I’ve had several friends who grew up in the church and made a decision to follow Christ but have since claimed they are “deconstructing” their faith. They often don’t believe in absolute truth and think the Bible is antiquated, especially when it comes to issues like homosexuality and social justice. How can I best encourage them in their doubting without giving them trite answers?
@klawmartin Thank you for sharing I think transparency is important in these kinds of conversations. We have to model for others what it looks like to allow Jesus to walk with us through our doubts instead of allowing our doubts to separate us from Jesus. We have to show them that we also have doubts, but that we believe the best way to handle doubt is to continue journeying with Jesus.
I think Anselm summarized this attitude well:
“For I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe-that unless I believe I shall not understand." Anselm of Canterbury
In this thread we discuss some recent well known Christians who left the faith and how to understand their decisions:
Some thoughts on faith as part of the journey:
- faith in the Bible 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
Greg Boyd, in this message, makes the point that faith is not at odds with doubt.
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.
Very good - and yes, the kind of faith that the Bible describes not only mentally understands certain gospel facts, it not only believes those facts in the heart, but also commits to them with the will. Paul described “saving faith” in II Timothy 1:12 saying, I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
I suspect that’s what the Shema, the greatest commandment, means when it says to love God with your mind, your heart, your strength.
And your commitment is never tested when believing is easy. It’s during the “Job” moments of life that commitment is tested. And what those trials forge is a faith that can say, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him. That can say, When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
I really appreciate your question and your heart for seeing your friends grow in a firmer foundation in their faith. What I would suggest is to spend some quality time listening to your friends and asking them good questions. As this ministry often teaches, asking questions can help the person think deeper about their own assumptions and beliefs. This would give them an opportunity to be able to try and defend their viewpoint. With your friends it may not even be about you trying to give a defense necessarily, but actually just being there to listen and love them in their doubting. If they ask your opinion, then tell them what you believe on the particular topic and why. Plant seeds and let the Spirit of God have His way in them . Remember, God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
This is great information, Sean! Thanks for sharing! You’re right – our job is to walk beside them in the midst of their questioning.
Thanks, Brian! I’ve been able to have some good conversations with one of my close friends who’s currently struggling with this. I want to make sure she considers me a “safe place” to voice her doubts and questions. It’s a great comfort to know that the Holy Spirit does so much work that we cannot see!
To put it simply for you…i going to tell you there is some kind of strong hold in their life…because it appears that they are in gratifying their flashly desiers (theres or some one elses’s )- it is written thou shall not steal …that includes human degnity. Christ give His life so we may have life…He died so He may dwell in our hearts…scripture make sense…Lord told us who ever belive in me out of his heart flowes rivers of living water. No city could servive with abriver run through it…where are rivers there are cities. Christ lives in Jerusalem of our heart…only He can. Changebour heart…and set us free from bandage…
Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established Prov. 16:3
Yes, we have probably all seen or heard of people in which such strongholds came first and as that person followed it, they walked into unbelief. In Matthew 24:12 Jesus said that because of lawlessness (NASB), hearts would grow cold. If we do not follow God’s ways, it is because we do not love him enough to keep them and our heart will grow colder; when we do not follow societal laws, it’s because we disregard others, and our heart will grow colder.
But sometimes we doubt in the same way the Psalmists doubted. Like the father of the child with the mute spirit, who cried out to Jesus, and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
And Luke commended the Bereans for testing the truth of what Paul taught. Luke said, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).
This was a great Podcast on this issue. I would highly recommend it!
Here is another great resource:
As a potential talking point, consider asking your friend(s), what gets “easier” if they remove the Christian world view from their thinking. This may help get at the root of their faith crisis/doubts. The Christian world view isn’t the only one that “causes problems” when answering these kind of questions. All world views must answer that. So maybe getting them to articulate exactly what it is about the Christian world view, specifically, can help guide your conversation to specifics.
In my limited conversations along these lines I often wonder if the “deconstruction” is more of a reaction than a decision. I wonder if these difficult topics break peoples brains in a way that makes it seem easier to dump the part that’s making it sticky - namely the Christian world view (or an incomplete version of the Christian world view).
These questions are hard, and there are no easy answers for any world view, excepting of course the world view that everyone should be tolerant, there should be no evil and injustice, we should all play nice with each other, tip our hats to God (or something) every once in a while for the nice weather, and try not to shoot up a public school.
There are very articulate people that have wrestled with these issues (e.g. RZIM team, links added here), and there are paths to answers that fit the Christian world view. But faith, and the convictions of that faith requires effort.
Last night, we had friends over for dinner. In our conversation, the husband said that Christianity is just one of many myths that exist in the world.
His faith journey included being raised in a protestant environment, child baptism and then adult baptism at age 21 as a condition to being allowed to marry in his fiancé’s church.
These lovely folks are good with “relativism” ie, different truths are fine because it helps the world go round.
My wife’s and my response was not to get “evangelical” on the them as we thought it best to stay engaged with them. They both have serious health issues and issues within their family that need to be dealt with. They were, however, open to prayer and on-going friendship and dialogue.
The reason that I shared this story is to have you consider taking the long game as opposed to finding a powerful argument that you might win intellectually, but not be able to win the heart. Salvation is by the Holy Spirit.
Thank you! My husband has listened to some of Rhett and Link’s podcasts that describe their “de-conversion” experience, so I’m looking forward to listening to this response.
Thank you for sharing! I think there is definitely power in walking beside them for long-term rather than trying to offer quick answers. Your approach reminds me of the book The Gospel Comes with a Housekey by Rosaria Butterfield. It recounts her decision to follow Christ after a pastor and his wife invited her into their home every week for two years.
you are welcome