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Embrasing Doubt

Oxymoron means “sharp dullness”. It describes a figure of speech when two words are put together which are self-contradictory. For example, “accurate rumors” is an oxymoron. Why? Because by definition, a rumor is not yet deemed to be accurate. Other examples could include: “insane logic”, “public secret”, “instant classic”, or my favorite, “government intelligence”. However, over the years I have come to believe that “Roman Catholic Scholarship” is an oxymoron. I don’t believe that one can be a Roman Catholic and be a scholar at the same time. Well, let me put it another way: I don’t believe that one can be a true Roman Catholic and be a scholar at the same time. Why, because being a Roman Catholic militates against what makes someone a scholar in my opinion.

I know, I know . . . I don’t ever write this this. Well, this polemical. It seems as if I am discrediting Roman Catholic scholarship with a heavy hand by an ad hom fiat. Please know that this is not what I mean to do. There are going to be plenty of people thrown under the bus with this one. In fact, let me start by saying this: there are many Roman Catholics I deeply respect. I am not anti-Catholic. As well, there are many Roman Catholic’s who I believe qualify as scholars. However, once they become a scholar (and I am talking about theology here), as I will explain, they have to depart to some degree from Rome. I am not saying that they actually depart from their core Catholic beliefs. I am simply saying that they must suspend their commitment to Rome in order to meet what I believe to be an essential characteristic of scholarship.

Most of you would not think of yourself as scholars. I understand that. I don’t think of myself as such either. However, I would assume that you attempt to be good students. Namely, you attempt to be students of truth.

Let me back up a bit.

Rene Descartes and Doubt

Rene Descartes is often thought of as the father of modernity. He gets a bad wrap these days, especially by our postmodern and emerging friends. I think some of the bad wrap is justified. Particularly his quest for indubitably. How is that for a word? Don’t try to say it out loud at home. Indubitably is the quest for absolute and perfect certainty. Rene Descartes (and many of his modernistic buddies) wanted their beliefs to be beyond the ability to be wrong. Like 1 plus 1 equals 2, Descartes wanted all matters of faith to share such comforting certainty (indubitably). I can’t get into all the fallacies here, but let’s just say that this quest was not only impossible, but unnecessary. Our beliefs do not have to be infallible before we are justified in possessing them. However, Descartes methodology had many redeeming elements that provide benchmarks of inquiry, learning, and knowledge. The first and most important thing that Descartes taught was that we are to doubt. Doubt everything!

Doubt gets a hard wrap in religious circles. In fact, we are often told that the opposite of faith is doubt. For many, doubt is only what unbelievers do. It is true that doubt can be a bad thing, but it largely depends on the context and how you understand it. Doubt can be, and very ofter is, healthy. In fact, I argue that doubt is a necessary first step to true conviction, understanding, and real faith. Let me explain. Continue reading


Doubting my Salvation but I will NOT Give Up!

Submitted by anon posted by C Michael Patton. Thanks for your honesty.

This blog couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I have been dealing with doubt over my salvation for the past two years.

I grew up in a Christian home and went to church and a christian school. I accepted christ at a very young age, but reaccepted him at the age of 12. This was around a time that I first started to experience depression. I firmly had faith that God had plans for me and loved me. I made it through those years with the hope he gave me.

In my late teens (I am now 26) I went through a period were I chose sin over God. Since that time I had a miscarriage, when I got pregnant the second time I started experiencing weird physical problems. During these trying times I had no where to turn, but I didn’t feel as if I could talk to God since I had knowingly sinned against him. I begged him for forgiveness but still didn’t feel comfortable talking to him. After giving birth to my son I developed autoimmune arthritis. This time I needed him more than ever, but there has been no reassurance of his love for me.

I still have problems talking to God. I love Jesus, I love that he endured the cross for our salvation, I know we are only saved by his grace and not by anything we can possibly do. I know a lot of things with my head but I still can’t seem to get past this struggle of feeling like I am not saved. I have prayed many times that he would help me in this area. I have prayed that he would show me his love. I have to come to an understanding with myself that I will NOT give up. I will not turn away from the one true God no matter how frustrated or confused I am. I have hope that someday he will bring me peace in this area.
I suppose I may be struggling because of my past sins and don’t feel worthy even though I know no one is technically worthy. Yet I still struggle. I struggle daily with my sinful thoughts and my problems, and than think “how can I be saved when I am still struggling. Aren’t you supposed to change for the better once saved?”

I try reading the Bible only to feel worse afterwards. Instead of finding hope I find fear. I fear that I am a Judas or a King Saul. Those who knew God but obviously weren’t saved. They had the head knowledge.
I have questions that make me upset. If faith is a gift from God given by his mercy than does that mean that God is keeping unbelievers from becoming believers. Why show mercy to some by giving them faith and not others? Does that mean people don’t really have a choice?

Also why would God give someone faith and than take it away (as in someone who walks away from the faith and never returns) Does this mean they have lost their salvation or were never saved to begin with?
It is hard to feel love, peace, and hope when you aren’t even certain that you are saved. It is hard to love him in return when you feel afraid of Him.

