One of my favorite Christian Bands to listen to through my high school years was Hawk Nelson. Hearing about how Jon has lost faith in God does break my heart as someone who truly believes in the goodness of God. How could God allow for these doubts to overcome? This is a question that many struggling Christians deal with on a daily basis. In this article, I hope to go into types of doubts, roots of doubts, and proper ways to deal with them.
Ravi Zacharias puts it best when he says that there is a difference between a doubt and a question. Questions are sincere truth seeking tools for how we come closer to truth and reality. Whenever I have a question about God, I always look into it and usually find an answer. A different category of questions that can arise when it comes to my life and where God is in it. I have questions all the time, but doubts take place on a much more emotional level.
We can have intellectual doubts that are really different than emotional doubts. These are sincere truths that can challenge many beliefs Christians are brought up with that are not orthodox in nature. A lot of intellectual doubts can have their origins in emotional doubts, which is what I want to focus on. For intellectual doubts and questions, dive into literature and academics if that is truly one’s true point of doubt.
Most emotional doubts are rooted in doubting the goodness of God for our lives and others. I have been at this point in my life recently and many times growing up. The sadness and the apparent non-response from God is a powerful tool for controlling the mind. It is okay to go through this and express your sadness with others. The worst thing one can do is push these to the back of your head and not look for answers. At some point or another, they will all compress on you at once and destroy your faith in God. Many of Hawk Nelson’s song lyrics have helped me and actually speak to true points of apologetics when dealing with suffering.
“If you wanna know how far my love can go
Just how deep
Just how wide
If you wanna see how much you mean to me
Look at my hands
Look at my side
If you could count the times I'd say you are forgiven
It's more than the drops in the ocean,”
The doctrine of the incarnation is truly amazing and one of the best responses to the problem of suffering. A hard truth to swallow for most is the realization that humans are not good by nature and by choice. This is affirmed by Biblical truth and truly through the world we experience. In the 20th century when modernism and industrialism had taken place, the bloodiest era would come about. One only has to study history to see how evil humanity really is, which is ultimately due to the rejection of God in both general and special revelation.
The idea that Jesus, who is God and shares an equal essence with the Father, would give that up, even for a temporal amount of time, is truly the greatest possible story told. Look at his hand, look at his sides, and see the love and forgiveness he displays for us. God came down to suffer with us, even though we have left ourselves to abandoning him, he still loves those that rejected him. Many parents have testified that the worst pain a human can go through is to endure the death of a child. Imagine what the Father had to feel during Jesus’ suffering. From the apologetics standpoint, there is historical evidence to affirm this truth, making it a true defeater of temporal, emotional doubts.
This is the most important point I want to make here when we deal with doubts concerning the goodness of God; his actions speak louder than those doubts in our lives. It’s a scary truth, but many Christians have idols in their life that they put above God. This is just a blunt truth and I am not pointing fingers at others. I have had idols that have been put above God and have felt horrible when I came to realize this truth.
Quite frankly, it’s not most people’s fault, it’s a lot of the modern churches that preach the prosperity Gospel. The idea if that of we pray and remain faithful to God, that he will give us our wants and that we will get what we pray for. This is a dangerous, gross, and repulsive view of God. God has given us what we truly need at the cross, yet only we will remain faithful to him when we get what we ask for. This is where idolatry comes in for some people, it’s money beyond paying bills, wanting a relationship, or having another emotional needs that become primary in their lives, which makes God second.
These secondary needs are vastly important and I am not shaming those what so ever. I had a secondary need that I would pray to God for and that is when I only really prayed and would be most faithful to God. We set up false expectations for God and set up our own doubts. We have a lack of fulfillment in our life and treat it as a need and that we have to have it. The true thing we need is God’s love and grace in our lives, to see how we should go about what we want fulfilled in our lives. Do not let the emotions control your thinking, let truth and scripture.
