My doubts have never been because I feel I don’t have enough information, or that Christianity has some sort of internal inconsistencies. I think I’m cynical and pessimistic by nature, and have chronic depersonalization disorder (well, self-diagnosed). When I doubt, my thoughts are along the lines of, “Yes, all that makes sense, but what if we’re missing something…. what if the truth about the world isn’t beautiful and hopeful and good, but behind everything is, instead, some terrible truth that will consign us to eternal torment because we have missed something?”
I look at people of other faiths who are assured of their being right, and think, “couldn’t that be me, too?” The role depersonalization plays in this is that it makes me feel not real, makes me question my own existence, and can be accompanied with paralyzing fear/anxiety that is just utter darkness. I don’t feel these doubts acutely all the time, or even that often, but I wish that I could shake the feeling that Christianity isn’t real in the same way that the chair I’m sitting on is real.
I was raised in an atheistic family and was saved out of that environment after 5 or 6 pre-salvation years of struggling with whether the gospel was real. However, I find myself at odds with many of the feelings & emotions of so many of the participants in the first week’s forum–I never feel angst, get depressed, or ever consider suicide due to my doubts. I guess my doubts are purely intellectual. IF THERE IS A GOD, I believe in the God the Bible clearly communicates: One who makes much of us as humans by loving us and giving Christ to us, that our lives might in turn make much of Him.
The doubts aren’t constant, but they are always in the background. At my conversion, and many times since, I have been fully convinced of God’s reality. Ninety-five percent of the time (I first said 99%, but that wouldn’t accurately portray my doubts) I believe God exists and has revealed Himself to me. I even got three seminary degrees, am ordained, and have served overseas in some hard environments because I desire to make God known as glorious among the nations (I am not trying to boast, Michael–I just want to hit home the point that I really am a Christian.). But the doubt lingers in the background.
I appreciated you saying we cannot immerse ourselves in non-theist resources and not expect the doubts to come. Most of the time, especially when presented in a forum through which I am helpless to respond, my doubts come the strongest at me when I read or listen to the views of intelligent men (philosophers, professors, or just all around cool and savvy atheists) who really have no doubts that God does not exist and that Christians are a bunch of redneck, backwoods, superstitious, pitiable, close-minded ignoramuses. Unfortunately, much of the time I can agree with them on some of those descriptions (I hope that doesn’t sound mean, but do you get what I’m saying?).
I have come to terms with my doubts, always believing (and publicly stating in my teaching) those doubts are my thorn. Do they have to be? Or can God remove my doubts?
Dear Michael and reader,
With such heavy and hardness of heart I write about my journey that I have yet to return from. September 1 2009, I had just spent the previous 2 days in the Spirit, praying, singing, sharing with fellow believers scripture to encourage them. It was a 1 of many precious moments with the LORD of Hosts that I cherished over the previous 7 months as a new believer.
I was justified on May 31 2009 when the Son of the Living God spoke into the deepest crevice of my heart through the preaching of Sinclair Ferguson on the resurrection and I was so justified, so forgiven, so full of the Holy Spirit that I never wanted to leave the bosom of my Jesus. I had to go ride my bicycle at 40 MPH to burn off the energy that I received from this forever forgiveness. Fast forward to Sept 1 2009, thursday and I am sitting at work about to have to go play an indoor soccer game with a team of non believers and one moment I was typing an email and the next I could sense the Spirit leaving me and I was reaching out like a lost child. In a moment, I was devasted thinking I had been called, justified, and then let go because perhaps as John 15 says I hadn’t borne enough fruit and so I lost the gift. What made it exponentially worse that night was that one of the soccer members blurted a blasphemy with God’s name in it and my brain reached out and grabbed that word and I could not let go of it. I kept hearing that word over and over in my thoughts and I thought I was going to be damned forever because of it.
For the next 3-4 months it got worse and worse. I felt and believed everyday that the last year with Christ had all been a dream. I didn’t doubt per se, the essential doctrines of the faith or the historical realities of it….that would come later at a time I couldn’t handle it. My fight was to believe I was in the flock. I began to see things through a lense as though I was going utterly, mentally insane. People had 2 eyes, and a big forehead. I thought why? If you peel away my skin I am just a skull and flesh with 2 eyeballs and a 5lbs brain that processes what I hope are realities. But if I lost my brain or if humans weren’t made, then would reality still be real or would it really matter?. Continue reading
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