Sunday, August 21, 2011

Doubt: Part #1

I say part #1, because I assume that I will write about Doubt several times if I continue writing on this blog. The main reason I assume this is because Doubt is far and away the biggest struggle that I have in life.  Yes, I definitely have other symptoms, but I believe that most all of them spring from this central question that bounces around in my brain far more often than I would like (especially since I would like for it to be never): "What if I'm wrong?"

There is a big difference between knowing something on an intellectual level, and knowing something to the extent that it permeates your very being.  I have struggled with Doubt since High School.  Because of this, I find apologetics to be very interesting (and useful) reading.  However, even in this, my brain is a bit over-analytical.  I start thinking: "Well, don't the other religions have something like this as well?"  And I also think (keep in mind, I have a degree in Mathematics in which I did a lot of proofs) "Since I'm coming into this proof with a predisposition that I want to believe that Christianity is true, doesn't that cloud my judgement?  How do I know that these facts are convincing to an unbiased third party that would read them neither trying to prove nor disprove Christianity?"  (By the way, these phantom "neutral parties" don't exist in religious conversations - everyone has something they believe in, even if that something is the belief that it's not possible for them to know what is true.)

Why does this Doubt permeate into all of the other areas of my life?  Well, let's take evangelism as a first example.  (Keep in mind that evangelism isn't something that I think would come especially naturally to me anyway, as I like to be liked and, from what I've read of Jesus, being liked wasn't exactly something high on his list.  Loving people and confronting them with the truth were much, much higher)  When you are telling someone about Jesus and in the back of your mind is "What if I'm wrong?", then your answer to yourself is "then I'm tricking us both."

Now, with my over-analytical personality, I have gone over this issue.  So, what if I truly am wrong and I live my life as a Christian.  Well, there are two potential situations here: am I living my life as a sold-out Christian, or a fear paralyzed Christian.  If I live as a sold-out Christian, then, as Paul states "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."  (1 Corinthians 15:19 NIV).  Conversely, there is the person that lived the fear paralyzed life.  If he is wrong, then one of two things happens: someone else (another religion) is right, or nobody was.  If nobody is right, then I guess there's not anything I could have done.  If another religion is right, then I suppose that the one I hope it doesn't wind up being is Islam.  And (analytically) this would be because they don't believe in the cycles of birth, death and rebirth that most of the other religions believe in, and so if one of the other religions is correct, then I would at least have another chance of getting things right.

Anyway, I got off on a bit of a tangent, just so that I could share some of my thoughts.  Here's something much more important that I thought of while I was writing this: What if I am right, but I allow my life to be paralyzed with fear?  Now, I believe in a very gracious God, and so I do not believe (maybe this is that I hope) that it will not be a salvation issue.  However, I believe we are all held accountable for our actions - or our complete lack of actions.  If Christianity is true, and fear has paralyzed me, then I am in a situation in which I must stand before the Lord and tell Him that I have done nothing to advance His kingdom nor to show His love.  I would much rather actually live like Christ died for me, because I want to stand before the throne and show how His love transformed my life, and show what He empowered me to do with the gifts that have been given to me.

How do I do this?  How do I overcome my doubt?  Well, I can tell you for a fact how you can't do it:   reading apologetics.  These books are awesome, and I really enjoy them.  However, though I've read several of them, and am convinced to at least 99% on an intellectual level, it has not overcome this doubt.  Therefore, this doubt must be a spiritual issue.  And with any spiritual issue, I believe the most powerful weapon I have is prayer.  This is something that I need to be in continual prayer about - and if anyone reads this, feel free to pray for me about this as well.  Pray that I am able to overcome my doubt and truly know in every part of my being how incomprehensible the love of Jesus Christ is.


  1. I have similar struggles with doubt. Your talking about apologetics reminds me of something C.S. Lewis wrote in his essay "Religion and Rocketry":

    "What we believe always remains intellectually possible; it never becomes intellectually compulsive. I have an idea that when it ceases to be so, the world will be ending. We have been warned that all but conclusive evidence against Christianity, evidence that would deceive (if it were possible) the very elect will appear with Antichrist. And after that there will be wholly conclusive evidence on the other side. But not, I fancy, till then on either side."

    Essentially, faith is never a completely conclusive matter; it requires incomplete knowledge (which is one theory why faith and hope are beneath love in the theological virtues: love is forever, but "now we see poor reflections as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face"--later, there won't be need for faith and hope; they shall both be achieved). In any case, I will pray for you.

    One book that was a help to me in my darkest days of doubt is an out-of-print book by John Fischer called "True Believers Don't Ask Why" (the "don't" is crossed out). I can't completely vouch for it as it's been eight years since I've read it (it could be a nostalgia book, one that was just what I needed to read, right when I needed to read it, but having little lasting value), but I'd be happy to send it if you're interested in reading it. Two other books that have helped me are "The Man Who Was Thursday" by G.K. Chesterton and "Silence" by Shusaku Endo (both fiction).

  2. Thanks. I may see if I can get a copy of some of those somewhere. No need to send it to me, though - I'll probably look for everything either at the library or electronically.