“He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining and in His timing
He's making diamonds out of us
I'll surrender to the power of being crushed by love
Till the beauty that was hidden isn't covered up
Oh it's not what I hoped for
It's something much better”
One response to the problem of evil is the soul building theodicy. God allows things in our life or even does not answer prayers for us to realize what is better in his own time. I have come to know this through my past emotional doubts and through the lives of many others. It is truly better to become virtuous and develop a stronger faith in God, than to let the emotions control you and hurt you even worse in the end, by not offering a solution. It’s not what I hoped for in the temporal moment, but rather it’s something much better from the eternal perspective. Realize the true Gospel, that we must put God above these secondary needs and trust him in his timing to allow for the building of who we are truly supposed to be.
Jude 1:22: “And have mercy on some, who are doubting.” These are rough times for everyone and for those already experiencing doubts in their life. I am not here writing this to shame doubts, I want to encourage those that it is okay to doubt, but if it purely emotional, then we have to realize that truth is above that. I have realized this and it has helped me deal with those doubts living in the truth. Seek counsel from friends when you are going through the emotions. Do not even think about these theological and philosophical questions. A mood is a dangerous state of mind that crushes reason as Ravi Zacharias says.
For some it is much harder than others and I cannot claim to have experienced the same pain. Seek those around you who truly love you and care for you in this time. If you get over the emotions, then you are in a fair state of mind to think about these questions intellectually and to weigh the evidence for both sides if there remain intellectual doubts. There are different types of doubts that I could have covered, but I do plan on making videos and more articles addressing other types of doubts one might experience. The two to have suffered the most in Biblical history are Job and Jesus and both remained faithful to God the father.
Some more encouraging thoughts I have to share would be these: Read all of the wisdom literature in the Bible, you will find answers to your doubts and how to treat them properly. Proverbs will give you true understanding and wisdom, Job addresses suffering, Ecclesiastes deals with reality, and Psalms addresses our struggles. Once you know that God does not hide from the prayers of a broken heart, you can see the answers that speak truly to how we feel are given to us in the wisdom literature. Then read the four Gospels to remind yourself what God has done for you in history through Jesus of Nazareth.
“And live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
And live like you're know you're valuable
Like you know the one that hold your soul
Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don't be afraid to live in that grace”
Let wisdom, integrity, and reason guide your thinking,
Drops in the Ocean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZH13wFGffg
Lived Like You’re Loved: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_r47Xhkf20
Sean McDowell’s Article: https://seanmcdowell.org/blog/christian-rockstar-loses-his-faith-3-big-lessons-for-the-church
You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church…And Rethinking Faith:
Anselm’s writings carry the same theme as Augustine’s writings, that faith by nature seeks understanding. Anselm in the first chapter explains that he does not approach the existence of God as the fool but rather as faith seeking understanding. “But I do desire to understand Your truth a little, that truth that my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand (87).”
The fool to Anselm is the non-believer in God. In Chapter 2, he gives an ontological argument for God’s existence. He argues that God is “that which nothing greater can be conceived.” He says that the fool must admit that this exists in the mind. They of course will, but then deny that “that which nothing greater can be conceived” exists in the actual world. Anselm argues, that “that which nothing greater can be conceived” must exist beyond the mind in order to be “that which nothing greater can be conceived.” Because of this, there must be a thing that exists in reality, which is “that which nothing greater can be conceived.
The fool might respond by saying it’s possible for God to be thought to not exist so it follows that he does not. Anselm simply replies “And certainty this being so truly exists that it cannot be even thought not to exist (88).” If it could be thought not to exist than it would not be “that which nothing greater can be conceived”. This is a general summary of Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God.
Anselm’s epistemology has a starting point of faith so that you may understand. This is true, that one must trust something or someone in order to understand. Everyone as a child had to trust their parents and teachers in order to understand basic knowledge. At one point, we can understand on our own by having appropriate research skills, but you still trust your sources. Anselm’s epistemology of faith is true of all knowledge, you start with truth and trust that it is real to understand it. With God, you must first trust his revelation in order to know him. Even when the non-believer engages God’s revelation, they are seeking truth, which is faith seeking understanding.
Truth is usually defined as that which corresponds to reality. This is the correspondence theory of truth that deals with realism. If someone believes that they know true statements, then those statements must correspond to their reality. Anselm will give his thoughts on truth in a very similar way. This Book will take us through a dialogue between a student and teacher (Anselm). This dialogue is a way of how Anselm will show what truth is and what it entails.
