It’s been said that doubt is just having more faith in something else. And, as Tim Keller says in the video interview below, when looking at doubts about God there are honest doubts and there are dishonest doubts. The trouble is, we’re not always sure ourselves about which doubts we’re expressing. It’s very difficult to assess our own heart.
And this is what we need to know about ourselves. We rarely make important decisions based totally on logic and reason. Every salesperson and marketing company knows this. We buy with our emotions and justify our decision with logic. The Bible agrees.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Rom.10:10 NKJV, emphasis added)
Keller is a pastor in Manhattan. He speaks to a highly-educated culture where the arguments for God are more important to people who wrestle with doubts. Keller himself wrestled with these issues in college. While his religious upbringing gave him doctrines he had not had a personal encounter with Jesus, so the arguments gave him doubts.
But here’s the point. Keller goes on to say that it was his doubting that brought him into an encounter with Jesus.
“I think if I had never gone through the doubting in college, I think I probably would’ve never met Christ.”
He goes on to say, as long as we deal with doubts honestly they are not an enemy to faith, but can actually propel us toward God in a new way. Of course, there is dishonest doubt where we won’t believe in God no matter what anybody tells us.
For instance, Keller mentions the famous author, Aldous Huxley, who admitted that the reason he didn’t want to believe in God was because he wanted to have sex and wasn’t sure he could have both. He said he wanted his doubts to help him say, “Who knows…” so I can live any way I want.” This particular response is popular today, even if it’s not excusing a promiscuous lifestyle.
Of course, there are many other reasons people choose to disbelieve or walk away from God. We may have prayed for someone and they died, or we suffered some other tragedy and blame God for not intervening. It could be we want to be free from some oppressive version of religion that we experienced, so we look for reasons not to believe.
It seems to me it usually comes down to either being angry with God or not wanting to be accountable to anyone but ourselves.
And that’s the irony of an argument. No amount of logic and reason is going to change a heart set against something. I wrote about this in “Faith Matters.”
We can even use the Bible to either believe or not believe. There were the Pharisees who searched the Scriptures to deny Jesus (John 5:39), and there were the Bereans who searched the Scriptures to find out whether these things were so (Acts 17:11). Nothing has changed there.
There are doubts that destroy your relationship with God and there are doubts that can propel you into one. This is especially important to know if you grew up in a Christian environment. You must go from the faith of their parents and church to your own faith in Christ. And this usually means first going through the valley of doubts.
I also thought this was an interesting point. Keller says that the questions and nature of doubts have changed over time. For instance, a big issue 20-30 years ago was that people couldn’t believe in miracles, but younger people today don’t go there. For them, the question is, if I’m a Christian, how do I live in a pluralistic world? He said it’s much like in the Roman world of the first century when it was asked, “Can I be a Christian and be a good Roman citizen?”
Wherever you’re at with God, doubts are not the issue as much as having an honest assessment of your heart. That’s why I think it’s important to question your doubts and your motives for having them.We cannot prove or disprove God with science or our physical senses. Yet, for me, the works of God are clearly seen in the world we live in, if you’re open to it (Rom.1:20). As C.S. Lewis said, “To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others, nowhere.” Science cannot tell us why we exist. In the end, it’s a leap of faith, whether you choose to believe or disbelieve. My advice…choose wisely.
Here’s the interview with Keller.