For more on the reliability of God’s word, see my last article on the website, “Webb Telescope Suffers ‘Incorrigible Damage’ from Micrometeoroid Hit.”)
“O God of truth, deliver”
I’ve taught philosophy of religion at four graduate schools because I believe we should love God with our minds. We need to ask our questions honestly and find the help that Scripture and Christ give us. I closed each class I taught with a prayer that I invite you to share with me now:
Of cowardice, which shrinks from the new truth,
Out of laziness, who is content with a half-truth,
Arrogance that thinks it knows the whole truth,
O God of truth, deliver.