Faith

Living with the gravity of doubt

by Kenneth Chew // January 9, 2017, 1:44 pm

Living with the gravity of doubt

Brought up in a church culture where everyone is taught to “just believe”, many Christians grow comfortable and complacent.

We’ve got our own dialect of Christianese, hip pastors, and church identity.

But without addressing real issues experienced by real people, churches risk developing into social clubs isolated from reality.

One such issue is doubt. In the typical Christian scheme of things, “faith” equates to blind acceptance, while “doubt” is seen as rebellion.

Come on, just have faith! Throw your brains and critical thinking out the door.

Don’t bother figuring it out because God made everything beautiful. His grace is sufficient. Pray that pain, fear, or doubt away in Jesus’ Name. It’s a sin. Get behind me, Satan!

Why so down? Time to lift up your voices to our awesome God! Oh happy day! Rejoice! Eh, just force yourself to. The feelings will flow.

Oh, you struggle with belief? I’ll keep you in prayer. Maybe you should sign up for church camp. Early-bird ends today.

Such “faith” is more concerned with programmes, self-help and maintaining order than life-changing truth. It detaches sincere seekers from the church altogether, guilt-tripping them of rebellion when they simply want to understand. It’s a simple question of black or white, faith or doubt, spirit or flesh.

I’ve heard leaders complain about “difficult members” who “keep asking difficult questions” or “keep wanting to go for apologetics conferences”. They are driven to the edge of despair because they don’t know how to handle these daring and rebellious sheep.

Ironically, these “poor” leaders ought to take heart, because they’ve succeeded in the biggest task: Their sheep are hungry. They’re frustrated and unsatisfied, but they’re searching.

And they’ll get there. Those who seek Him find Him. The good news is that earthly leaders are not the Way, Truth, and Life. A leader simply has to point to the Source of living water and come alongside one’s sheep – lovingly, sincerely, authentically – and pursue God together.

The first step for us is to understand that where it is suitably wrestled with and walked throughdoubt directs us towards truth. Tension does not necessarily conclude with disbelief.

TENSION: TRUE FAITH’S FIERY CRUCIBLE

Labels, upbringing and feelings aside, the mature mind understands that belief must aim for truth. In this boat we find ourselves sitting alongside several of our perceived opponents. After all, truth is the quest of any sincere philosopher, theologian or scientist.

Unfortunately, truth is far more elusive than expected. In pent-up frustration, we become discontent with the ambiguity and subjectivity of religion. It becomes some sort of art – esoteric passions with form but no substance; style with little tangible authority beyond the formal structures and doctrine.

Doubt can direct us towards truth. Tension does not necessarily conclude with disbelief.

It doesn’t always make perfect sense, and you could join the dots in countless different ways.

Resigned to frustration, we dive deeper into doubt. We challenge. With raised fists and anger in our hearts, we are tempted to raze the Temple of God in our hearts and abandon anything other than unquestionable logic and empiricism.

I know it’s hard. But hold on.

WHAT IF YOU’RE EXACTLY WHERE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE?

Don’t skip the steps. What if God is bringing you through your doubt?

Sounds like lame positive-thinking? Paradoxical? Don’t take my word for it – it’s in the Book.

The Bible tells of faith heroes who disobeyed, cursed, ran away from, and wrestled with God. Jesus wrestled with His Father till bloody sweat fell from his face. Jacob’s given name “Israel” literally means “he struggles with God”. A look through the Psalms, Job, Lamentations and the Epistles will reveal the deep struggles of other men after God’s own heart.

We are familiar with the first part of Hebrews 11:6And without faith it is impossible to please him”. Traditionally, questioners and doubters within the church are silenced with this verse. Take it or leave it.

But it is what comes after that explains real faith: “because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

I believe a large part of those rewards is a clearer understanding of His love, character, will and goodness. When revealed to us, those very things will solidify, amplify and embellish our worship, for true worshippers must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

God is not a formula, magic genie or authoritarian dictator. He’s full of nuances, personality and secrets revealed only to earnest seekers (Jeremiah 33:3).

Some secrets of God are “sealed till the end of time” and not for us to comprehend (Daniel 2:22). But wait a minute. God also chooses to disclose His secrets to His people (Amos 3:7, John 15:15), increasingly so in our time (Ephesians 3:5).

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter. (Proverbs 25:2).

Don’t buy into the post-enlightenment rhetoric that if you cannot make sense of God or disagree with a verse in His word, He mustn’t exist.

God’s ways are so much higher than ours. It is our privilege to ask, seek and knock (Matthew 7:7) – and receive.

SEARCH WITHIN, SEARCH WITH HIM

Many come to faith by simple willpower or personal experience, thanks to the Holy Spirit. But there is special grace for the doubting Thomas in us (John 20:24-29). As you come boldly to His throne of grace, reach for the holes in Jesus’ hands and touch. Invite Him into your search.

“Blind” faith in or against God is avoiding the quest for truth. Your faith must never be blind. Where “proof” is unavailable, sincere faith must weigh evidence for and against.

I’m often a reluctant Christian. But in my great, wide and often painful search, I still know no better way to live.

Healthy scepticism points us to God, as long as we submit to the Holy Spirit. Invite Him in to renew your mind. Do not fear. You have nothing to lose.

With God, your doubt could become your testimony, just like many of the greatest apologists of the Christian faith – Zacharias, Strobel, Geisler, Yancey, Craig, Chesterton – who give their lives in defence of the Truth revealed to their hungry, seeking hearts.

Though many of these “giants” of faith disagree over some things, they found in the person of Jesus Christ the secrets of God.

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)

I’m often a reluctant Christian. But in my great, wide and often painful search, I still know no better way to live.

I could throw it all to the gallows and let go of every indeterminacy in my life. I could flee from my God-given reality, reject anything metaphysical and live purely on empirical terms. But that’s not much of a life, is it?

Detached from ultimate reality, life becomes arbitrary – a dream, gentle wind, or shooting star that burns into nothingness. That, too, is a denial of truth. Blind faith.

If faith is necessary for one’s existence, choose fight over rage-quit. Give me truth. If God does exist, we must wrestle hard to know the Way, Truth, and Life.

Fellow doubter, you might not feel full of faith, but the mustard seeds are planted. They’re growing. Boldly, humbly and earnestly sift through the mess, and He will meet you there.

About the author

Kenneth Chew

Kenneth is best understood through his impassioned Instagram posts, composed in the deep of night when the tumultuous world finally lies silent. He probably prefers dogs to cats.