Christians and doubt

So back to @heymike3’s suggestion of examining the topic of our knowing as supported in the NT, not that anyone is necessarily interested anymore, but here are the results so far:
The second and third hits on the first search link above (BibleGateway) are not exactly to the question of our knowing, so they may be false positives in that sense, but they are on topic because they do indeed speak to fearful and unbelieving doubt:

Matthew 6:8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

On the topic of our knowing:

Matthew 11:27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Matthew 13:11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.

Mark 2:10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

Luke 1:4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke 1:77 …to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,

Luke 5:24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

Luke 8:10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’

Luke 10:22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

John 3:11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.

John 4:42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

John 6:69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.

John 10:4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me

John 10:38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”

John 13:17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 14:17 …the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

John 15:15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.

John 16:3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.

[Those last two imply by contrast that we who are his disciples do know him.]

John 16:14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.

John 16:15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

John 17:7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.

John 17:25-26 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

John 21:24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

That appears to about do it… for just the gospels. ; - )

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Dale, I refer you to excellent reasoning why these accounts are not equivalent to objective, verifiable proof of anything more than interpretation over in the other thread you started.
That being said, I do find the experiences of other Christians’ life in Christ encouraging and glorifying to Jesus. However, I understand that we are looking through a glass darkly, that we do NOT have the equivalent of Jesus’ wounded hands and side to touch the way Thomas did, and that IS the life in faith.

We can encourage each other in that faith, but we can’t give each other measurable proof. We can encourage each other as we all (mostly all) deal with doubt, and even unbelief by pointing to Christ. But if we demand certainty from each other, we are crushing our brothers and sisters.

I can only speak for myself: “Of course not.” I see plenty of evidence around here that many other people would say the same.
Even folks who keep their discussion of faith fairly theoretical, just as you would see in a theology book/discussion/lecture, are often sharing valuable tools they have managed to find to keep their faith together. The ones I’ve talked to on the side streets aren’t playing a game, and what they express is not inconsequential. Others show a sincere desire to follow Christ, and are open about how they’ve gotten where they are. I’m incredibly encouraged by their faith in the face of uncertainty.
And honestly, the “bystanders” who hang out here and participate well, think well, ask valuable questions, bring in valuable information and views, enrich the conversations in ways that help me, too. Would that I had something as valuable to contribute to their visits here.
Jesus is well-equipped to deal with me and my uncertainties, whatever they happen to be at any particular point in my life. He can handle the rest of ours’ as well.


Why are we not ingenuous in accepting the accounts as factual along with their transparent implications I wonder. Some of us are, but others no. We are each a jury of one in the court of reality. There is a very legitimate analogy to the facts presented that we do not personally verify on whatever news media we either trust or don’t. No, we cannot have a redemptive relationship with the sovereign God of the universe vicariously through the lives of others, but we sure do have enough evidence that it is incumbent upon us to seek our own!

I don’t think you get in trouble for reacting ungraciously to disingenuousness. It’s when you attribute disagreement with your conclusions to disingenuousness that you have a problem. (I hope you’re aware that ‘disingenuous’ is not the opposite of ‘ingenuous’.)

Because you appear to be aspiring to certainty rather than aspiring to truth – and the latter is an invitation to confirmation bias and self-deception.


In some senses it very much is exactly the opposite. ‘Guileless’ for the latter for example.

Is it okay if I disbelieve you on that? XD You meant rather the opposite, and I will repeat my refrain anyway: some biases are correct.

More from Austin Fischer’s “Faith in the Shadows” … and the quote below is already probably too long, so you can tell I’m teasingly leaving out good lead-up stuff to reach these paragraphs below.

In other words, Scripture is unified in its message, but that unity reads more like a polyphonic novel than a systematic theology. It sounds like a riotous chorus of voices, arranged to augment and alter each other in a motley symphony, whose coherence transcends a quick listen, and not like a single voice, formally pontificating theological bullet points. As such, the unity of Scripture is not always easily explained, and certain tensions (like the ways Scripture makes sense of evil) will remain indefinitely. And when we claim the Bible clearly teaches something that has been rigorously debated by the best and most faithful minds for thousands of years, we could at least have the decency to blush. A couple thousand years of mercurial biblical interpretation suggest we’re not being very honest with ourselves.

To this point, I think we can all agree that God was perfectly capable of producing a Bible with absolute clarity, singularity, and obviousness in relation to any and every matter under the sun, making things so divinely plain that no interpretation would be needed on our part. But that is not the Bible God has given us, presumably because God welcomes our interpretation, knowing it serves the greater mission of God, creating a people who humbly but assertively employ our hearts and minds in the quintessentially human work of knowing and loving the divine.

And once we’ve come clean and accepted that, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and make some decisions. We will use different methods and come to different conclusions. Some will pile up the proof texts on opposing sides and weigh them in terms of quantity. Some will ask which big story can better accommodate the other big story. Some will poke and prod with theology and philosophy. Some will look at church history. I do all of the above, but then—following what I consider to be the best of classical Christian biblical interpretation throughout history—I look to Christ. Jesus is lightning, and everything else (theology, philosophy, etc.) is thunder—echoes of an event, a happening, a person. And when the echoes bring me back to their source, something becomes clear.

