I recently had a thought that has lead me to be deep in thought. For the entirety of high school, I have been struggling with my belief in Christ. For along time, I tried just looking up information on Jesus, God, and Christianity as whole to try and find a solution to the lack of faith that I had. I could feel it in my heart that I knew that this could help but I often found myself caught on questions that I could not answer. It was then made apparent to me by my father and youth ministry leader that I could spend my whole life searching for answers and never actually know who Jesus is. To make a long story short, as a senior in high school, I’m still struggling with the balance of my faith and my ability to back them up. Soon, I’m going to college, where my ideas and beliefs will without a doubt be tested. I want to be able to believe but also be able to defend it with evidence. Should I be more focused on my faith or my ability to defend it? Any input would be appreciated.
@Lorserw It is perfectly normal to have doubts - they are just part of the journey. Check out Greg Boyd’s video linked below - I think he makes a great distinction between faith and psychological certainty. Faith is not the absence of doubt, but the choice to seek God in the midst of uncertainty. Tim Mackie also has a good video on praying through doubt that is based on the Psalms.
Also, apologetics is not the source of our faith, but rather a way of strengthening our intellectual understanding of our faith. Faith is the result of experiencing God’s faithfulness to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives as we walk with Him and honor His commands. Faith is trust established through covenant - through relationship with Jesus and fanned into flame by the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us. Faith is built when we patiently wait upon the Lord and experience His deliverance / refreshing.
Here are a few additional thoughts:
- faith in the God is not about the absence of doubt, but about persistently seeking God in spite of our doubts / struggles
- faith is a journey and doubts are part of that journey
- rather than trying harder to believe, perhaps try just trusting God with your doubts and continuing to walk with Him / honor Him on the journey
- sometimes even when we know the answers we may still experience psychological doubt - our emotions are prone to many influences - hunger, illness, weariness - and our emotions impact our mental state. So faith is not about always feeling we have faith or psychological assent - but about trusting God in the midst of our weakness.
- like Biblical characters (David, Habakkuk, Job) we take our doubts to God - we pray through our doubts - not seeking psychological certainty, but leaning into God as our rock in the midst of doubt
Greg Boyd - Faith is Not About Certainty But About Covenant
faith is not intellectual assent (a psychological concept); it is not psychological certainty
people tend to think your faith is as strong as your mind is certain, in which case doubt is the antithesis of faith, but this view is incorrect
Biblical faith isn’t about trying to attain certainty; it’s about committing to a course of action in the face of uncertainty
For many, faith is about attaining as much certainty as possible in order to be a true follower of Christ. But the Bible tells us faith is about committing to a course of action in the face of uncertainty. God is not seeking all the right answers from his people in order to let them into heaven; no, he is our loving Bridegroom who seeks to be in a covenantal relationship with us in the midst of our uncertainties.
Praying Through Doubt - The Psalms
Tim Mackie, one of the creators of ‘The Bible Project’, preaches about how in the Psalms we see that the authors of the Psalms often wrestled with doubt by praying through it and remembering God’s promises.
Thanks for being brave enough to raise this concern up @Lorserw. To be honest, it was something that I, for a period of time, avoided, for fear of my entire belief worldview crumbling when I am unable to support it.
I think you brought up various factors in relation to relationship (knowing Jesus), faith and apologetics that are different aspects of your walk with the Lord, and I would like to take some time to address them separately if it is okay with you.
<< Relationship >>
I do believe that the core of everything lies with relationship - that the reason we are created is to have relationship / fellowship with God. After all, we are flawed beings, who are imperfect, so why would a perfect God even bother to create us? There is only one thing that God wants that we can give - a relationship with Him. And when it comes to the topic of relationship, it is something that surpasses logic. There is no logical reason to love, but we do (because He first loved us).
When you are in a relationship, be it family / friends / a partner, you will constantly be finding out new things about them. Just because you don’t know a certain aspect about them, it doesn’t make you believe that they do not exist (or the actions that they have done are illusionary). We don’t need to have every answer about them to draw the conclusion that they are real, and they have been a part of our lives. I do believe that the same goes when it comes to God and our walk. Not knowing why God does / does not do something, doesn’t change the fact that He sent heaven’s best to die on the cross for us.
Knowing the Lord directly is the privilege that He has given us when He ripped the veil so that God can come personally to us, rather than wait for people to enter the Holy of Holies. And the best way to know the Lord is through the bible, because in the old testament, many stories are symbolic of the calvary story, whereas the new testament is more of an upfront revealing of the calvary story.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
When Jesus rose from the dead, rather than revealing who He was, he shared with the disciples on the trip to Emmaus “in all the Scriptures concerning himself”. The verse in John also encourages us further by stating that the ones who believed without seeing are blessed!
<< Faith >>
Next comes faith. I think I have a very differing view when it comes to the matter of faith.
Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2)
Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matthew (9:22)
If you noticed, the people who came to the Lord were not conscious about whether they had enough faith or not. They were only conscious about the grace of the Lord, and in that process, the Lord saw their faith. As you switch your focus from your problems to the Lord, that is when your faith increases. And the answer on how to switch your focus to the Lord to grow faith is found in Romans:
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
A friend once shared with me that we as human beings can only focus on one direction at a time. If we are focusing on our problems, we don’t see God in our situation. If we are focused on God, we cannot be discouraged by the problems around us, just like Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the waves (Matthew 14).
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
As we become more focused on God’s grace (through our relationship, as mentioned in the earlier segment), it is then accounted to us as faith. I do believe that this is what it means by “having faith”.
<< Apologetics >>
Lastly comes the apologetics factor. The word comes from the greek I believe - apologia, which means ‘to give an answer’.
There is a certain degree of truth in where your father or ministry leader is coming from. That is because God is so infinitely vast, that we are constantly discovering how large his heart for us is. I have my own theory on this, that since we are created in God’s image, if we were to put everyone’s personalities together, we will get just a small portion of what God is, haha.
Also, just based on my own experience, apologetics is more for myself, rather than the need of the scripture to defend itself. God is His own defender, and there isn’t really a need for us to defend the gospel. I don’t think it is wrong to explore apologetics to get the answers that you need to know.
However, I won’t rely on it entirely because there is the aspect of relationship as well. You can explore all the logic in the world, but never ever have a relationship with the person that you understand so much about. Just think about bibliographies of historical figures that you have been taught in school or read about. I won’t deny its benefits, but like what @SeanO shared, it is more of a supplement to your relationship with the Lord.
I hope that helps shed some light into the struggle that you have. I’d encourage you not to be too worried about your faith / the apologetics aspect of your walk with Christ. After all, I don’t think you do that in your worldly relationships with your family / friends (e.g. I’m worried that I don’t have enough faith in my Mom to cook dinner for me.) because it doesn’t sound too appropriate. I believe that the same goes when it comes to our relationship with our heavenly Father too. Though a minor disclaimer that this is not to say that it is wrong to ask questions too.