Doubt

I slept in a little this morning but I guess that’s a luxury of being retired. It’s quiet, I have my first cup of dark roast in hand, and God is already talking to me. The word “doubt” comes to mind for some odd reason.

Doubt is one of those words that Christians are uncomfortable with. As one Christian says, “In believers it is usually a weakness of faith, a wavering in the face of God’s promises (note 1).” Jesus was constantly getting after his disciples for doubting:

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. You of little faith, he said, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

But, we all doubt – don’t we? If I told you that your spouse was cheating on you, wouldn’t you have some doubt and require some kind of proof before you believed me? I certainly hope you would. In our litigious society people are accused of many things every day. We may or may not believe the alleged accusations until there’s sufficient proof. We have a system that requires proof. We must eliminate all doubt!

No one is immune to doubting at one time or another. In an article written by Jesse Carey in Relevant Magazine he writes about “7 Prominent Thinkers Who Wrestled With Doubt” including Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, and Pope Francis (note 2). You can read the article here.

Our third President and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was a doubter. I get a kick out of those who believe America to be a Christian Nation and cite a quote or two from Thomas Jefferson. I’ll have to admit, he was a Christian – my kind of Christian anyway! Jefferson said, “I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus (note 3).” He went on to edit the Bible to his standards, cutting and pasting to create his own Bible, and wrote to a friend:

“I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.” See a pdf copy of Jefferson’s Bible here.

I may be like Jefferson in his thinking but I’m more like one of the twelve apostles who doubted. He even earned the nickname “Doubting Thomas.” He had followed Jesus through his ministry and was an eyewitness to all of the miracles that Jesus performed. He was there when they fed 5,000 men (more than that if you include the women and children) from scraps of bread and a couple of fish (Matthew 14:13-21). Yet, after Jesus died, he said:

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe (John 20:25).”

And Jesus gave Thomas the proof he needed. He allowed him to feel the hole marks in his hands and where the soldier speared him in the side of his chest. Thomas believed.

Being the agnostic that I am, that’s where I stand. I’m leaving room for belief, but there’s gotta be some proof to make me a believer. As Leslie Hazleton says in her newest book, Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto (note 4), “Belief insists while faith hopes and trusts.” She goes on to say, “You need belief only when you are not sure. Belief is the product not of knowledge, but of uncertainty. It contains within itself the possibility of disbelief.”

I’ll end my thoughts by saying that I doubt like the apostle, Thomas. He was given immediate proof. I am still waiting. But right now, I have little doubt that a second cup of dark roast awaits me. Peace!

Notes:

1. Altrogge, M. (2017). Doubt Definition and Meaning – Bible Dictionary. Bible Study Tools. Retrieved 11 July 2017, from http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/doubt/

2. 7 Prominent Christian Thinkers Who Wrestled With Doubt. (2014). RELEVANT Magazine. Retrieved 11 July 2017, from https://relevantmagazine.com/god/7-prominent-christian-thinkers-who-wrestled-doubt

3. The Bible According to Thomas Jefferson – TheHumanist.com. (2012). TheHumanist.com. Retrieved 11 July 2017, from https://thehumanist.com/magazine/march-april-2012/features/the-bible-according-to-thomas-jefferson

4. Hazleton, L. (2017). Agnostic: a spirited manifesto. New York: Riverhead Books.

4 thoughts on “Doubt

  1. I like the last paragraph of the article in the Humanist about “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” Jefferson’s Book. “Looking at the Jefferson Bible should teach people on all sides of the debate to be very skeptical when someone of their tribe quotes a Founding Father to prove that he was an ally in their cause,” Waldman says. “It’s easy to cherry-pick the Founding Fathers’ quotes to ‘prove’ that they were either orthodox Christians or they were secular. They were neither. Their religious views were complex and fascinating and they don’t lend themselves to being pigeonholed or used in the modern culture wars. When you do that, you distort reality.”

  2. Vic, I’ve been reading your posts with interest. But you seem to be flip flopping. In some of your posts you claim to be Christian and then say you are an agnostic. FYI, an agnostic is little different from an atheist as neither of them believes in God. In fact, being an agnostic is worse than being an atheist. An atheist has made his/her search for truth and has made a definite decision that there is no God. While the agnostic lives their whole life not knowing what to believe. If you go to your grave, never having made up your mind on what you believe, then your life is a sad noncommittal story. And make no mistake, you can’t be a Cristian and an agnostic! Simple as that!

