Over the next few weeks we will look at what many Christian Apologists believe is the number one complaint leveled against the Christian God: The problem of evil. Skeptics claim, ‘if God, why evil?’ I am going to spread out this topic to cover three areas that I believe are interconnected: Doubt, Evil and Suffering. Check out this short clip by “Impact 360” to get us started with the problem of doubt in faith:
A Case for Faith vs. Doubt:
What do you do when you have doubts about God or your faith? Doubt and questions can be a good thing if it moves us forward to finding answers. A lot of people, even Christians, have doubts about Christianity and things of the faith and if they don’t do anything with those doubts they become soured skeptics. Doubt can be a terrible thing if it causes us to settle into skepticism, apathy, or worse.
So what do we do with our questions and doubts? Do we hide behind them, run away from God (like Jonah), or can we make a choice to move forward and find answers? Let’s look at two people who made two different choices resulting in drastically different outcomes:
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 in place 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 and wrote books voicing his views against Christianity. Before he died in 2001 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 horribly sad that is.
Jesus is God and He came to show us the personal side of God. Jesus is where all of our questions and doubts can be taken and this is where we will find answers and peace. We can only get to know him by reading and studying his teachings found in the Bible, and through thoughtful time in prayer.
Where Charles Templeton went wrong:
- His prayer life was questionable and he struggled with his doubts, but he never said he prayed over his doubts, nor did he give them to God
- He went to Princeton for help, but at a liberal leaning seminary he only had his doubts reinforced
- He did not make God’s Word, the Bible, his first priority and the ultimate authority
- He did not allow for 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. Through prayer and the study of God’s Word Billy Graham became a role model for millions and, as of this writing, is still actively ministering in his late 90’s.
“… 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
Where Billy Graham got it right:
- He was (and is) honest with God about his doubts
- He puts prayer first
- He puts God’s Word, the Bible, as the ultimate authority in his life
- He puts Jesus’ life example and teachings as ultimate truth
- He puts Jesus’ sacrifice as sufficiency for the needed grace in his life
- He perseveres with God through trials, relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Bible
- 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, 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. His faithfulness and commitment to God has been awe-inspiring.
“Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.”
–A prayer by Billy Graham
What does the Bible teach about doubt?
There are three specific examples in the Bible’s New Testament where individuals had doubts: 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 to our questions, trust in Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit take the lead just like these guys did.
Jesus, speaking to his disciples after the Resurrection, said: …“Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:29
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.
- Compare and contrast Charles Templeton and Billy Graham—what do you think made the difference in their relationship with God?
- Select one of the Scripture references from the example of people who had doubts at some point in their walk with Jesus. Which one do you relate to the most and why?
- Copy Proverbs 3:5-6 and commit it to memory.
- Prayer Focus: Share your doubts and fears with God, then commit to never giving up on your journey with Jesus.
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.
Please let me know what you think: Give feedback, ask questions or send concerns in the comment section of the blog.
1 Peter 3:15