Exploring Doubt

I need to stay away from the IMDb message boards.

One minute, I’m on the page for the movie “End of the Spear”; the next, I’m reading “You Know You’re a Fundamentalist Christian When…”

Debates about religion and especially Christianity rage in message boards and the comments sections of articles, YouTube videos, blogs. And probably Facebook posts too, but I lead a sheltered Facebook life.

In these mostly anonymous arenas, atheists and agnostics whip out their arsenal of “reasons why Christianity is absurd.”

Those debates trouble me, and not just because I’m saddened for those who don’t understand who God is.

They trouble me because my arsenal of “reasons why Christianity is the answer to everything” is smaller, and I hold it with less confidence. In those moments of attack, I cling to it with shaking hands, hoping, hoping, that it doesn’t turn to dust in my weak arms.

I wish I were stronger. I wish I had all the answers to every question raised. I wish I knew more with my head. And I wish I knew more with my heart, to fill in the holes that head knowledge never could. I wish I could stand undisturbed when the arrows rain down around me.

Books like “Mere Christianity” and “Reason for the Hope Within” are faith-bolstering, encouraging, inspiring. But when I read the persuasive counterarguments, I remember that kernel of doubt in my heart.

It’s hard being in the minority. It’s hard knowing that there are so many people smarter than I am who reject Christianity.

This summer, I wrote an editorial about illegal immigration. It was an agonizing experience. I spent hours researching the issue, but made little progress in formulating an opinion.

How do you choose a side? You pick the one with the most evidence, of course. But how do you do that when both sides use facts and statistics and precedents to argue their case, and your knowledge of all those things — of the lengthy legal and historical documents, the raw data, the scientific experiments — is all based on the analyses and interpretations of biased intermediaries?

Yes, biased. We all bring our own biases to the table when examining evidence. Ultimately, though, we have to decide whose interpretations to trust, since we can’t all be experts in everything. But those experts have biases too. Science can only go so far in explaining how the world works. History can only go so far. And with these imperfect resources, our imperfect minds can only go so far as well.

In the end, it all comes down to faith and belief. Yes, I want to strengthen my intellectual “arsenal,” but my prayer is that what I wrote a few weeks ago would remain at the forefront of all my pursuits:

The Christian’s surest reason for belief is experiential knowledge of God, above and beyond all the intellectual reasons.

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

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