What if I doubt my faith?
Then, just this week, I got news that my uncle is dying. He has literally drunk himself under. It’s no real surprise to any of the family. Thinking it was time for him to turn himself around, I picked up a copy of Lee Strobel’s The Case For Christ for him — and then it hit me. Doubt … after doubt … after doubt. Suddenly my own faith was assaulted in a large way. I’ve read a lot of apologetics and found most of it pretty good, but certain things are dogging me.
In the book by Norman L. Geisler and Paul K. Hoffman called Why I Am A Christian, I read your chapter entitled “Why I Am Not an Atheist.” You talked about the long form of suicide, saying that in your atheist days, “There was no need to bother with the taking of poison or the slashing of wrists, because it was all going on in my mind. In one long, interminable prolongation of nightfall, the light went out and went out and went out, all without the inconvenience of physical death.” I’ve got to tell you that right now, I feel like that. My family is looking at me funny and wondering why I’m acting so strange, but I really don’t want to open this up to them. They couldn’t help in this case, so I’m masking it as best I can.
I truly desire Christ and need to know if what I’m reading weekly in the Bible is fact, not just embellishment or character building. Thanks so much.
My dear, take heart: You are experiencing a relatively normal attack of doubt. It feels worse than it is because it’s your first time and you didn’t expect it. I think you will find, though, that it is your faith that is reasonable and rational, not the doubt.
In the unpublished version of my original reply, I addressed the specific doubts that you mentioned in the unpublished version of your letter. Of course, different people experience different doubts. But there is also something universal in what you tell me, something that other readers will recognize even if their doubts are different from yours. I talked about that with you too, and that is what I want to talk about here.
What you are experiencing is something that many new or newly-serious Christians experience. For some, doubt strikes immediately after conversion. For others, it strikes the moment they begin trying to lead a godly life. For still others, like you, it happens the first time they are called to go out on a limb — the first time they are called to do something which may make a difference to the life of someone else. Like your uncle.
There are two reasons why new Christians sometimes suffer this experience. One reason is the nervousness which is natural after big decisions. After all, there is no bigger decision than following Christ. Real estate agents call such nervousness “buyer’s remorse” because a lot of home buyers start worrying that the house is no good the moment they sign the mortgage papers. Newly engaged and newly married people sometimes feel panicky too. This passes. Trust me.
The second reason is that the Adversary hates your faith. There was no need to attack it before, because it was so fuzzy. As soon as you began to take it seriously, he tried to blast it. But you’re not helpless; this is an opportunity to exercise your faith muscles. Pray — and bear in mind that the mere fact that you can think of an objection to faith doesn’t mean that you actually have good reason to abandon it! One can always think of objections; if I try, I can think of a dozen reasons why I might be hallucinating, or why my wife might be having an affair. But do I have good reason to abandon my trust in my senses, my memory, or my wife? No.
Of course you’re right to seek out the answers to your specific questions. Yours were about the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ — a topic which has come up in this column before — and I was glad to help you with them. Keep seeking, but don’t shut out your church and the Christian members of your family from your distress. The Christian life is not a solitary life, and they may be far more help than you think, in ways you can’t foresee.
In the meantime, go on serving Christ. Go ahead and visit your uncle. Talk with him. Love him. Take him the book. The very act of doing so will open the shutters in the shadowed room of doubt. Paralysis is the Adversary’s ploy.
Finally, remember that faith is not the feeling of trust, but trust. You can go on living your faith even if from time to time the feelings seem to sputter. God will bless you for doing so, and some day you will be giving advice to someone who is struggling with doubt. After you’ve come through this attack, you’ll be a battle veteran. Read what Paul says about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6, and strap on the full armor of faith. Go with God, soldier.
Grace and peace,
Copyright 2002 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Professor J. Budziszewski is the author of more than a dozen books, including How to Stay Christian in College, Ask Me Anything, Ask Me Anything 2, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and The Line Through the Heart. He teaches government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.