Christians and doubt

Isn’t doubt a feeling, too? “A feeling of doubt” is a common phrase.

All I am trying to convey here is that a bit of empathy can go a long way. If someone says they feel a certain way and are having a hard time with it then at least consider the possibility that this is not a switch they can just flip.

I would also suggest that it would really help to focus on the process instead of the outcome. To use an analogy, scolding children for getting bad grades will probably not have the same success as talking to them, learning how they learn, and then finding a learning strategy that works for them. Focusing on the process of learning can lead someone to a love of learning and a love of knowledge.

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I have been privileged way beyond warrant (I have zero warrant!) not to have had the extreme trials of that deconstructive sort anyway, in coming from a YEC background and then OEC/ID to EC (or ‘EP’ – and not Evangelical Presbyterian ; - ) Even when I told my wife (a longer-time Christian than myself) that I now believed in evolutionary science, there was zero trauma. This was post-nephrectomy, so that may have been a bit of a factor, the timing of DNA mutations and all.

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Okay, maybe? But similar to fear, what to do with it immediately becomes a choice (in the case of fear, after the first 90 seconds of fight-or-flight response… or is it 30 seconds). It can become habitual, too, a way of thinking that needs to be struggled against (as is again fear).

My wife will also testify to my empathy, as do my tears during the evening news, but I am insufficiently gracious here, I know. It is a good thing I am not in pastoral work, so I need grace from those I have certainly offended.

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Hey Mike, I apologize. I wonder if you are addressing someone else. I do not recall expressing concerns about individuality or
specific skepticism.

I appreciate your deep thoughts on this forum and your interaction.

At any rate, I apologize if I offended you. Please let me know. Please feel free to PM me too.

I am certainly still learning from you, Dale, Mervin, and the gracious folks here.

Thanks.

Addendum: I don’t know if it helps, but maybe my experiences influence my need for God to accept my doubts. When I was a child (as I told Dale earlier), I stayed awake at night, pleading for God to speak to me and show me what I was to do to be a better follower. When I was 20, I went through a time of severe worry for my salvation. It lasted about a year. I think it was through my parents’ Christlike, accepting love, that I was able to put those fears to rest–along with time. It has become more important to me than ever that God be just, kind, and accepting to those who seek Him–He can’t be any less so than my wonderful, earthly parents. Thanks.

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I agree it is not a choice, but might add that depression is more than a feeling ( cue Boston tune: I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away…)

Feeling down is a feeling, depression is an illness that seems to permeate the fabric of life. And as you said, it is not a choice, but one can chose to take measures to get better at times, though sometimes it is like drowning , and you sink beneath the surface.
I suppose to bring it back to doubt, if doubt grows, it can lead to the same despair that comes with depression, where return to normalcy seems impossible. For that reason, some have made the point that if you are in a time of doubt and deconstruction, you should temper your readings and study with those who also encourage and build up faith.

Edit to add link: Experimental Theology: Advice for Reconstruction

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Having had some in my life, I would characterize it as a continuum, not unlike your drowning example. (To make the analogy work, we have to make all the water bad.) You are not drowning if your feet are wet, but may be having some crummy feelings. If you are up to your knees, you are still not in real danger, but you are certainly not rejoicing like we are instructed.* But if you’ve let yourself get up to your waist in a rough surf that has strong undertow and there are dangerous rip currents, you are definitely in some danger, especially so if you are not a strong swimmer and do not know the proper behaviors (the right choices to make) to handle yourself well in such a situation. If the sand under your feet erodes in the strong current, you get unsteady in your balance and then a wave hits you and you get knocked down, now you’ve become thoroughly dysfunctional and really needing rescue (and you’ve reached a severe disease stage, having made poor choices, including not having gotten help sooner). But that doesn’t mean it’s all your fault – you’ve maybe had poor examples and bad teachers or been misled by the material you been reading and gotten into wrong habits of thinking. Authors that lead in wrong directions definitely bear responsibility! But we have to be careful what we pick up and not just feed our egos, comfort and flawed biases.
 

That depression is analogous to doubt is a good call – there are definite similarities!
 

From your link – yes! (Only two have followed it so far, and that includes me.) …

 


*Interesting fact that, not unlike being commanded to love God and others as yourself. What?! Isn’t love just a feeling over which we have no control?

Thank you for sharing part of your story. I can’t imagine what that must have been like. I come from a different direction and have a different story, but it’s not impossible that we are like two ships heading in the same direction carrying precious cargo for the King.

My comment about the illusion of the self was not directed against you, but was a reference to what we discussed in the thread on Blackmore’s book. I recalled you asked a wonderfully gracious question and had also liked a couple of my comments. So I assumed you would be able to relate to this “knowledge of the truth” that others are blinded to.

