Every once in a while, I wake up in the morning and I’m not sure if I believe anymore.
I’m the rational sort. I like understanding things and the reasons why they are the way they are. I like having answers and solving problems. I like being able to explain things and prove my point of view. And while Christianity is rational in a lot of ways and has lots of things that can be studied and proved and examined, it ultimately comes down to faith. And I don’t like that.
Faith is hard for me. I’m not the person who will advocate so-called “blind faith” – I think that faith involves a lot more knowledge than we sometimes give it credit for, a topic I’m sure I’ll address at some point. But despite this, faith still involves taking a deliberate step into or onto or toward something that we can’t see clearly. Something we can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, often to ourselves, and especially to others.
At times I look at the Christian story and simply think, “Really? I believe that?” I think about my high school intellectual friends (because most of my friends were winning the “best student” awards) and imagine them looking at me and thinking, “He seemed so smart.” Of course, since we went different directions in life, I have little to no contact with any of those friends, so it’s all in my imagination, but still, that’s what I imagine many of them would say. Although maybe they would only grant me “sort of smart” status. I can live with that.
Regardless, I find myself periodically experiencing moments of doubt about Christianity. In fact, my theme verse in life feels like it should be John 20:29, where Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” I envy Thomas because Jesus actually appeared to him – a proof that he hasn’t bestowed upon me. In my moments of doubt, that verse seems to mock me, holding up an ideal (belief without sight) that I struggle to hold firmly.
And yet, every time I experience doubt, I sit down and review my faith. I consider all the options – atheism, other religions, agnosticism, etc., and I always end up affirming once again my belief – my faith – in the Christian story. Why? What is it that I find so compelling, that keeps drawing me back even when I doubt?
There are many reasons, but here are a few of the key ones. I share them here for those of you who, like me, struggle to hold on to faith in a world that seems to want to pry it away from you, or for those of you who are considering your own faith journey. Feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section (if I actually managed to get this set up right and the comments section works!) I will likely expand on each of these in the future, but for now, I’ll try to keep the explanations brief.
- Science doesn’t explain everything – I love science, but it doesn’t seem to make any sense if God is left out of the equation. There seem to be many questions that science doesn’t answer, and gaps that don’t seem likely to be filled through natural means. Lots more that could be said about that, but I’ll leave it there for now.
- I Love the story – The Christian story is fascinating to me: That God created this world for us, then essentially gave it to us to care for and develop, with the intent to help us through the process; that we rejected Him and have faced the consequences and failures that go with that, both personally and societally; that Jesus then showed up proclaiming the arrival of God’s kingdom and inviting us to join it and to reengage with God in building His kingdom here on earth (and eventually the fulfillment someday). I want to be part of that story, not just kick around this world trying to make myself happy, or survive, or get the most stuff.
- Explanatory power – C.S. Lewis summed it up best when he said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” (In Is Theology Poetry, p. 15) Christianity makes sense of everything else in the world. Created in God’s image, people are capable of tremendous good and love. Yet corrupted by sin, they are also capable of the foulest, most evil deeds imaginable, as well as everything that falls between those extremes. Add to that our desires for beauty, love, meaning and justice, which point to a reality beyond us. To me, Christianity explains the world and what I experience perfectly.
- Archaeology and history – While there are still questions and debates that rage, for the most part the history of the Bible is solid. Places exist. Details line up. Inconsistencies and questions are solved again and again. That doesn’t mean that everything is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, it simply means that I have many reasons to trust the Bible and what it says. This is in stark contrast to other holy books (the Book of Mormon is the most notable in this regard) and in contrast to the many efforts from those trying to prove the Bible false.
- Experience of the supernatural – This is a tricky one, because many people from many different faiths or backgrounds have had supernatural experiences. As well, there are significant forces that can influence our experiences – our history, moods, false information or assumptions, expectations, etc. But at the same time, I cannot ignore the few experiences of the supernatural that I have had, nor am I willing to write off every story of healing, speaking in tongues, and other things that I hear about. To be skeptical of individual supernatural experiences is understandable; to write off every experience of every person as superstitious or false is ridiculous and arrogant. I refuse to let supernatural experiences (mine or others) to be my only guide in life; however, when combined with the other elements mentioned here, the experience of God and the supernatural is a significant reason for my faith.
- The Resurrection of Jesus – This is by far the core of my faith. Paul states it pretty clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:14 and 17, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Time and time again, I come back to the resurrection of Christ. I have looked at it from countless angles, examining the reliability of the New Testament, the growth of the church, the conversion of Paul, the accounts of his death, and so on. I know the arguments for and against, and over and over again I find myself affirming the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. This is a matter of faith, I know, but it is reasoned, logical faith – even thought I still find it hard to believe at times. And if this one act of history is true, then everything else flows from that.
And so I am a man of faith. I hold to what is considered orthodox Christianity not because I was raised that way or because I am ignorant of the real world or hiding from the difficult realities of life. I hold these views because as I reflect on life and history and science and Scripture, I find the best explanation is Christianity. When I consider my options, I find nothing as fulfilling and solid as Christianity.
So when the doubts arise I examine them. I turn them over in my mind. I research the questions that they raise – sometimes finding answers, sometimes not. I ask the hard questions, at times repeatedly. And then, eventually, I let them go. Because every time my reasons for faith are stronger than my reasons for doubt.