- Religion and Philosophy
Questions & Doubts about Christian Faith
The management of our own mind's questions and doubts can make or break our journey. Those with very curious and inquisitive minds may have a particularly difficult time. I've seen some tied up in knots by their inquisitiveness, including myself! We can end up with questions, about the questions we have questions about. Yikes!
The crux of the matter, though, is not the questions. Nor is seeking a better understanding about the Bible or our Christian faith a problem. The real problem is, what happens when we doubt? What should we do when we sense that our questions have opened that door? How do we even recognize when that has happened?
Karl Marx was first a Christian
In an excerpt found in Karl Marx's first book, The Union of the Faithful with Christ, we see that he wrote:
Through love of Christ we turn our hearts at the same time toward our brethren who are inwardly bound to us and for whom He gave Himself as sacrifice. ...
These words written by Marx before he forsook Christianity and the Bible certainly look to be that of an honest Christian. Marx ended up, however, going down a very different path. How did this happen?
Marx' doubts led him to error
The turning point for Marx occurred at the universities he and others attended when they learned of a new 'Christian' doctrine' called "liberal theology." Friedrich Engels, Marx's friend, initially sensing this theology was dangerous wrote:
I pray every day, indeed almost all day, for truth, and I have done so ever since I began to doubt, but still I cannot go back. My tears are welling as I write. [Emphasis added is mine.]
Wurmbrand examines the writings of Marx and his followers, and shows how the "prince of darkness" gave these men the tool that terrorized the nations with the intent of destroying mankind.
However, Engels was not able to conquer the dangerous error. Neither was Marx, who became a God hater and invented one of the worst tools to oppress all humanity—communism. He eventually joined the satanic cult with his closest friends, writing in this poem:
I wander godlike and victorious
Through the ruins of the world
And, giving my words an active force,
I will feel equal to my Creator. [Emphasis mine]
Questions vs. Doubts
The problem with doubt
Asking questions in order to seek understanding about the Christian faith and the Bible is one thing. Doubting what knowledge one already does have and seeking to be equal with God is something different. Engels was not just seeking understanding about questions. Instead, he wrote that he had begun to go down the path of doubt.
I think Engels moved beyond questions and opened doubt's door. He began to doubt whether what he already knew of the Christian faith and the Bible was actually the truth, or whether something else was the truth.
Jesus appears to His disciples
Finding the Truth
Finding the Truth has more to do with where we actually look. Jesus told those who claimed to be believers if they continued to study His teachings (today found in the Bible) that they will know the truth—the truth that can free them (John 8:31-32). Curiosity and uncertainty—and the questions that arise from it—motivate us to find clarification and answers. Jesus says to look and keep looking in His teachings in order to find the answers.
After His crucifixion and death, Jesus had suddenly appeared to His disciples-in-hiding and spoke to them and then showed them the wounds in His hands and side (John 20:19-29). However, one of the disciples, Thomas, was not there and missed out on this.
The others told Thomas they had Jesus alive, but that was not enough for him. Thomas wanted to see proof!
Thomas wanted to see the proof, too
What Jesus told Thomas to do with his doubts
Thomas did manage to stay and not just give up and leave the disciples, nor did he expect them to provide the proof. He was still with the disciples-in-hiding eight days later, when suddenly Jesus was standing among them. Jesus then said to Thomas,
"Put your finger here and look at my hands! Put your hand into my side.Stop doubting and have faith!"
The way to find the truth is to look for it in a reliable source and trust it. Thomas was looking for visual proof, actually seeing Jesus alive again. I think Jesus was hoping he would rely on what He had been teaching Thomas all along, before His death and resurrection. Jesus told Thomas that the people who have faith in Him without seeing Him are the ones who will be really blessed!
Manage the doubts and questions sensibly
Rather than looking to man's thinking (like liberal theology), for visual proof from God or for others to convince you, you are to look at what Jesus taught.
James 1:5-8, as rendered in a translation for a minority group in Asia:
So you who are in sufferings and do not know how to do what is right, hopefully you will make request to God. Because His heart is very good so he desires to give greatly to everyone. So that is the way God will teach you so you can understand. But when you make requests, you are to truly believe God will give to you and teach you, in order that you do not doubt God in your mind. Because people who doubt God have faith in God that is not anchored, like a boat hit by waves and wind and is tossed back and forth. Those people's minds are split in two so nothing they do is anchored. Because of that they do not hope in their minds to receive anything from the Lord. That is not right.
We are also to ask our generous God for wisdom. In the Bible, James explains that God will give it to us. He will not rebuke us for asking. However, when we ask God, we must be sure that our faith is in God alone, not in our own or another person's wisdom (James 1:5-6).
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.
Don't assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil! (Proverbs 3:5-7, The Message)
We are not to be tossed around like a wave in the ocean
James also tells us not to waver, or flip-flop between God and another source of wisdom in the world, because a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as an ocean wave blown and tossed by the wind.
People who are not fully committed to God as their source of wisdom cannot expect to receive anything from God. They end up being unstable in everything they do (James 1:6-8).
This is what we see happened to Engels and Marx.
What guides us to the Truth
When Jesus came to His disciples-in-hiding He breathed on them giving them the Holy Spirit (John 19:22). He had told them earlier that when the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. (John 16:13)
When Jesus showed Thomas his wounds and told him to touch them, I think Thomas did not actually do as depicted in the above painting. Rather, in just seeing Jesus standing there he immediately believed this was Jesus come back to life, as he exclaimed, "You are my Lord and my God!" (John 19:28). Also, he must have at that point been given the Holy Spirit, too.
Listen to what the Spirit is saying
The Bible says God's Spirit tells us clearly that, in the last times, some will turn away from the true faith and follow deceptive spirits (1 Timothy 4:1).
May we not be one of them! Jesus both through His teachings and by His Spirit guides us to the truth. There is no need to look anywhere else. He reminds us believers—the churches—to keep listening; saying we must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to us, the churches (Revelation 3:6). Then, one day soon, we will see God face to face.
Like the woman at the well ... ask and listen
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© 2011 Deidre Shelden