For part 1 of this series, listen here: Christian Unbelief and Doubt Part 1.
Introduction (2Co 4 – We live by faith, not by sight)
Becoming a Christian does not mean we will never struggle with unbelief and doubt (ever again) as it relates to God. Nor should we believe doubt is always bad. In the words of 17th century philosopher Francis Bacon, “If a man will begin with certainties, he will end in doubts; but if he is content to begin with doubts, he will end in certainties.” In other words, doubt can be a sign that I need to do further study – which (then) leads to confidence and certainty in what I believe vs. “blind faith.” It is for this reason that Jude says to “have mercy on those who doubt” (Jud 1:22). We should not initially view others having doubt as treason. At the same time, we must shore it up before it becomes dangerous (Pro 4:23; Heb 3:12). How doubt becomes dangerous is its leading to falling away in two ways:
- It leads to unfaithfulness (commitment requires conviction and confidence in belief).
- It leads to apostasy.
To illustrate, doubt (i.e. the deceit of sin in the mind) is like little fires that start in the middle of the forest – which if left to themselves will become a raging inferno destroying everything in its path (it this case – our faith).
What fuels these “fires” of doubt:
- Ignored intellect (intellectual problem – insufficient data)
- Intellect ignored (moral problem – the data is there, but it is being ignored) – this is what makes it “evil.”
This study gives you the data to fix the first, the second is a moral issue (i.e. rebellion) and can only be fixed through repentance.
There are six types of doubt: Practical, Situational, Ontological, Scriptural, Religious, and Perfunctory.
2. Ontological Doubt
Definition/Examples: Does God exist? If so, why can’t I see Him?
Solution: Paul’s answer leaves us with no excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
2.1. Something must be eternal (v. 20 – “eternal power” – “plain/clearly perceived in the things that have been made”).
The fact that things exist which at one time did not exist demands a beginning from something not created. In other words, something must be eternal. This was behind Einstein’s famous theory of general relativity = the universe has a beginning (creator – unmoved/prime mover (Aristotle – 4 century B.C.) Unmoved cause. Something cannot come from nothing: something must be eternal.
2.2. Something must be someone (i.e. a being of intelligence and morality) (v. 20 – “divine nature…plain/clearly perceived in what has been made”).
This has to be true for two reasons:
2.2.1. Order and irreducible complexity that exists in the universe is impossible without a deliberate, intelligent designer. No way change or accident was our designer (Darwin admitted his own theory fails if complexity is required at the beginning for something to exist – science has shown this to be true in relation to even simple organisms).
2.2.2. Morality (“clearly perceived” in humanity) dependent on higher existence. All goodness, justice, equality is predicated on God’s existence and His communication with us. Without God we are left with Rationalism (vs. higher morality) becomes the governing force (anarchy). “What is irrational about me getting whatever I want from you?” = J.P.
“I can’t see God, so He must not exist.” = Applying that sort of logic to the world itself would mean denying all those things that exist at the atomic/molecular level – things science knows to be the very building blocks of the universe. As a matter of fact, it gets more “invisible” than that given the discovery of what is called “dark matter.” The point not to miss is that just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it is not there – or that we should live as though it is not (e.g. gravity – cannot see it, but we had better live as though we can! The same is true with germs.
There is a difference between secondary evidence and secondary evidence that can be explained no other way.
3. Religious doubt
Definition/Examples: “There are so many different religions in the world – and most (e.g. Scientology) claim to be from God. Why is Christianity so special? How can it be the only right choice?”
Solution: First, there can only be one right religion – or more specifically, Christianity can only be the right religion if it is the only one since its message/doctrine claims all others to be false and damning.
Secondly, it exists as the only religion with enough verifiable evidence to support its claims. What do I mean by that?
No other religion on the planet that exists or has ever existed (that we know of) can prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that what it says is true. Only Christianity can do that. Hence why no other religion has a “department of apologetics or apologists (apologia=defense).” What such “beyond a reasonable doubt” proof requires the following evidence:
3.1. Intellectual evidence = Christianity / Bible is the only religion to provide answers necessary to human prosperity: Ontological (Gen 1:1ff, 1:20), existential, epistemological (Rom 1:19-20), sociological (Gen 11), economical (Ecc 11), political (how to govern people/form of government), judicial (Exo 20, Deu 16-17), moral, behavioral (Pro 28), psycho and physiological (mind/soul – body relationship).
No other religion attempts to provide this scope of evidence to answer all these questions. Hence why the principles established by the Bible are the most adopted in the world/by the nations of this world. That most importantly because they are proven to work (Deu 4:6-8).
3.2. Historical = the events of the Bible take place in real space-time history providing the details of those events and people. Such that they can be verified or falsified (e.g. chronicles of the kings, Luk 2:1-2).
No other religion provides the level of historical data necessary to do this – most don’t even claim any historical base (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism, B’Hai). Hence why again these religions have no apologetics – their religion cannot be historically verified! This includes those who attempt to do so (besides Christianity) (e.g. Mormonism, Islam – their historical date is faulty or lacking).
In this respect, Christianity is the most falsifiable religion, and yet it continues to stand as legitimate. In a courtroom, proving you are innocent (or the right one) requires providing an “alibi.” What does an alibi provide? Intellectual and historical evidence.
Christianity is the only religion, therefore, that loves people to challenge it because it has the evidence to support its legitimacy or truthfulness. This includes what takes place within Christianity – people debating over right doctrine (Rom 4:19).
No other religion can nor attempts to do that – instead people are manipulated, pressured or even coerced (based on familial or cultural threats) to embrace or accept what they believe. In other words, intellectual debate assumes the existence of truth. No one fights over fantasy.
For part 3 of this series, listen here: Christian Unbelief and Doubt Part 3.