What if?

What is a sign of emotional doubt? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Imagine you’re a Christian with some background in apologetics. Now you have someone who is coming to you who’s also a Christian and is doubting and you present a case to them and make it clear throughout that this is where the overwhelming evidence leads. The person you’re trying to help agrees that all that evidence is extremely strong, but ah, here comes the objection.

“But what if?”

This person isn’t disputing all the evidence you’ve brought forward. They have no argument against it. There’s just this little thing in the back of their mind that says “Yeah, but what if all of that is wrong?” When this happens, you can be sure that you are dealing with an emotional doubter.

It has been said that emotional doubt is the most common kind of doubt. Based on my experience, I agree with it. Men and women can both be emotional doubters. For women, they have the advantage that they usually know that. Men are more stubborn and wanting to say “It’s not my emotions. It’s not my emotions.” I have encountered a number of men telling me their doubts are intellectual and I’m listening to them and hearing all the warning signs with my mind telling me “Emotional doubter. Emotional doubter. Emotional doubter.”

For instance, my former roommate and I once regularly met with someone who was agnostic and tried to answer his questions, to which I think we did successfully. At one point, we were out having lunch with him and his Christian wife when he said “I know in the end you two are just going to fall back on your feelings and experiences to confirm Christianity,” to which both of us immediately went “NO!” It is a kind of approach we both couldn’t stand and still can’t. He was quite surprised at that not knowing how to handle it.

So what is to be done with this kind of doubt?

First off, it can happen to anyone. Being an atheist does not make you less emotional. Being a Christian does not make you more emotional. There are emotional atheists and unemotional Christians. There are Christians who believe for emotional reasons. There are atheists who disbelieve for emotional reasons. To be clear, I consider it wrong to believe or disbelieve for those reasons.

Second, when one is in a state of high emotion, it’s not the time to be making decisions that are major, including choosing to follow a religion or abandon it. Around our house, when one of us is in a state where we know the emotions are taking the lead, it’s important to let the other person be the surrogate frontal lobe as it were. Let the person whose mind is not clouded at the time speak and help the other. Of course, this is still resisted to a degree, but it is an important step. If you can’t trust your thinking at one time due to emotion, then talk to people you do trust. At times, this could be a wise professional counselor as well.

Third, realize that this does not mean emotions are bad things. We should be thankful we have them. I do have a friend who is actually a sociopath. Not in the sense that he’s a vicious murderer or anything, but in the sense that he really feels no emotion. When he has lost loved ones in the past, he has not felt anything about the event. I am quite thankful I am not like that. I have a friend who is in ministry who has said that the relationship I have with my wife is unusual on the spectrum and says I should thank God every day that I am a lover. Sometimes I forget, but I try to give thanks every day. It’s a good thing!

Fourth, remember the parable in Luke 14 of building a tower and the king going to war. The choice for Christ is best not to be made as a sudden decision, although growing up in the church many of us did that. One should really consider what one is getting into (Or in the case of apostasy getting out of) before one decides.

Fifth, trying reason might not work. That is, arguing against yourself. It can often be best to realize this is a season and it will pass. Let your emotions die down. You don’t stay on edge forever. Until you’re not on edge, you can always rely on others.

Next time, we’ll look at more about emotional doubt and dealing with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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