“Occasionally I ask myself, as I walk down the street, how do you know you haven’t been taken in by a colossal propaganda program? After all, you can’t see God, touch Him, or feel Him.”
Who wrote this?
No…your author, Paul Little.
He is experiencing doubt.
“I have spent my life studying and thinking and reading and teaching about God. I grew up in the church. I went to a faith-based college and then seminary. I walked the straight and narrow. I never sewed any wild oats. And I have doubts” [John Ortberg from his book Faith and Doubt]. By the way John is pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.
What is the point of this?
We all have doubts…
The main thing about doubt is how you handle it. Another thing about doubt is how you respond to it when others are experiencing it.
What is doubt? Is it an earthquake in your faith? It may be. Are you going to walk away from God permanently? Probably not. To be honest, all of us have to “work things out” in our lives and the main thing about doubt is to be honest in the admission of your doubts and make an effort to seek answers.
Humans are thinkers and despite Paul Little’s admonition in Chapter 1 that Christians are not the most intellectual bunch, we do have thoughts from time to time.
Here’s an example of a common faith-shaking experience.
Have you ever been around someone who has unexpectedly lost a loved one to some violent, surprising death?
They may have several doubt-filled questions. How can God allow this to happen? Is God cruel? I have always heard that God loves me; is this how He shows it?
In short, they may experience some of the worst doubts in their lives. Citing verses like 1 Peter 1:6-7 may not help: “At present you may be temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials. This is no accident. It happens to prove your faith which is infinitely more valuable than gold”. These types of verses try to get us to realize that God can make good things out of the worst situations.
But they probably will not help a person who is grieving and having doubt.
What is the best thing to do? Let them work through it. What can happen is that time will pass and the sufferer can gain some very needed perspective. They will recover from their period of doubt.
That does not mean the doubt lasts forever.
On a personal note, I was a very weak believer for many years and before those years, I ambled away from God [notice I did not say the word walked or the word ran]. I dabbled in Hinduism for a few years. I did not make the fatal flaw of telling my parents as I was going through my period of exploration. I wonder how they would have handled me.
Many people speak about the “good Christian” not having doubts. They say that the problem is the doubter is thinking too much. “Why are you slipping in your Christian life?” is not a good question to ask a doubter. What many people do is just “go underground” and mouth the party line. What does that do? It gets their questioners off their back. But the doubt continues.
What is a better alternative?
Let the doubter express his or her doubts. Let them get their concerns out in the open. That is the opportunity to discuss things with them. That is the opportunity to share your own experiences with them. Revealing that you have doubts is not a bad idea. It can actually open up avenues of discussion with them and you won’t appear to be so self-righteous and “perfect.”
The worst thing in the world is to make a doubter feel guilty. The next worst thing is to tell them to quit thinking so much. “Just believe, have faith and stop with all the questions. They are not doing you any good.” Our author says “A doubter needs to see that he must come to a decision after having been given an answer. To make no decision is to decide against the Christian position. Continued doubt in the face of adequate information may indicate an unwillingness to believe, and this may be a result of the questioner’s will having been set against God.”
What is our job as believers?
Know why we believe.
What do we need to know to answer the most common questions that doubters have?
Well Little does not say we need to know everything but as we head into Chapter 2, we are faced with the most basic and common question that we need to have an answer for: “Is There a God?”