Thank you for starting this post. It is comforting to know I am not the only one with these problems.
As I read in a previous blog, sometimes I fear I am going insane, as if I don’t have control over my emotions or fears.


When God Goes Dark in Your Life

I am somewhat envious of people who experience God differently than I do. I hear about all kinds of experiences that are once or twice removed from me and say a silent prayer in the back of my head, “Why not me Lord?” Whether it be through worship, through quiet fellowship filled with God’s felt presence, or the dramatic conversion experiences, I don’t know what they are like except through the testimony of others.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. I am not even expressing a spiritual vitamin shortage. At least I don’t think I am. But the fact is that I have been a Christian all my life and when people tell me the dramatic stories of their subjective encounters with God, I don’t know how to relate. I just have not had them. I have never heard God’s voice, never had a dramatic life changing dream, never “felt” the presence of God in my room (even during prayer), never spoken in tongues, never gotten a “word from the Lord” (not even for this blog), and never had a sin dramatically taken from me. In fact, most of my spiritual life does not come easy. It involves wrestling with the Lord through prayer. I find it very difficult to stop sin, change bad attitudes, keep from forming bad habits, and to stop from hiding from obligations. In fact (though this may come across as blasphemous to some), the “peace that passes understanding” is something that is more often than not quit far from me. Sure, I do have peace in the ultimate things. Salvation, truth, the Lord’s love, and the truths of Scripture bring me “meta peace.” But as far as the day-to-day battle, the peace that I experience is very understandable, being absent most of the time. Continue reading


Tire Kicker Christianity

“Someday, maybe.” That was the perpetual attitude of a doctor that I was doing my best to win to Christ. I was a young enthusiastic Christian who thought he had all the answers. He was a seeker seeking answers. What a great combo when we were introduced. Our first evening together was spent discussing many questions about the reliability of the Bible. By the time our conversation was complete, I thought that I might have him. But he wanted to “think it over”. The next time we met he had questions about the problem of evil. After giving it my all, I thought we had for sure turned a corner. However, over the next year, the questions, issues, and objections found no end. We talked about the existence of God, the resurrection of Christ, Jonah and the whale and everything else you could think of. Every time I pleaded with him to believe, he just came at me with more questions. Once we went full-circle back to the questions we began with I realized that I had done all I could. His questions had been sufficiently answered. Yes, he could continue with the “What about this…” or “What about that…” possibilities, but none of them were probabilities. It was time for him to make a decision and he was not going to. His faith in Christ was always just one answered question away.

For some of us, that is where we are at. “Maybe someday” is the response. We are always one question away from making the decision to trust him. This is a kind of tire-kicker Christianity. We are always examining, but never buying. You need to examine if this is where you are at. Apologetics (defending the faith) can only go so far. I am not saying that there are not legitimate questions that we need answered. What I am saying is that at some point our indecisiveness becomes a definite decision. Our lack of faith in Christ becomes our new blind faith.

Here is the key: our conviction does not need to be perfect before we rest in Christ. It just needs to be true and sufficient.


The Day I Quit Believing in God: by C Michael Patton

I have not talked about this publicly before. I have not bogged about it. I have not used it as a sermon illustration. And never spoken of it before while I was teaching. It took me long enough to tell my wife about what happened. Like so many other things, it takes some time to process. I am always timid about events such as these. I don’t really know how to take it. So often, the interpretation that you come up with about the meaning of your experiences turns on you and places mud in your face (or here in Oklahoma, red clay).

It was a Wednesday afternoon when it happened. There was no real reason for it that I know of. In fact, this event was about the furthest thing from my psychological barometer. I was about to teach my classes in The Theology Program. The day before, I had responded to someone who had left the faith, attempting to do my best to restore confidence in this lapsing believer. This was certainly not atypical. There were no lingering doubts that had been surfacing. No new arguments that I heard that made me pause. I had every reason to be as confident as ever in my faith in Christ and the Christian worldview. However, this day would be like none other I had ever experienced. It was the day I quit believing.

You must understand. I have never been an “unbeliever” in any sense. There is not a time in my life that I can remember not believing in Christ. Sure, there were those doubts. Doubts about many things. But the serious doubts always ran out of gas very quickly as they were murdered by a few silver bullets that pulled back the curtain of their weaknesses. But this time was different. It was not any simple doubt that I was experiencing, but unbelief.

Like so many other things, I can tell you where I was when it happened. When Angie died, I was driving with the family on 635 in Dallas. When my mother had her stroke, I was sitting on the loveseat eating cereal. When Will busted his head open, I was playing Spiderman upstairs by myself. When I quit believing, I was beginning to sit down on my couch at home. By the time I pulled my legs up beside me, the terrible and foreign realization came to my mind that I didn’t believe. I don’t know why, but as I began to think about God, Christ, prayer, and all those things that form the normal spiritual backdrop to my thoughts, they had been robbed of their primary fuel—belief. I simply did not believe. There was this sudden realization that it was all false. Covering my life like a dark coroners blanket was a new belief: the belief that my whole life I had fooled myself into believing in something that was not true. I did not believe that God was real. Continue reading