Questions and doubts:
What do you do when you have questions and doubts about God or your faith? Questions can be good if it moves us forward to finding answers. I had a lot of questions about Christianity and I did not do anything about that for years except to become a doubtful skeptic. Doubt because of unanswered questions can be a terrible thing if it causes us to settle into apathy or worse.
Charles Templeton vs. Billy Graham—Why the difference?
I had gone through a conversion experience as an incredibly green youth. I lacked the intellectual skills and the theological training needed to buttress my beliefs when – as was inevitable – questions and doubts began to plague me…. My reason had begun to challenge and sometimes to rebut the central beliefs of the Christian faith. -Charles Templeton
Charles Templeton was set to become the greatest evangelist of the twentieth century, but he abruptly walked away from God and the Christian faith because he could no longer live with the doubts that had developed in him. He went on to become a vocal atheist.
Before he died in 2001 Charles Templeton told Lee Strobel, in an interview for the book “The Case for Faith,” that even though he didn’t believe in God anymore he missed Jesus. How sad that statement is. Jesus is God and he came to show us the person of God. Jesus is where all of our questions and doubts can be taken and we will find answers and peace in studying His Word.
Where Charles Templeton went wrong:
- His prayer life was questionable, he struggled with doubts but never said he prayed over his doubts.
- He went to Princeton, but only had his doubts reinforced.
- He did not pursue classic Christian theology and doctrine, nor did he study Christian Apologetics.
- He did not make God’s Word (the Bible) his first priority and ultimate authority.
- He did not allow Jesus’ sacrifice to be personal for him.
- He did not persevere through his trials trusting outcomes to God.
- He gave up and walked away from God—God did not leave him, he left God.
All of us want somebody to love us. Well, I want to tell you that God loves you. He loves you so much that he gave us his Son to die on the cross for our sins. And he loves you so much that he will come into your life and change the direction of your life and make you a new person, whoever you are. -Billy Graham
Billy Graham, Templeton’s good friend, did become the greatest evangelist of the twentieth Century! When Billy Graham suffered through times of doubt, and he did, he went out to a quiet place, opened his Bible and asked God to help him. He modeled Jesus:
… vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. –Luke 5:15-16
Through prayer and the study of God’s Word Billy Graham has been a role model to millions for 7 decades.
Where Billy Graham got it right:
- He is honest with God about his doubts.
- He puts prayer first.
- He puts God’s Word as the ultimate authority in his life.
- He puts Jesus’ life example and teachings as ultimate truth.
- He puts Jesus’ sacrifice as sufficiency for grace.
- He perseveres with God through trials, relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
- He never gave up and walked away, He trusted God’s purpose for his life.
The result: A legacy that lives on through his family who you can find in Christian service all over the world today, and through those who have listened to his preaching over the last century. He has been a warrior for the Kingdom of God and an instrument for the salvation of so many. If you want to read or watch more about Charles Templeton and Billy Graham get the book or DVD by Lee Strobel called The Case for Faith, or you can watch The Case for Faith on Vimeo.
For more on the life of Billy Graham watch the movie “Billy, the Early Years:”
There are many stories in the Bible where individuals had doubts. For example, John the Baptist (Matthew 11), the man whose son was demon possessed (Mark 9:21-24), and Jesus’ own disciple Thomas (John 20:24-31). Read about them and see how Jesus responded to their doubts. You will discover that doubt is OK, we just cannot stay there, we must move forward and search for the answers just like these guys did.
To combat doubt and increase our faith it is of vital importance to have a life skill of daily prayer and Bible reading. It is also of vital importance to stay on the journey of faith through worship and Bible study with other believers. There are only two choices in this life either we walk through it with Jesus or we do not, there is no middle ground, he did not give us that option.
The Problem of Evil:
One of Templeton’s main objections to God’s existence was the presence of evil in the world. C.S. Lewis, who became one of the greatest Christian Apologists of the 20th century, also cited the problem of evil as his reason for atheism until he realized that he could only distinguish evil if there was a standard of good to measure it by, so he searched for and discovered Who that standard was. Many of our top Christian Apologists today have come from similar journeys; Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel and J. Warner Wallace were all atheists but the key, they did not settle there.
Watch this eight minute video on the Question of pain and suffering:
Evil and suffering: Why does it exist?
The Christian faith provides the best answer to this question and is the only worldview that has real solutions.Every human, regardless of their belief, has to deal with this problem. All of the other worldviews fall short in answering the question and can really only complain about evil, or pretend that it doesn’t exist.
Dr. Clay Jones, Professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, has spent a good portion of his career researching and writing on the problem of evil and suffering. In a recent article he said,
“Consider a truth agreed upon by every agnostic, skeptic, atheist, and Christian: only one thing is going to prevent you from watching every person you know die from murder, accident, or disease and that will be your own death by murder, accident or disease.”
In our comfortable western culture we tend to live in denial of a spiritual world and the idea of eternity, but only when we suffer a tragedy, the loss of a loved one, or a negative prognosis of a disease do we contemplate its significance. If we live without a proper perspective of eternity we will never have a correct understanding of the spiritual warfare that is going on all around us and its consequences in this life.