  3. Vic, I suspect that all of us have moments of doubt about Jesus. Even John the Baptist had to send his disciples to question Jesus as to His true nature. This doubt does not mean you’re an agnostic or atheist. On the other hand, if you demand the proof of a ‘sign’ like the Pharisees did in order to be a believer, you’ll never get that sign. (John 2-18)

    In the New Testament Jesus asked His disciples an important question and He asks His disciples, throughout time, the same question, “Who do you say I AM?”

    Jesus Asked, “Who Do You Say That I Am?”
    Jesus asked His Disciples an important question, “Who do men say that I Am?”

    So, who is Jesus? Let’s take a look at His life and begin with a plain fact. Throughout all history, it would be hard to find anyone whose life has had a greater impact on the world than Jesus’.

    A famous author, an atheist named, H.G. Wells said, “I am not a believer, but as an historian, I must confess that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is easily the most dominant person in all history.”

    Jesus’ impact on the world is amazing when we recall that he lived 2,000 years ago in a small town. We know almost nothing about His first 30 years on earth. He never traveled far from home as an adult, never held political office, never wrote a book, never invented something, never discovered anything, never led an army into battle, and He never amassed great wealth.

    The three short years of His public ministry were spent in small villages. He avoided publicity and commanded His followers not to tell anyone of the miracles that they saw Him perform. He never did any of the things that are considered to be historic.

    Indeed, He is remembered by eyewitnesses for being rejected by his own people, that He died naked, penniless, shamed, virtually alone, and in great agony. He appeared to be a spectacular failure.

    So how is it then that Jesus has become the most influential person in the history of the world? Christians see Him as their Savior, other religions regard Him as a holy man. Nations, Cultures, even people of no Christian faith have been deeply influenced by Jesus and His teachings.

    Albert Einstein wrote, I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene. He added, “No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus.”

    So, what sets this man apart from the billions of others who have lived upon this earth? Jesus appears to be like some other religious figures, preaching love of neighbor and urging people to turn to God. But something separates Jesus from all the others.

    Other religious leaders like Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, or Confucius had a message about God or about the right way of living. But the most they had to say about themselves was that they were prophets or wise teachers.

    Unlike all these other religious figures Jesus made a far more radical claim. He claimed to be a more than a messenger from God, He claimed to be the actual Message, the Very Word of God. In short, His identity is the issue.

    Jesus demanded the apostles make a decision and asked them, “Who do you say that I Am?”

    Actually, the possible answers to this question are surprisingly limited. Let’s look at some of the non-believer attempts to explain Jesus.

    Many non-Christians see Jesus just as being a good man, a wise man, and a great teacher.

    And yet, we miss the point entirely if we treat Jesus merely as a good and wise teacher, because Jesus made far greater claims.

    When Jesus claimed to forgive sins, He was making the claim that it was He was the One who was offended by men’s sins. He was criticized for forgiving sins, because only God can forgive sins. And his critics were right, Only God can forgive sins, and Jesus never disputed that.

    Jesus claimed that before Abraham was, I Am. Understand what Jesus claimed here. Jesus claimed to be, “I Am”, and I Am is the Name by which God revealed Himself to Moses. Jesus is claiming to be the same eternal God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. The religious leaders understood perfectly what He was saying and they picked up stones and attempted to kill Him for blasphemy. (John 8:58)

    Jesus guided by word and example, forgiving, loving and caring for others. But far more than showing us the way, Jesus claimed that He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; and that no one can come to the Father but by Me.

    When Jesus appeared to the Apostle Thomas, Thomas fell to the ground and worshiped Jesus praying to Him, My Lord and my God!” Being strict Jews, Jesus and the apostles worshiped only one God, but when Thomas fell down and worshiped Jesus as God, neither Jesus nor any of the other apostles corrected him. It is clear that none of Jesus disciples thought that Jesus was only a good and wise teacher.

    Instead, Jesus accepted Thomas’ worship, acknowledging that He is the one God of Israel.

