When You Have Doubts (Part 3)

What do you do when you begin to have doubts about your faith? In the aftermath of a tragedy, when reading some difficult passage in Scripture, when it feels like our prayers are going no farther than the ceiling….these kinds of experiences can awaken in our hearts significant doubts about the existence of God or the goodness of God.

When I find myself wrestling with doubt (yes, even pastors have doubts!), what I have found helpful is to reflect again on a few key, foundational evidences that remind me why I believe.

In my previous two posts, I shared two of those evidences:

  • The wonder of creation
  • The plausibility of God’s Story of humanity

In this post, I want to share a third foundational piece of evidence: the Person of Jesus. There has been no other human being that has so significantly impacted the world like Jesus has. What makes this especially remarkable is that He didn’t travel widely. He didn’t use social media or military power or government to influence. He actually spent only 3 years in any real “public” ministry, focusing most of His attention on a band of 12 quite ordinary men. And yet His influence today is remarkable—billions of followers making up a worldwide movement—a movement that promotes love and sacrifice and doing good.

But it is not just the extent of His influence that is so significant in my mind.  It is the nature of it. When one reads the eye witness accounts of Jesus’ life, it is hard to not be impressed with His incredible miracles, His brilliant responses to His adversaries, His resolute courage, His sacrificial love.

Some may argue that the disciples made this stuff up,  but I find that hard to believe. Who could make up a story like this? Most of the time, when people are trying hard to write exalted biographies of their heroes, it is fairly obvious. The gospel accounts don’t have any of that feel to them. I mean, often the disciples look like idiots. What disciple is going to make that up, and then get buy in from the others before it goes to print? The eye witness accounts of Jesus’ life as provided in the New Testament offer a plausible, believable, and accurate picture of Jesus.

I realize there are many supposed “new gospels” that are being discovered (a la Dan Brown, etc) but even a cursory look at these reveals numerous questions about their legitimacy. Unlike the New Testament accounts, all of these “new” gospels were written centuries after Jesus was on earth. The gospel accounts contained in the New Testament were readily accepted as legitimate by the early Christians.

Even with all of this evidence, there is one crowning demonstration of Jesus’ Deity and power—the resurrection. His tomb is empty. The arguments used to say that the resurrection didn’t happen are in my opinion highly improbable. Had the disciples stolen the body, why would they later all be willing to die for a lie?

And what about Jesus’ appearances to hundreds  of people, as described in I Corinthians 15:3-8? These words were written by Paul when many of those witnesses would still be alive and able to confirm or deny the assertion. What is clear is that the resurrection launched a movement of Jesus’ followers that continues today. What else could explain how this rag tag group of frightened disciples (before the resurrection) within days became a transformational movement that impacted the world?

The resurrection, if true, means that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be. I’m willing to put my faith in this Jesus, even when I may not understand what God is doing at various times or why He seems distant or silent in the midst of certain tragedies.  Jesus truly is amazing.

 

 

  3Comments

  1. Steve   •  

    This is an interesting, and for me, somewhat persuasive perspective. Denying the historical effect of Jesus is silly (however, so is denying the historical effect of other religious figures, including Muhammed and Buddha). Yet I struggle with the other side of the con, which is the realization that billions of people since Jesus’s death have known nothing of him from birth to death. It calls into question the meaning of Jesus, particularly if you believe that believing in Jesus is the singular necessary condition to entry into heaven and/or avoidance of hell. In other words, why would God accept only those who claim Jesus as their savior and set history in motion such that billions will live and die more than two thousand years after Christ having never known him?

    • AlanKraft   •     Author

      Hey Steve

      I really appreciate your question. It is something I too have wrestled with for a long time. There are a couple of things that have helped me in processing this. I’d love to know your thoughts on these. First, we know there are people who are “saved” and are in heaven, even though they didn’t know Jesus’ name. This would include every Old Testament believer. They didn’t know Jesus, and yet are in heaven. I do believe they are saved through Christ’s work even though they didn’t specifically trust in His name. In light of this, I don’t see why a person who has never heard of Jesus and yet looks in faith to God couldn’t be saved a similar way.

      Second, Jesus once said “Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago…it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.” (Luke 10:13) This is fascinating to me. Jesus knows how someone would have responded to his miracles, if they would have seen them. This means he knows how someone would have responded if they had been born in different circumstances. To me, this opens the door for us to realize this question is way bigger than our finite minds and that God has a lot more knowledge and information at His disposal to sort this out.

      Third, in Genesis 18, as Abraham is wrestling with God about whether or not He will pour out judgment on any undeserving person in Sodom and as God assures Abraham that He won’t destroy even one righteous person, Abraham says “Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” That’s a huge comfort for me. Even if I don’t understand how God will respond to the billions who haven’t heard, I know what He does will be right and just. I also know His heart is loving and merciful.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, Steve. Thanks for the great question!

      • Steve   •  

        Alan,

        Thanks for the insights. Most of the time, I struggle to find any certainty in my faith except that there is a God and that God is beyond my complete understanding. I also trust that God is just. If I knew God’s justice required condemnation of non-believers to an eternity in hell solely because they were non-believers, I’d probably be less inclined to follow this God. And, of course, that means I’m applying my own standards of justice to my concept of God. However, I believe God created humans and gave us the Holy Spirit with innate sensibilities regarding justice, so maybe my own sensibilities regarding justice are in accord with those of God’s. So, I trust that God loves and accepts even those who don’t proclaim Jesus as their savior, according to standards that God deems just.

        Regarding the notion that God will judge someone on the basis of whether they would have called Jesus savior had he/she only known of Jesus invokes a number of issues, including free-will, which is probably another subject for another day–a very interesting subject at that.

        Thanks again!

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