Watch Dr. Jones’ one hour presentation on “Why God Allows Evil.”
Sources of evil and suffering:
From the Christian worldview we find two significant answers for the question of evil and suffering:
1. Satan and his demons, as created beings with freewill, cause significant damage to humans and to this world.
To deny a spiritual world is the same as denying that we have souls with immaterial thoughts and intentions. From the Christian worldview we learn that in the beginning God made everything perfect and “good” (Genesis 1-2) including the spiritual world. However, God chose to give freewill to His creation and freewill is the only way real love can be expressed.
Satan, a created being, chose to go against God along with one-third of the created angels (Rev. 12:4, 9) and he was thrown from Heaven to the earth (Job 1; Isaiah 14:12-13). He furthered his choice by deceiving humans (see Genesis 3) and by bringing out the three greatest evil characteristics he possesses in us: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, pride of life.
We find him doing this in the Fall when he tempted Adam and Eve:
- Lust of the flesh: The fruit was tempting to the appetite
- Lust of the eyes: The fruit looked good and was attractive
- Pride of life: Satan wanted God’s job and he presented the fruit of the tree as something God was holding back from them and as something they were owed, something they deserved.
Jesus overcame this in the wilderness (See Luke 4:1-13):
- Lust of the flesh: Jesus was hungry after 40 days of fasting
- Lust of the eyes: Satan took him to the top of the pinnacle and showed him the world
- Pride of Life: Satan told Jesus he would give him the world if He would worship him
How did Jesus avoid these temptations and respond to Satan? HE USED THE SCRIPTURES (GOD’S WORD) and Satan fled.
The Apostle John warned the early Church of these same three things…
- Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17
The Fall of Man
How did Satan deceive Adam and Eve and how does he still deceive us?
The first attack of Satan is always on God’s Word.
Step 1: Satan twists God’s Word and causes doubt
“He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
- Today Satan causes us to doubt God’s Word by getting us to think it is outdated, written by men and not interpreted correctly; and he causes us to doubt the Bible’s historicity, reliability and inspiration. (All of this is untrue upon careful investigation)
Step 2: Satan contradicts God and substitutes what He said with something else
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. (Gen. 3:4)
- We know that was a lie because Adam and Eve died both physically and spiritually (they were separated from God). Today we find Satan’s deception through changing cultural norms that contradict Biblical values and scientific theories that substitute evolution as means for our origin instead of God as our Creator.
Step 3: Satan challenges God’s motives
“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5)
- In essence Satan was saying that God was holding something important back from them. In today’s culture we have this mind-set that things are owed to us and that God is not giving us what we deserve. But what do we really deserve?
or, because of what Jesus did for us can we have this again…
2. We bring on much of the hardships we experience through bad choices.
Humans are part of the problem of evil and suffering. No one who is being honest can ever say that they have not caused pain in another person’s life at one time or another. Over the span of human history we find heartache, disasters, wars and tragedies all of which expose the human heart at its worst, it’s in our DNA.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:13-15
For a deeper treatment of the topic of original sin click here to read Dr. Clay Jones’ article, “Original Sin, Its Importance and Fairness”
Is there a way to get rid of evil and suffering?
God cannot allow Satan and his demons to accomplish their evil through us and they will face final judgment (Revelation 20). Those who choose to follow Satan and his way will do so through freewill choice.
God is righteous, holy and just and therefore must punish sin. We would not want it to go unpunished just like you would not want an intruder who raped and pillaged your family to go unpunished.
For now however, the weeds (those who choose to follow the evil one) and the grain (those who choose to follow God) must live together until the fullness of time (Matthew 13:36-43).
Is there anything we can do?
We cannot do anything ourselves, but we have the opportunity to learn about God’s plan to help us. He promised to do so right from the beginning (Genesis 3:15). This is the “Scarlet Thread” we find through the whole Old Testament and the Covenant Promises God made through His chosen family, Israel. This promise was then fulfilled in the New Testament by God’s giving of His one and only Son to take our place for the evil and suffering we are responsible for so that we can live in eternity with Him (we can return to the way it was originally intended).
The Christian worldview is the only one where we find God’s grace (getting something we don’t deserve) and not just mercy (not getting what we do deserve). We have the ability to choose to be born again. When we are born again we are brought back into God’s family and the right relationship He wanted to have with us from the beginning.
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit give birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” John 3:5-7 NIV
Read this excellent article by Aaron Brake: “Jesus On The Problem of Evil”
Jesus knows our suffering because He has been here and suffered. His hand is out for us and he wants to walk with us through our deepest pains and rejoices with us through our happiest times, all we have to do is remember to take it and walk through it with Him. He knows us intimately and what is best for us in the short run as well as in the long run, and most of all what is best for us eternally!
Spend some time reading and studying John chapter 14 for comfort in times of loss and questions about the certainty of an eternal home with Jesus.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
For an in-depth study on this topic watch Ravi Zacharias’ 1 hour and 50 minute presentation:
Join us next week as we begin a case for the Bible!
You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in! Join us as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.
Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.
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