    If Jesus’ claims weren’t true, then He could not have been a wise man, a good man, or a great teacher. Instead He would have been an egomaniac, an evil and ignorant man who didn’t teach truth. But, if Jesus’ claims are true then He is certainly much more than a good and wise teacher.

    Because Jesus taught that He is God and that we are not. He emphasized that He is from above and that we are from below, that we are sinners and that He is without sin, and that God is one. Jesus had a thoroughly Jewish concept of the God of Israel; and Jesus clearly stated a number of times, “I Am!”

    One atheist, who converted to Christianity, was the great protestant thinker and writer, C.S. Lewis. He wrote, “Jesus claimed to be God, so there are only two possibilities, either He is God or He is not God.” There are no other possibilities.

    He added, if Jesus is not God, then we are left with two options: He either knows that He is not God and is a liar, or he is a lunatic and mistakenly thinks that He is God.

    If Jesus was a liar, His lies were about the most important things imaginable. For a man to lie about such claims to His friends and followers, He would have to been deeply evil.

    Liars tell lies in the pursuit of some gain. So, if Jesus was a liar, for what purpose? What does Jesus gain as a result of His lies? Earthly power? No, when men try to crown Him, He runs away. Status? No, He only wins the admiration of unimportant people; prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen, along with the undying hatred of powerful men bent on His destruction.

    When He is on trial for His life, why would He lie when asked if He is the Christ, the Son of God? He didn’t hesitate. He answered, I AM, (Mark 14:62) thereby inviting crucifixion, the most horrific death known to man. No liar, bent on earthly gain would do this.

    So, if Jesus is not God and not a liar, we are left with only one other alternative; He was mistakenly insane. The trouble with this thought is that there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that Jesus was insane. Study His interactions with His enemies or His warm conversations with His friends. No one ever thought that He was a deranged man, out of His wits.

    So, if Jesus wasn’t a compulsive liar or insane, it begins to look as though there is difficulty in accounting for Jesus in any other way but the way that Peter did. When Jesus asked him, “Who do you say that I AM.” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

    And Jesus asks the same question to all people, throughout time, He asks the same question of you and me, “Who do you say that, I Am?”

    ONE FINAL THOUGHT

    The Apostles were the people who knew Jesus best. And they believed His claims. They believed so much that they would go out into a world filled with wolves and spread Jesus’ Gospel. Except for John, all of them willingly gave up their lives in martyrdom for their Lord and God.

  4. Vic, why do you use Bart Ehrman as one of your primary resources on Christianity? He certainly has a biased/slanted view on Scripture and all Christianity. He claims that he lost his faith at the age of 17 and has become a self avowed atheist and his atheism is evident in all his so called ‘intellectual works and blogs’. Do you use Bart because his ideas and agenda are the same as yours? Just wondering.

    There are many criticisms about Bart’s agenda and intellectual failures below are a few. And, if you wanted to you could find many more such criticisms. But do you want to?

    Andreas J. Köstenberger, Darrell L. Bock and Josh D. Chatraw have disputed Ehrman’s depiction of scholarly consensus, saying: “It is only by defining scholarship on his own terms and by excluding scholars who disagree with him that Ehrman is able to imply that he is supported by all other scholarship.” Michael R. Licona, notes, however, that “his thinking is hardly original, as his positions are those largely embraced by mainstream skeptical scholarship”.
    Gary Kamiya states in Salon that “Ehrman’s scholarly standing did not soothe the evangelical Christians who were outraged by Misquoting Jesus. Angered by what they took to be the book’s subversive import, they attacked it as exaggerated, unfair and lacking a devotional tone. No fewer than three books were published in response to Ehrman’s tome”.In 2014, Zondervan published How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature: A Response to Bart D. Ehrman as a planned companion volume to Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God. The contributing authors—including Michael F. Bird, Craig A. Evans, and Simon Gathercole—present Ehrman as “prone to profound confusion, botched readings and scholarly fictions.”[49] Bird writes, “For conservative Christians, Ehrman is a bit of a bogeyman, the Prof. Moriarty of biblical studies, constantly pressing an attack on their long-held beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Bible…. For secularists, the emerging generation of ‘nones’ (who claim no religion, even if they are not committed to atheism or agnosticism), Ehrman is a godsend.”[

    Vic, don’t choose Bart, a phony intellectual as your source because he supports your views. And then try and pass him off to others as an authority.

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