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I would skip Jean Vanier. He sexually abused six women.

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Thanks for this, Phil, a helpful read. I would add my man Thomas Aquinas to the author’s list. As imperfect as it is, the scholastic style of the Summa Theologica has been a good reminder to me that a robust faith doesn’t shy away from hard questions and strong critiques but rather is born of them. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” as Proverbs 27:17 (NIV2011) says.

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It didn’t quite seem right to ‘like’ your post. But I did want to thank you for sharing. More details on Wikipedia for those who want the background.

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I reread your addendum, and I think I conflated what you said there with your comment about being a missionary kid, which lead me to say I cannot imagine what your experience was like. Blame it on the cold medicine and it being too early in the morning.

But rereading the addendum now, I can relate to some of what you wrote. The fears, the doubt, were very much a part of my experience. And still are to some extent.

I have to run, but I’d like to come back to this, if that’s ok.

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Another post regarding doubt that is good:

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Thanks for that reference to Richard Beck. He wrote:

But you can’t go back. I often tell my students that there is a threshold of doubt, that once you start asking certain sorts of questions there is no going back. When it comes to faith there is a class of questions that, once you get to them, just don’t have any answers. When you reach these questions you’ll live with them for the rest of your life.

I think all the rest of what we read of Beck’s there was very helpful, but the above paragraph catches me up a bit as needing some care. I think the whole ‘slippery slope’ caution turns out to be unhelpful here (as in many other places too). It’s too much like a “no doubts allowed!” exhortation (which I know it isn’t in Beck’s case - from reading the rest of what he wrote there.) There may be “children” (here standing for complete innocence of faith - usually found only in literal children), but anybody who is even “in the room” listening to someone give such a warning - or somebody deep enough into a forum like this one so that they’re even reading these words at all - is already there. As in - while you may consider yourself to have absolute confidence of every received doctrine of orthodox faith, the fact that you even glance this way (even if ostensibly just to help those poor wayward souls here who’ve ‘succumbed’ to doubt) means you already live on a slope yourself. Or - let’s just put it this way, you won’t be ‘helping’ anybody here without being able to stand alongside them on that slope in the first place. The child that never yet questioned may be on solid (for the moment) ground indeed, but nearly all of us have already been there and discovered that such ground, in the end, wasn’t as level as we imagined in our childhood innocence. I suggest that becoming like a child again in order to meet Jesus’ prerequisite for Kingdom citizenship doesn’t mean finding safe “non-sloping” levels where we can relax, but instead learn to live on the slopes which ends up being all of life anyway, and learning to trust in the midst of that.

So to me - warning people they “can’t go back” (as if they have a choice), is about like warning somebody about growing up. … “If you get older - I’m warning you - you won’t be able to slip back into your childhood again!” Maybe Peter Pan can give heed, but the rest of us may need to, along with Nicodemus, delve more deeply into Christ’s exhortation to explore what we really can do in this regard.

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So many of these guys seem saintly and Christlike for so long, and then the truth comes out.

Francisco Ayala, a scientist who wrote for BioLogos a while ago, sexually assaulted several women. He was eventually kicked out of the National Academy of Sciences.

That is a great perspective – thanks for sharing. Yes, we can work so hard to avoid the slope without realizing we’re already on it. But to me that is an encouraging thought – you can live on the slope! You don’t have to be a rock that just falls whichever way gravity pushes it. That’s a good picture of what living with doubts looks like, but it has a certain degree of inevitability too. Too often the picture of faith we get in fundamentalism is very much like that of a rock – solid, closed off, never changing or growing. Maybe that’s why Jesus is the rock and we’re not. :slight_smile:

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Yes, I had questions about some on that list.

Having read through the gospels multiple times, I know what they don’t teach, so I don’t need to read any Rauser and the like.

So long as the steel is not itself then a permanent misalignment - i.e. “I now embrace this (false) position, and furthermore - now consider myself steeled against any contrary evidence anybody tries to call my attention to.”

That we should all have a healthy skepticism regarding peddlers of “steel” is itself, I think a solidly scriptural posture - and yes; it includes a skepticsm about “the steel of skepticism” itself. I.e. I’m not here claiming nobody should ever develop a steel spine about anything. There are things very much worthy of our deepest convictions. It’s why we’re here. We shouldn’t sell that real-estate of our hearts cheaply.

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Good fare is probably anything by Keller or C.S. Lewis and things like Peace Child, None of These Diseases,* The End of the Spear (& movie), God’s Smuggler, Born Again, The Hiding Place (and movie) and the like, true first person accounts.
 


*It’s been decades, probably more than five, since I read the first edition paperback, so I can’t speak to the latest version, but I still remember the bit about circumcision, its multiple benefits, and vitamin K.

Well said.  

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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