What About a Christian Who Doubts?

I think much of our “in your face” apologetics, as well as personal evangelism, is unhelpful for they do not deal with some of the real issues that can cause doubt.  To make things worse, when doubts arrive, friends are quick to condemn us for lack of faith or tell us we are sinning.  Doubts can be very real because they generally center on the basic relationship one has with God. I have a few general comments.

First, doubt is not the opposite of faith.  Unbelief is the opposite of faith.  Faith encompasses some doubt or it would not be faith.  Faith is not an intellectual exercise but a personal trust in the goodness and reliability of God to do what he promises to do.

Second, faith is a working hypothesis.  This is a position scientists take all the time.  The existence of black holes is a working hypothesis.  Evidence exists for black holes but they are not a provable fact at this point so that there is a law of black holes.  God, the Bible, salvation, etc. are all part of a large working religious hypothesis. Evidence for God exists, but the evidence is not provable fact.  We act upon our hypothesis as if it were true though not provable.

Three, we must admit that we could be wrong – our hypothesis may be wrong.  However, my Christian hypothesis answers more questions than any alternative I have considered.  Granted, I don’t know all the questions and all the alternatives that are available, but what I do points me to God.

Fourth, our atheist friends also have a working hypothesis and a faith.  They cannot disprove God any more than we can prove God.  Which hypothesis makes the most sense?  That is the basis upon which faith is built.  The atheist has a faith commitment to the scientific enterprise as the ultimate answer to life’s meaning.  I prefer making a faith commitment to God as the ultimate answer to life’s meaning. I have no quarrel with science per se or the scientific method, but making science or anything else less than God as an ultimate concern is building an idol that is the product of limited humanity.

When It is Your Turn

Modern medicine often makes it difficult to have empathy with people who are ill unless it is a terminal condition or an imminently life threatening illness.  Most situations are common, everyday, and routine.  People go through different procedures everyday with only a little discomfort and they are back home or work in just two or three days.  Everyone has knee replacements, angiograms, gall bladders removed, hernias repaired – no big deal.  It happens every day.

You make visits to see how people are faring after surgery.  You let them tell all about it and you respond a nod of the head and a murmur of platitudes. You finally say a fairly generic prayer and leave. Then, you move to repeat the process in the next room in hospital or you go to the home of the next person who is or has been ill.  This is not to say that you are devious or uncaring.  It simply means that the illnesses of other people, and their accompanying emotional baggage, are not yours to take as seriously as if you were the one who was ill.  You care, but that care does not reach the depths of your being.

Then, one day, it is your turn.  The common, everyday, and routine have become rare, immediate, and need special attention.  It is now a big deal. You want someone to listen to you with empathy. You don’t want platitudes.  You want prayer that will lift you to the throne of God for His healing to be yours.

You go on the Internet and read about your condition and the procedure the physician wants  to perform:  it will last so long and involve this or that, it can cause these side affects, this is what it feels like during the procedure, etc.  Then, you read that a possible, but not likely, outcome is permanent internal injury or death.  You are shaken to the foundations of your being, for you did not anticipate this happening to you – it happens to other people.  At that point, you either give your concerns over to God, or you scream in the darkness as you are overwhelmed by fear and doubts.

In less than a week I will have an angiogram.  It is my turn, now.  And I can say that I am not screaming; I have turned it over to God  for whatever healing He has in store for me.  Amen.

Whose Family Values?

My wife and I spent time with family over the holidays, and it got me to thinking about family values. This is a very popular topic for politicians and preachers, for they champion family values for their respective audiences. Rarely do they, or any of the rest of us, define what is meant by family values.

“Value” is a word with many meanings, depending upon the context. It can refer to the importance, worth, or benefit, especially the importance or worth of something or someone one. Value can be related to the amount of money that can be received for something. Value can be applied to how useful or important something or someone is.

In general, I think of values as the beliefs people have, especially about what is right and wrong, what is most important in their lives, and what controls behavior. A search for family values in Google produced 24,100,000 results in 0.47 seconds. Traditional family values usually include such topics such as religion, marriage, communication, traditions, morals, holidays, interactions with relatives, and how time is spent together.  One source defined family values as

“. . . ideas passed down from generation to generation.  It boils down to the philosophy of how you want to live your family life.  Three traditional basic tasks in life have been described as work, play and love.”

I can go with this definition, but I would add a fourth task: faith. I would also add social responsibility. So, my basic tasks for family life are “to have socially responsible work, play, love, and faith.” Unless our values are lived out in socially responsible ways, family life in particular and community life in general will suffer and eventually deteriorate.

No two families will have identical values. Some writers have referred to life as living by a script. We are given a script in our family as children that tell us how we are to live our live in the family. As we get older, we begin to question the script we are given and eventually must decide whether to live with the script we are given, to rewrite portions of the childhood script, or to reject the family script altogether.

I have noticed that my children have some of the same values as those they were taught in our home, but I recognize they have values that reflect their own personalities and needs. Sometimes I am tempted to comment that they were not given that script in our home, but recognize that children must develop their own personal script. When we marry, we either incorporate items from our personal scripts into a new marriage script, or we scrap everything we were given and start afresh. Many family disputes arise from which script a person is following: a personal script v.s. a family script.

We need to encourage and help families to have values that guide them in living socially responsible lives.