Pastor and NY Times best selling author Timothy Keller says, “People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.”
Do you know what you believe and why you believe it?
Will you take your doubts out of the hidden places, put them on the table, and work at them like a Rubik’s Cube until you can bring order and sense to them?
“I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
In my mid-twenties, when I began to seriously study the Bible, I realized much of what I believed was inherited from others and was not even biblical. I had not examined those beliefs before. They just felt right and didn’t cause me discomfort. Inevitably, as Timothy Keller said, I experienced situations that challenged those non-biblical concepts. When I discovered I could not support them, it rocked my faith.
I am grateful for teachers and mentors who encouraged me to ask hard questions. The more relentlessly I poked and prodded at the biblical concepts as well as the alternate beliefs I held, the stronger and more personal my faith became. So, how can you benefit from doubting your doubts and examining your beliefs?
I’ve got a process and a free step-by-step guide to help you work through your doubts.
How Examining Your Doubts Will Help You
If you struggle with doubts, I encourage you to face those head on. Take the time to examine your doubts (and your beliefs, too). The process will help you:
- Replace a weak, inherited faith founded on comfortable assumptions with a faith founded on truth and thus capable of withstanding challenges.
- Heighten your respect and compassion for others who doubt.
A Process for Doubting Your Doubts
So how do we examine and work through our doubts (or our beliefs)? I’ve found this process to be helpful:
1. State the belief with which you struggle.
For example, one biblical belief many people struggle with is “God judges and is wrathful.”
2. Identify your doubts about the belief.
Be clear and specific. For example: “I doubt that a loving God can also be a God of wrath.” “I doubt that God judges.”
3. Verbalize your alternate belief.
So, in our example, one might say, “I believe in a loving God who doesn’t judge and won’t be wrathful.”
4. Consider the logic for both the belief you doubt and your alternate belief.
First, work through this process on your own. Try to poke holes in both the belief you doubt and the alternative you embrace. Make yourself follow your reasoning to logical conclusions. Determine if Scripture supports the belief, but be sure you are using solid principles of interpretation. (See my post 7 Common Sense Keys to Unlocking Life-Changing Truth.)
Obviously, this step is much more extensive than what I can deal with in a short blog post. However, let’s briefly follow our example doubt to its logical conclusion. If God does not judge sin, but instead allows sin to destroy us, how could that be an expression of love? Once you push the alternate belief, you see the weakness in it. The Bible teaches that God’s wrath and his love are corollaries, not opposites. The cross is the ultimate expression of God’s wrath and his love.
Next, have a respectful discussion with someone who holds the belief you doubt. Present your alternate belief and reasons you believe it. Listen to them present the case for their belief. Challenge each other and help each other work through the logic.
This is where it gets good! When you have someone with whom you can have honest, constructive discussions, it allows you both to grow and strengthen your faith.
When you discipline yourself to examine what you believe and why, you will likely find the weak spots in your alternate beliefs. You’ll also open yourself up to seeing the strengths in the biblical belief you doubt. You will also be better prepared to answer questions, share your faith, and be compassionate with others who wrestle with doubts about the Christian faith.
Resources to help you examine your doubts
The Reason for God — Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller is the source of the quote at the beginning of this post. This book addresses common areas of doubt with which skeptics and believers wrestle. Keller applies sound, rational reasoning to these areas of faith. As you work through the issues he presents in his book, you will learn skills that will empower you to examine whatever doubts challenge you. You might also like his free podcast on itunes or downloads of his sermons from his website.
Confronting the Controversies by Adam Hamilton. This is a thought-provoking book on some of the most controversial issues of our time. He demonstrates how to examine both sides of an issue from a biblical perspective and ultimately arrive at a conclusion. You may not agree with where he lands on all of the issues, but you will be better equipped to clarify what you believe and why.
Reasons to Believe is an organization whose mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Reasons to Believe spokespersons do not attack ideas. Rather, they aim to present research and start a conversation in which people are treated with respect and provided a safe forum for discussing their views. Even if your doubts don’t center around the topics addressed by Reasons to Believe, you will learn much from observing how they address the topics.
Free Step-by-Step Guide/Cheat Sheet
Don’t forget to request your free cheat sheet that will walk you through the process outlined above. Click on the image or button and I’ll instantly email you your copy!
Question: What are some beliefs you doubt? What have you found helps you examine your beliefs and doubts? I encourage you to be brave and leave a comment. Let’s start a conversation with each other! Come on, it will be fun! You can leave a comment by clicking here.