Posts Tagged ‘doubt’

Defend The Faith Day Three

January 8, 2015

What happened at the third day at Defend The Faith? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today was the last day of the conference for us. Not because it’s a bad conference or we just want to go home. Not at all. Allie just has a women’s retreat that she had booked months ago before we ever heard about the conference and she has to be home so we can take her to that. Still, I will make tomorrow’s post and Friday’s about the conference. Unfortunately, my guest for Saturday on the show had to cancel and I figure it’s both my Mom’s birthday and I have to pick up Allie from the retreat, so why not just have some time of rest?

The day started with David Calhoun giving a version of Lewis’s argument from reason. This one has some points that are not exactly found in Plantinga. It also doesn’t depend on your stance on if evolution is true or not. The only one it says is not likely true is purely naturalistic evolution. If you have a theistic evolution of sorts, then your position is still safe.

The next session was one of Tom Gilson speaking on a new twist on the quadrilemma he has come up with, according to Dan Wallace. His approach is to look at Jesus as the person of impeccable moral character and also all-powerful and asks how hard it would be to imagine the typical illiterate fishermen created such a character. My description cannot do the argument justice so I recommend you click the link and check it out for yourself.

After a lunch, Allie and I went to a breakout session of Tom’s again. Let me mention at this point to please be praying for Tom with a foot injury he has. In this talk, he talked about missions and apologetics. This was one of the best sessions I attended as we talked so much about what the average college student believes today. They have misconceptions about love, sex, they’re relativists, they’re naturalists, they are experiencing freedom for the first time, they lack a sense often of obligation or responsibility, and usually they rely on Google scholarship.

Of course, this is a generality, but much of it applies in various degrees to American college students. This is our mission field. We are no longer living in the 1950’s. It was the discussion in the classroom that made this one so great. Tim McGrew and Tom were usually together and Tim was sitting in the audience for this one and he had a lot of good things to say.

Next we went to a talk by Sarah Ankemann on morality and making a case for absolute morality. Might I say at this point also that it’s great to see more women getting involved in apologetics? It’s usually a man’s field, but we need both sexes to be involved. A lot of interesting discussion came about in this one as well and we do plan on having Sarah come on the show in April to discuss autism since she has a son on the spectrum.

Then came my time to speak. I spoke on Gentlemen, We Are At War. I had a full classroom so much so that some people came in and left. The audience was entirely receptive and I pointed out the dangers that are usually faced on the internet. More people need to learn how to deal with popular internet skeptics and various theories like Christ mythicism and the pagan copycat idea. Many people in the audience thanked me for the talk which was incredibly warming to hear and humbling at the same time.

After a dinner, Tim McGrew and I again spent some more time working on Bayes’ Theorem together. I’ve said before what a great figure Tim is and I mean it. In fact, when I saw him last tonight, I had to give him a hug again, and I think it was a sad moment for both of us. I think we’ve both enjoyed getting to connect with each other and it will always be a special memory. We’re both hoping we can do it again next year.

But you need to know the final talk was Gary Habermas. He spoke on emotional doubt and while it’s a talk I’ve heard several times before, I always hear something new in it. If you struggle with doubt, I really urge you to go to this web site and listen to his talks on the topic and also download two books he has for free on the web site. They will be a great help if you apply them.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow Allie and I head back, but it’s been a great time here in New Orleans. We really hope we can come back again next year!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Blessed Assurance

January 29, 2014

What do I think of this book by Pastor Eric Douglas? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

blessedassurance

Eric Douglas sent me a copy of his manuscript “Blessed Assurance” for a review. It’s a work meant to help the Christian out who struggles with the question of if they are truly “saved” or not. The book is a relatively short read. You could probably read it in a couple of hours and it depends on exegeting select verses from 1 John to make the case.

I do think Douglas is in the right with much of what he says. I do agree that there are many people who have several good actions, but they have no commitment to Christ. These are the kinds of people who are talked about in Matthew 7.

On the other hand, there are too many people who “prayed a prayer” and their life shows no devotion to Christ whatsoever and they just want to look back at an event and say “Yeah. I’m good” and then move on from there.

This situation unfortunately happens in many of our churches where we have placed an emphasis on conversion and have not placed one on discipleship. In fact, dare I say it, but if we placed more emphasis on discipleship, it could be that books like Douglas’s wouldn’t need to be written. I am glad that they are. I am just saddened that they need to be.

I do think Douglas has a sound approach to 1 John, though I probably wouldn’t hold to the same views as many evangelicals, such as I do think apostasy from Christ is possible. I’ve seen too many ex-Christians to think otherwise.

I also do think that Douglas does get right the kind of worrying that people in this situation go through, with a fear of Hell, and of course, it’s usually in this case a strong fundamentalist interpretation of Hell. (To which, again, more discipleship is the ultimate answer overall.)

