How can you help some real dude with doubt? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
I was sent this today by someone who was hoping to see if I’d respond to it. I do aim to please. Let me state at the start that I am not a professional counselor or psychologist, but I do know that doubt is something serious and can be affected by any number of things.
For instance, if your health is not in the best state, you could be more prone to doubt. If you have just undergone a traumatic event, you are more prone to doubt. Some medications could alter your mind and make you more prone to doubt. It could be a lack of sleep or eating the wrong thing or any number of things. Of course, it could also be receiving really hard objections to what one believes.
Doubt is extremely common among all people. People who have never doubted what they believe are people who have not taken it seriously enough. I wish that more Christians were forthright and honest and saying that they were wrestling with doubt. When I meet someone who is doubting and fearful his faith is not true, I want to celebrate. This is someone who is taking his faith seriously.
Unfortunately, too many are not doing that, especially pastors. Our pulpits are filled with pastors who have not studied the reasons why they believe what they believe. Their sermons are just calls to ethical principles and feel-good messages about how much Jesus loves you and won’t it be great to get away from this old sinful world?
In the link above, unfortunately, I don’t have much information. I don’t know this guy’s medical history. I don’t know his educational background. I don’t know what he has going on in his life. Therefore, I really do not have as much to go on, but I’ll take some of what he says and see what we can gather from it on dealing with doubt.
“When you start doubting the faith, there are days when you just wake up in a state of unbelief. “
This is certainly true, but what I’m wondering is what was this guy doing with his doubt? We are often told by well-meaning counselors “Read the Bible and pray.” This is an insult to God, the Bible, and the person being counseled. Now this is part of the process I agree, but it is not the whole deal. Prayer and Scripture are not meant to be magic cures.
For instance, let’s suppose intellectual doubt is there. It won’t help intellectual doubt to read a book that you’re intellectually doubting. This is especially the case if there’s emotional doubt. After all, emotions have a way of overpowering reason and the person in the state can interpret everything in a negative light. We’ll see that this is what happens to the dude in this story. (And I keep saying dude since the blog is “SomeRealDude.” It is not meant as disrespect.
“Usually something will set it off, but in my case, today I simply woke up unbelieving.”
Absent from this is any mention at this point of an evaluation of the evidence. I have a suspicion that this was more of a felt position than a thought position. This is my suspicion because too many people in the world today use the words “think” and “feel” as if they’re synonyms. For instance, the Christian who says “I don’t feel like God is leading me this way.” We often judge moral commitments on the basis of feeling. In our marriages, love has been seen more as a feeling than an attitude and commitment.
If this kind of change can happen just by waking up one day, then can we really see this as a case of examining the evidence and pondering it? I would not even want it to be the case that someone just wakes up and becomes a Christian. I want Christians with solid foundations.
“I was in a funk most of the day because of this and right before lunch, I had some time to quietly sit at my desk. I began to get sick to my stomach as I processed the implications of my 5 hours of unbelief. I considered the potential damage it could do to my marriage, my daughters, and the friendships I have developed with so many wonderful Christian people through the years and my eyes began to well up with tears.”
All understandable, but also largely emotional, which causes me to suspect a lot of emotional doubt behind the intellectual doubt. Note also the person is panicking about their condition. Last night, I counseled someone who was doubting and told them to not panic. Doubt is not the end of the world. Doubt is common and if all you want is truth, then what do you have to fear if you find it?
“After work, while driving home, I listened to a podcast show by Robert M. Price where he showed just how ridiculous Joshua’s long day really was. Upon briefly researching an apologetic answer to this, I found this link where the author argues that the writer/redactor of Joshua was using modern phenomenological language to describe the movement of the sun across the sky. The problem is, the Hebrews actually believed that the sun traced across the sky in the hard dome of the firmament. They didn’t believe that the earth rotated, they believed, as far as we know, the exact opposite. After Dr. Price explained this, I thought to myself, “Yep, more malarkey. Its no wonder I woke up not believing this stuff. Talking donkeys . . . sun standing still in the sky, geesh, I can’t believe I have seriously believed these ideas for so long. Man, this is the stuff of fairy tales.””
As you can imagine, I have great qualms with considering Bob Price a reliable source. I also wonder why this guy was wanting to listen to Price. Note also that in his search for an answer, no books were cited. It was just an internet source. Is the desire to save faith not even sufficient enough to go to your local library and study up on it?
Some sources on the internet of course point to books. An example can be found here. Please note that at the start of the argument, the arguer gives FIVE different explanations for this. Five of them! Our dude has heard one and deemed it insufficient. Personally, I agree in many cases. Too many apologetics arguments can be weak and contrived.
Note also something else lacking. There is no argument against miracles. There is just an assumption. Miracles are obviously ridiculous if there is nothing outside of the universe and all is the result of material interactions, but that is the point under contention. Is that the way the world is?
Another point to consider is there is nothing about the resurrection of Jesus. It’s as if to say that because I have a problem with an OT passage, that means Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. This is all-or-nothing thinking that would be unacceptable anywhere else, but people seem to think works just fine with religion.
Part of this is a hang-up over Inerrancy in our modern world. There are some Christians who think that if there is one error in the Bible, nothing in it is true. If you can prove the Bible is wrong about how many horses Solomon had, then Jesus didn’t rise from the dead! The case for the resurrection needs to be taken on its own. We are not trying to get people to believe in Inerrancy, but to get them to believe in Jesus.
“After coming home, getting a good meal and then spending time with the kids, and then briefly contemplating to write this article, I am exhausted but not as discouraged as yesterday. I almost feel as if my unbelief was exhausting and depressing during the first half of the day but quite a relief during the latter half. Yes, I know, I’m a mix of emotions; but what do you expect when you wake up an agnostic about the Bible you’ve believed, preached, defended, and formally studied and counseled others with for almost 20 years?”
How much formal study has gone on? I don’t know. How much reading? I don’t know. The author’s not mentioning of books I find problematic and his reasons for abandoning Christianity are not centered on a disproof of the resurrection. Of course he’s a mix of emotions, which is not the time to be making a decision like that. Sit back. Relax. Go see a movie and enjoy yourself. When your mind is clear, sit down and really examine the evidence. By all means, examine both sides. Then make a decision that will be rational and informed.
“Not perceiving the sustaining work of the Spirit today,
And this part makes me wonder as well. What is it the Spirit was supposed to do? I see nothing that tells me the Spirit is to protect us from doubt. I mainly see the Spirit leading us in sanctification based on our own study of Scripture. Too many Christians seem to think the role of the Spirit is to make them feel good emotionally. This is not the case.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind chatting with the dude and seeing what’s going on. Naturally, this will be left on his post. If he wishes to engage, he is free to.