Friday, August 26, 2005

God In The Dark

As a teenager I was a bit of a 'doubting Thomas'. It's scary sometimes because you seem to ask questions nobody seems interested in...

Some friends will look at you 'one kind', worrying if you've lost your salvation.
Or, offer well-meaning advice to 'have more faith' by just trying a bit harder.

(OK it still happens to me nowadays but... Peter Rowan highly recommended "GOD IN THE DARK" (Os Guinness) - a masterful, sensitive guide for doubters and their friends who wanna help.)

Often we think of 'doubt' as something bad. I've lost count of sermons that chide 'doubting Thomas' during Easter!

This misconception has helped to make Christians 'ashamed of doubting because doubt is a betrayal of faith and a surrender to unbelief".

But listen to other nuggets of wisdom from the book... (in bold)

"Doubt is not the opposite of faith, nor is it the same as unbelief. Doubt is a state of mind in suspension between faith and unbelief..."

But unbelief is a "a willful refusal to believe" or "deliberate decision to disobey"... "a state of mind that is closed against God".

"Doubt comes from a word meaning ‘TWO.’ To believe is to be ‘in one mind’ about ACCEPTING something as true; to disbelieve is to be ‘in one mind’ about REJECTING it. To doubt is to waver between the two, to believe and disbelieve at once and so to be ‘in two minds.’"

"...separate those who are doubting because they need answers from those who are doubting because they need doubts."

"Some people react so strongly against a morbid view of doubt that they treat doubt casually, even celebrate it... (but) Continued doubt loosens the belivers' hold on the resources and privileges of faith and can be prelude to disasters of unbelief"

C.S.Lewis once observed:
"If you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?"

"...doubt is really faith suffering from mistreatment or malnutrition"

The book lists several forms of mistreatment/malnutrition:
1. Ingratitude/Forgetfulness
2. Faulty View of God
3. Weak Foundations
4. Lack of Commitment
5. Lack of Growth
6. Unruly Emotions
7. Hidden Conflicts

It also prescribes some exercise/medicines/supplements:
1. Intentionally remembers God's past goodness (i.e. journal, festivals)
2. Broaden our vision of who God really is
3. Reading/research on specific areas we struggle with (ie is Bible true?)
4. "Sign the contract" - commit to the consequences of your choice
5. Put faith into practice, to the test, real-life training
6. "Preach to yourself" - long obedience in the same direction
7. The creative power of humor... surprised by joy.

We need to be careful listeners and enflesh our words with compassion and patience so that our diagnosis and prescription can be on-target.

"If someone is doubting bcos he is no longer thankful to God... then no amount of intellectual discussion will touch his problem. Equally if someone is doubting bcos she has no basis for faith, then no amount of stirring reminders and encouragements will be a substitute for the necessary intellectual understanding.."

(How I wish every doubt can be dispelled by the right theological answer! But I gotta learn slowly and painfully that to help doubters require so much more... nothing less than the gracious work of the Holy Spirit can meet the wide contingencies of human need)

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