I also agree that doubt should not be seen as an enemy. I like how Douglas in the book stresses that we need not run from questions like “Does God exist?” or “Is the Bible true?” or “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” Douglas is certainly right to say this doubt can lead to a greater commitment to Christ when we follow through and do the research!

So where do I think improvement needs to be made?

I think there could be more said in response to passages like the Matthew 7 “Depart from me. I never knew you.” People in the position of doubting salvation usually see themselves as the exception to the rule. They might say “Well Pastor Douglas, I think you’ve certainly made your case, but you know, if Jesus will say that to anyone, it’s going to be me.”

The first way I’d deal with this is getting people to realize that while their feelings and emotions play a role in the Christian life, they are not a determiner of if one is saved or not or even if one has the love of God or not. In fact, I would contend that the true Christian is often one who serves not only when the feelings are not there, but when the opposite feelings are there.

For instance, in marriage, when we feel a great love for our spouse, it is very easy to serve and adore our spouse, but when our spouse has done something to really annoy us, it is very difficult to love and serve them, and yet that is what we are required to do anyway.

In our Christian walk, we are guaranteed to go through all the phases. There will be times where we delight in serving Jesus and there will be times that that is the last thing we want to do. The question is not how we feel, but what is our duty, what are we called to?

The second way is I’d point out that 99.9% of the time that when I meet someone who is worried about their salvation, I can rest assured they already have it. The reason that they care so much is because of the purpose Christ has in their worldview. A lot of times people want to debate the question of eternal security. I say just make it simple. Just trust Christ and you don’t have to worry.

In conclusion, I think Douglas has taken care of the Scriptural side, but I think in a future addition, I’d add in a bit to deal with the side of the emotions running away with the reason as that is the root of the problem. An excellent resource on this can be found in the work of Gary Habermas on doubt. You can get two of his books for free on the topic at his web site of GaryHabermas.com.

I do think this work can help those who are struggling as I’ve said. I’d just like to see more expansion on dealing with the emotional turbulence that such a person is going through at the time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/13/2013

July 11, 2013

What’s coming up on this Saturday’s podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’m not a Calvinist. I hope none of you stopped reading at that point, though I suspect some might. I have many Calvinists who are good friends of mine and we never make it an issue whatsoever. There has never been a debate about it. On the other hand, I have known some Christians in the public eye who are Calvinists and make everything be about that and have a high air of superiority about them.

However, there are also some who, like my friends, are incredibly humble and Christlike in their demeanor and I am proud to call them a friend. That’s why I am especially honored to get to have one such friend be my guest on the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday.

Some of you might be familiar with Credo House ministries. My guest is C. Michael Patton from there. He writes also at the Parchment and Pen blog. It is a Calvinist blog that I as a non-Calvinist am happy to say that I feel just fine posting in and not having to be on the defensive with my position.

What I like so much about Michael is that he is a very down to Earth individual. You don’t get any nonsense from him. He is often a voice of reason in any debate and has a real heart for helping people who are struggling with theological issues.

When I have read a post from him on a controversial issue, even if I have not agreed with everything in it, I have found it to be a fair outlook. For instance, I have been pleased to see a post that he has done on the subject of Halloween and how he thinks that Christians should be responding to it.

The approach one gets from Michael is that he seeks to be a real Christian but he also seeks to be a real human. He’s all about bringing the issues down to the man on the street and giving an objective look at them and isn’t just going along with the crowd.

A more recent work that he did that I was quite happy with was on issues that don’t make or break Christianity. There were a lot of people disagreeing with him when he wrote about inerrancy and the inspiration of Scripture not being essential. Michael has held his ground. He talked instead about meeting an atheist and telling them he was going to forget about inerrancy and just went to 1 Cor. 15 instead and the approach was quite effective.

Michael will be joining us then to talk about what goes on in Credo House and to deal with these kinds of issues. We will also be discussing the issue of doubt as Michael has a real heart to help people who are struggling with doubts concerning the Christian faith and about their experiences as Christians.

I urge all of you to listen in to this podcast with my guest and friend, C. Michael Patton. The link to where the show is broadcast from can be found here.

Call in number to ask Michael your question live is 714-242-5180. Show time is 3-5 PM EST this Saturday!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Do You Doubt?

May 30, 2013

What makes people doubt Christianity? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A friend recently sent me an article by Peter Enns where Enns talks about the question of doubt and wants to know why Christians doubt. Doubt is a topic I’ve experienced a lot of familiarity with and take seriously. Most people know about my relationship with Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, both of whom have been very forward about their experiences in dealing with doubt. Both of them are also excellent scholars in their field.

This post is not going to deal with how to deal with doubt at this point. I’d just like to talk about what the problem is. This will also go to both sides of the spectrum. It can be why non-Christians doubt that Christianity is true, but it can also be about why believing Christians doubt that Christianity is true. This will be specified more in future posts.

