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Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #2) DOUBT!

In his book Martin Thielen, a United Methodist pastor, challenges us to give up certain beliefs which many Christians hold. Some beliefs ought to be jettisoned. Others, not so much.

The book is divided into two sections: Part 1 lists “Ten Things Christians Don’t Need to Believe” and Part 2 is entitled “Ten Things Christians Do Need to Believe.” Let’s think about the second belief Christians don’t need to believe.

2. Good Christians Don’t Doubt: Thielen subtitles this chapter “Doubt is not the enemy of faith but part of authentic Christianity.” Thielen talks about being “all prayed out,” meaning one begins to have doubts about God’s existence and care. He gives several examples, such as Abraham and Sarah praying for a son, Moses becoming frustrated in leading the people of Israel through the wilderness, Job in his sickness and loss, Jeremiah in his anger and anguish.  [Thielen mentions the Apostle Paul’s praying for healing {presumably in 2 Cor. 12}, but feeling “prayed out” in not receiving his healing.  I would disagree with this example].

Thielen says that “even Jesus felt all prayed out” (p. 10).  Hmmm.  Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane does reveal the Lord’s struggle with dying, but He concludes His prayer, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.”  That doesn’t seem like being “prayed out” to me.

MY RESPONSE:  I agree that some of the early Christians had to work their way out of their doubts (“Doubting Thomas” is a classic example), but remaining in doubt certainly isn’t the answer for the disciple.  Doubt, honestly faced, can lead to CONFIDENT FAITH or UNGODLY UNBELIEF. Perhaps my diagram will help a bit.  Doubt can lead to one or the other.

But God doesn’t want us to stay in DOUBT.  I appreciate Timothy Keller who challenges those still on the way to faith to “doubt their doubts”! The writer Frederick Buechner refers to doubt as “the ants in the pants of faith; [moments of doubt] keep it awake and moving.” (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking). Alister McGrath states that “Doubt is probably a permanent feature of the Christian life. It’s like some kind of spiritual growing pain. Sometimes, it recedes into the background; at other times it comes to the fore, making its presence felt with a vengeance.” (Alister McGrath, The Sunnier Side of Doubt). The Christian writer Phillip Yancey confesses, “I have found that petty disappointments tend to accumulate over time, undermining my faith with a lava flow of doubt.” (Phillip Yancey, Disappointment with God, p. 23). I have found a lot of help here from Os Guinness’s book In Two Minds: The Dilemma of Doubt and How to Resolve It. As one reviewer says, “Doubt is an untenable position because it is to be in two minds, not choosing one position or another. But humans cannot live this way, claims Guinness. Eventually you have to make a choice.”

For me the issue often is, Do I choose to believe God — or myself (and my doubts)? We need a godly conviction about the truths declared in God’s Word!  Here, the famous statement by G.K. Chesterton is quite helpful.  He writes: “But what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.” (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, pp. 31-32).




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Posted by on February 5, 2019 in doctrine


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