Truth is eternal, meaning that there was never a moment in which truth never existed. For if there was a time in which truth did not exist, then it would be true that truth did not exist. This of course is self-refuting and contradictory because there is a reality in which things are true. Truth exists throughout all moments and even if there were somehow no moments, truth would still exist. This is the main point of Chapter 1 that Anselm makes about the very nature of truth,
Truth propositions describe right rectitude and or signifies something’s essence correctly. This is hinted at in chapter 2. “A statement then is right and true either because it is correctly formed or because it fulfills its function of signifying correctly (154).” Anselm gives the example of the proposition “Man is an animal”. This is an affirmation that denotes something positive over its negation that Man is not an Animal. This is defining the essence of man and makes ontological claims. A negative proposition “Man is not a stone” affirms that men do not carry the same ontological status of a stone. Affirmative statements are known as declarative statements with subjects and predicates. The point of all this is to show what something’s rectitude and truth is.
Truth has been defined, but rectitude has not. Rectitude has to do with statements that correspond to their orderness, casual relationships, purposes in reality, ect. These statements can only be known on realism, which says that we can know true things about reality. Anti-Realism would state that we cannot have precise claims about the nature of reality so we cannot know a thing’s rectitude. “Therefore if truth and rectitude are in the essence of things because they are that which they are in the highest truth, it is certain that the truth of things is rectitude (160).” If something has rectitude, then they “ought” to be that way. Anselm argues that rectitude is the highest form of truth that something can be.
Anselm shares in common with Augustine on the role of senses, the inner sense, and rationality. They both argue that we basically receive sensory information from the five senses. There is a type of inner sense that reflects on these and makes statements that are sense perception truths. The final stage would be the rational of these statements, for Anselm most likely, this would be the state that leads to the highest truth. When something goes through sense perception and the inner sense, then the rectitude of that thing can be discovered. “Therefore something is truly said to have been because it is so in reality, and therefore there is something past because so it is in the highest truth (165).”
Anselm is very similar to Augustine’s view of truth; they both would agree that all truth is God’s truth. The correspondence theory of truth is how we should perceive reality because in investigation of it presupposes this theory. Anselm truly shows this in his book on Truth. Things truly have rectitude and have purposes imposed by God since all truth is his. To know truth according to Anselm, it must first start with faith.
On Free Will:
“Therefore justice is not rectitude of knowledge or action, but of will (167).” This is Anselm’s definition of justice, which has to do will. “Therefore whatever does not will rectitude, even if it has it, does not merit praise for its rectitude. One who does not know it cannot will it (167).” It’s important to get his definition of justice in order to discuss his views of free agency since justice presupposes the acts of said free agents.
Every will according to Anselm has two components to it. “Every will wills both something and for the sake of something (168).” The Will is free, yet it is not an arbitrary act since willing has reasons. Every will has a what and why. Without the what and why, there is no willing. For a just will must will what it ought and the reason for why it ought to. This can be called a rectified will. This will follow moral obligations for the very reason it ought to.
Sin is what poisons the rectified will, which a true rectified will wills things of God. Sin by definition is willing against what God’s prescriptive will is and his moral obligations for his image bearers. It’s important to define what Anselm seems to hint at what the will is. The will is the capacity to act in some way according to the what and why. The will that abandons rectitude is sin itself. According to Anselm, man and angels free sinned prior to sin and needing the work of God for restoration. Man can abandon rectitude of will if he wills what temptation lusts after. Matthew 5 seems to hint at the desire that we can fall into, that why Christ says the lusting starts with the heart, which is used to say will. The rectified will that submits to God is more free than the will that submits to sin.
Anselm connects the will to the truth of things. Something’s rectitude is its truth and things should will towards what their rectitude is. God has created humans in his image which resembles his rectitude. Of course, this does not mean we are God, but are like him. Our own rectitude is similar with God’s rectitude. Our purpose is to will what God wants of his moral agents, to place their faith in him so that we may understand. Jesus Christ claimed to be the truth and to understand you must place your faith in him. All three of Anselm works here fit nicely on how salvation works. God’s will is for everyone to come to a saving knowledge of the truth, but humans must have a rectified will(faith) in order to understand him. These are true statements about God and his causal relationships with humans in the act of salvation.
Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works