Doubt is very common amongst Christians and in fact amongst anyone. If someone has a worldview and they never experience any doubt of their worldview or never have before, then that person is simply not taking their worldview seriously. Doubt is not a sign of a problem necessarily, but in fact can be a stepping stone to a greater understanding of one’s own worldview and if one has a wrong worldview, motivation to change it.

Generally, doubt falls into three categories. This does not just apply to Christianity. People can doubt any worldview for these three reasons.

The first is intellectual doubt. Intellectual doubt is usually seen as the most common, but in reality, it isn’t. Intellectual doubt can often be a smokescreen. A great way to find out of if intellectual doubt is the problem is to answer the question and see what kind of response you get. If you get a response that starts with “But what if?” then you are most likely dealing with emotional doubt.

Intellectual doubt is really the simplest of all to treat. The way to answer intellectual doubt is to just get more information. It means you go to the local library or bookstore and start getting out resources and doing the necessary study so you can learn. If one is never satisfied by such study, one needs to move on and see if there is another reason for doubt.

Emotional doubt is the next on the list. This is the one I’d say is the most common and is rooted not in reason, but in the emotions, although it often takes the guise of reason. Blaise Pascal spoke of taking the greatest champion of reason and suspending him on a platform of sufficient size over a huge chasm. Watch what happens as his imagination overtakes his reason.

This is the cause of phobias. For instance, if someone is afraid of flying, it will not matter if you quote to them all the statistics in the world on it being safer to fly than it is to drive. They will not be able to see it because of their emotions. This includes myself as well until I finally took my first flight and now I simply adore flying. One aspect I enjoy of going on a long trip sometimes is that I get to fly again.

Emotional doubt happens when what one feels overpowers what they think. For instance, one could say they don’t think atheism is true because life would be meaningless without God. I by and large agree with that, but that is not a reason that atheism is not true. It could be atheism is true and life is meaningless.

This is especially problematic since emotional responses are usually the reason we believe many claims. I think of the old hymn where it says “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!” Such a reason will not convince a world any more than the Mormons talking about the burning in the bosom convinces you. If a Muslim tells you he knows in his heart that Muhammad is a prophet, you are not going to be convinced.

Emotional doubt also goes with false expectations. When we expect God to provide certain feelings and that the Christian life should be a certain way, we will naturally have doubt if this does not happen. We can be guilty of wanting something that God never promised. There will be more on this later.

The problem of evil definitely falls into this. Evil in itself can never prove Jesus did not rise from the dead, nor does it disprove theistic arguments. These stand or fall on their own. Evil does give an experiential basis for doubt. It hits so close to home that it is a problem that needs to be addressed. The problem of evil is often addressed intellectually, which is really as an academic subject the way it must be addressed, but when dealing with someone affected by it deeply and presently hurting from it, one absolutely must touch the emotional side. I have often told people who I have taught that if you’re ever a pastor at a church and a woman comes to you from your congregation whose son just died in a car accident and she’s crying asking why God allowed this to happen, that if you turn into a philosopher and/or apologist at that moment, I will come over and smack you. Yes. She will need that, but at that present moment, she just needs to grieve. She needs a pastor and a counselor first. When the shock has worn off, then you can handle the intellectual difficulty. (Note that it is far better to deal with that intellectual difficulty prior. All Christians need to get an answer for evil in their mind beforehand.)

The final kind of doubt is volitional doubt. I have no doubt some Christians doubt atheism and some atheists doubt Christianity for these reasons, and they are the worst. It is not about a search for truth at all or seeking to not have emotions control reason. It is about not wanting to believe.

For instance, someone could not want to be a Christian because they have a sin in their life, such as rampant extra-marital or pre-marital sex, and they know becoming a Christian means giving that up and they don’t want to. Sin is a reason a number of people can refuse to become Christians. Some of you reading might say “That’s not me!” I contend only you and God know the answer to that one. If you are doubting Christianity, at least make sure this is not the reason why.

After all, suppose you think God is the most wicked being who ever has been. If Christianity is true, that won’t change the fact that He exists and that Christianity is true. It could mean you have a wrong view of Him and that false view of Him is blinding you from seeing Him as He is. There are some who have said they would prefer to go to Hell instead of being in the manifest loving presence of God. The sad reality is God is ready to grant them their wish. Instead, I recommend trying to see why God acts so different from what you expect. There is no doubt some emotional thinking in volitional doubt, but this kind of doubt deals more with the will. An emotional doubter can want to believe. A volitional doubter doesn’t want to, and it will require changing the will, a much harder process. Anyone who has overcome an addiction or tried to lose those few extra pounds on a diet should know this. You have to work to change what it is that you really want.

These ultimately are the broad categories of why doubt takes place. Over time, I hope to be able to look at these and give recommendations on dealing with them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Dude With Doubt

February 13, 2013

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,

Some Dude”

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.

In Christ,
Nick Peters