Fischer, Austin. Faith in the Shadows (p. 63-64). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
[My own emphasis added in above to a key line that I found most admirable. While that line was my reason for picking this passage, don’t lose site of the fact that Fisher has already dispensed with the mistaken fundamentalistic notion that there is only one cohesive theology to be found in the Bible.]

I don’t know, @Randy, if I will along with you find Fisher’s final thoughts at the end of the book to be suspicious departures into something else or not - but all I know - is he seems spot on so far! I just finished reading his chapter on Faith and Science. Probably more good quotes to come …


I thought about being more gracious and going back and deleting that when I was elsewhere earlier but didn’t get it done in my spacey geezerhood. I think my reference was perfectly clear to whomever it applied.

I don’t do that unless there is actual prevarication.

Surprise, surprise my local library doesn’t have it.

I like that quote. It almost seems as though he is suggesting the point of the many voices in the Bible is to throw up a textured world of images, messages and stories whose point is not to engage your common sense so much as to unsettle it enough to give other ways of knowing a chance to engage you on levels not amenable to simplistic representation. At no point will there be an Idiot’s Guide to the Obvious Truths of the Bible because we don’t so much need marching orders to follow blindly as we need to be shaken enough see past our blinders.


I would like to hear a discussion between him and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Reposting for quick reference and for new folks, not to annoy regulars ; - ) …

I don’t think Bonhoeffer would disagree with this, for instance:

Just based on the chapters of Fischer’s that I’ve read so far, I’d guess that he and Bonhoeffer could find much in common. But that said, there would be trouble festering even just with the first Bonhoeffer sentence you opened his quote with:

Fischer (and for that matter most of us around here who reject fundamentalism - or what has been made of fundamentalism today) take serious issue with this so-called “sola-scriptura” posture. We can learn truths from lots of sources and places, and the only people who want to force-fit the Bible into their conception of “the answerbook for everything” are the sorts that really get themselves into trouble over that and end up abusing both their own grasp of truth and doing violence to the very scriptures they thought they were venerating in the first place.

Bonhoeffer may follow it with a call to humility - all well and good to be sure - but he’s still stuck on using that humility (or whatever right posture is needed before the Word) in order to find the answer. But it’s this whole (very fundamentalist) notion that there exists this something called the answer that the seeker is hoping to use scripture to find - that’s the whole notion that Fischer (and many of us) are holding at arm’s length - to say the least, and asking why we’re wanting such certainty zeroed down onto only one possible answer. As Fischer suggests - thousands of years of church fathers (all probably smarter than you and me and 90% of us when it comes to wrestling with scriptures) these early leaders debated with each other, often failed to convince each other - and we breeze to an easy answer without even the sense to blush over our brazenness?! Yeah, right. It isn’t just fundamentalists that chase after such delusional levels of certainty. It’s pretty much all of us.


I like how you said that. All of it. Are you sure you weren’t a pastor in another life?

You write as if you’ve already read much of Fischer’s book. You’ll enjoy it I think - and find much to push back on him about too, thoroughgoing Christian as he is.


Perhaps in a past(or)life?


Yes, I meant the opposite – should have edited. The thing about biases is that everyone believes theirs is correct.

Of course we can.

I think that is mischaracterizing Bonhoeffer from a snippet and is being unfair and even judgmental, not that I would necessarily have a perfect match with his theology. A good Christian worldview covers all the bases and is not a force fit on reality because it speaks the truth about it.

…some are correct. Of course that is just my biased opinion. XD

I will certainly defend that what constitutes an appreciable share of spiritual reality for us as Christians is becoming legitimately adopted children of God and all that entails. It entails a major part of physical reality because, guess what I’m going to say next, God providentially intervenes into his children’s physical lives.

The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?” The answer, slightly edited, is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, by enjoying him forever.”*

Have you read far enough to answer whether that could comport with Fischer or not?


*From Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist

I should hope so, as Bonhoeffer is considered a 1st rate theologian and would no doubt have much more nuance than the mere bit of that quote I was reacting to. But since it’s been decades since I’ve read his “Cost of Discipleship” (the only work of his I’ve read completely through), I’m in no position to recall what nuance Bonhoeffer might have added. Perhaps you can? So I was giving voice mostly to Fischer’s book freshly on my mind.

Speaking of which, @Randy, I’ve now read 12 of his 13 chapters, and I might have some idea of a things or two that brought you up a bit? Maybe I could pm you about it, though others might be interested here as well.

I know one area I would now push back on Fischer is that had did go a bit down the hole of: “If there is no God … then all is despair, nihilism, etc.” (So @MarkD, you can be forewarned that he was susceptible to that familiar trope that so many of us here have been rescued from due to thoughtful challenges from kind atheists here.) I’m not holding that against him, given all the other heart-felt sharing and personal confession he packed in - so much of it absolutely needed and beautiful truth - water in the desert even - for western evangelicals today. And besides, he went someplace else that could be pretty interesting or alarming for some as far as that goes. But I’m so close to finishing, that I should just finish it now before writing more.


What a discussion Dale! I so appreciate how you are pushing back against this comfortable unbelief that is tolerated by too many Christians. And just because other religions mimic what is our inherence that is now and not yet, it doesn’t mean we need to go along with the agnostic atheism that is so overwhelming rampant in this day and age. What needs to be realized, is that if God doesn’t exist, there’s a real issue for the objectivity of the world that the world holds so dear.

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Can you clarify? Thank you!

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