O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


The Truth about My Doubt

posted by Jason Boyett

I grew up in a church that taught me that God is a God of truth. The one true God. “The word of the Lord is right and true,” wrote the Psalmist. “Redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth,” David prayed.

I learned that God’s truth could protect me (Psalm 40:11). The proverbs taught me that the Lord detests lying lips, but loves those who are truthful.

Jesus said “I tell you the truth” on just about every page of the Gospels. He said he wasn’t just the way and the life, but also the truth (John 14:6). I learned to pray that the Holy Spirit — the “Spirit of truth” — would guide me into all truth.

I learned that Christians should speak the truth in love, that God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, and that a parent’s greatest joy would be that their children would walk in truth (3 John 1:4). I learned that true worship was to worship in spirit and in truth.

God’s word is true. The Bible is true. God is true. Jesus is truth. Truth was not relative but absolute, and that absolute truth was found in God. All truth, I learned, is God’s truth.

Christianity is true, and it is a pursuit of truth, and it is about truth. This is what I learned.

————

Then I became aware that parts of the Bible didn’t seem to agree with each other. There were two creation stories in Genesis, with contradictory details. 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles seemed to be telling the same stories about the same battles and same kings, but with inconsistent facts and figures. There were discrepancies between the New Testament genealogies, and the birth of Jesus, and the trial before Pilate, and the resurrection narratives, and there larger disagreements between the overall viewpoints of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John about who Jesus was and what he came to do.

Having learned that the Bible was true at face value — that all of it came from God, that it was God’s true Word for us — I didn’t know what to do with these contradictions. Because at face value, I had to acknowledge the truth that they didn’t match up.

But that can be explained, the apologists said. You have to read it this way, or understand that one writer saw this and the other writer saw that and each one may be leaving out a detail, but between the two of them they are telling the truth, and getting the details right. Step away, please. No problems here.

Then I asked: But why does Jesus cleanse the temple at the beginning of his ministry in John but at the end of his ministry in Matthew and Mark?

The truth, I was told, is that it is not impossible that Jesus cleansed the temple twice, once at the beginning and once at the end. You have to understand that each writer was reporting on one of the events, not both. To see the truth, you have to understand the bigger picture and be open to the possibility that it occurred twice.

Then I asked: But why does the New Testament give two different accounts of how Judas Iscariot died? In Matthew, he commits suicide by hanging himself. In Acts, he buys a field, falls down in it, and his body bursts open and he dies by accident. Which one is true?

The truth, I was told, is that both are accurate because both could have happened. Couldn’t he have hanged himself, and then fallen from the rope, his body bursting open? Couldn’t both be true, but each author is just painting part of the picture for us?

But, wait, I thought. Having learned the importance of truth, and of learning that it was important to take the Bible not as myth or allegory but at face value, I wanted to approach these contradictions — and these are just two of many — from a common-sense perspective. Common sense says that the stories don’t match up, so one of the writers must have gotten something wrong. If there are two accounts of a single event, and these descriptions have contradictory details, then both descriptions can’t be historically correct. That seemed true.

No no no no no, they said. There is nothing inaccurate in Scripture. There is only truth. Which meant my common-sense reading was wrong, in this case. The full truth could be arrived at via proper interpretation of the details and the stories. Which meant the Gospel of John alone, or the Gospel of Matthew alone, or the Gospel of Mark alone — was not exactly fully true, not if it seemed to contradict another part of the Bible.

The full truth, it was implied — God’s truth — was available not in taking these individual scriptures at face value, but in harmonizing them so they matched up, so they didn’t contradict the other scriptures. The real truth could be found in the imaginary harmonized Bible we were creating in our heads. Not in the one actually written and preserved over the centuries. We needed to do these interpretive acrobatics in order to figure out what was really truly true.

That “truth” did not satisfy me.

Because this is what it implied: that it was important to seek the truth, unless the truth got in the way of what we already believed.

This, also, does not satisfy me.

————

I was brought up to love the Bible and to love the truth. And I still love the Bible, and I am still passionate about truth. But because I value both the Bible and the truth, I now encounter problems when I read the Old and New Testaments. I see too much. I encounter too many questions. And I am suspicious of just-so Bible answers, and let-me-explain-this apologetics, and the idea that I should take it literally except for a few cases where that doesn’t work. This is because I am committed to the truth.

My love for the truth — installed in me by my religious upbringing — has caused me to doubt.

And this makes me sad.



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Rickopodomus

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:19 am


Thank you Jason…
RG



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Jennifer Taylor

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:21 am


Thanks. I’m with you. So much of what I do (or don’t do) is based on those words and the belief they are God’s truth to us. So a lot of my life hinges on the accuracy (or not) of the Biblical record. This means that I MUST begin figuring out what’s what instead of accepting the pat answers. That will be my project this fall. (Resource ideas welcome.)



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Travis Mamone

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:22 am


I’ve learned to accept that there are contradictions in the Bible. To me, it doesn’t really matter whether or not the world was created in literally 6 days, or if Jonah really was swallowed up by a whale/big fish, or what exactly happened on Easter morning (although I still believe Jesus literally rose from the dead). I pay attention more to the main ideas, because those are the parts that are supposed to influence my faith the most.



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Alise

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:22 am


“Because this is what it implied: that it was important to seek the truth, unless the truth got in the way of what we already believed.”
That is one powerful, terrifying statement right there.
As someone who has attended various church denominations over my adult life, I have seen so many “truths” come and go that it leaves me feeling pretty perplexed much of the time.



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Hope Noelle

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:30 am


I’m glad you hit “publish.”
Thanks.



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Shelley

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:33 am


Great post, and I think there are many people who feel the same way you do. It’s good that you posted this so that others can see they aren’t alone in their thoughts and concerns about the contradictions they encounter in the Bible. Thanks for sharing.



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Mary

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:35 am


Wow. Thank you for this post. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who asks a million questions! :)
I had a theology teacher tell me that “the Bible is all true, but it’s not all literal.” I’m not sure if that helped me yet or not. :-P



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MIke L.

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:48 am


Great post, Jason. I’m with you.



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Emily

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:00 am


I’m sad that “truth” must equal facts. I believe with my heart of hearts that the lessons I learn and the story I know that is Jack and the Beanstalk or Cinderella are TRUE. Although I do not believe that someone can climb a beanstalk to a land of giants nor do I believe that pumpkins can become carriages. I still believe. I wish we had a society that realized that legends and fables and stories are true, even if they aren’t factual. (Many will condemn me for comparing the Genesis account to Cinderella–I know that!)
The problem is that we’ve spent so much time trying to find TRUTH in the Bible, that we make the Bible our God. Our God is bigger and truer and more lovely than any words on a page can describe!
I also think there is truth in your doubts, and the God I know and love will honor that truth. Praying that you can doubt the Bible and what you’ve been taught, but still find a way to truly know God.
Praying



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Georgia

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:14 am


Thanks Jason. I feel like it’s caused me more than just doubt – it’s *almost* cost me all of my faith. I’m a Presbyterian from Mississippi; if you question the *T*ruth of the Bible at all it’s heresy and you’re obviously not a Christian. This black/white thinking is really unhelpful and has, for a long time, made me believe that I must not be a Christian…



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KatR

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:17 am


I’m glad you hit publish too.
I read this great comment on Twitter a few days ago, that Christians treat the Bible like a software agreement, they just scroll to the bottom and click “I agree” without really reading it.
That definitely used to describe me.
I kind of miss that person.
I wish the Bible WASN’T true. I don’t want to believe that God is the being who hated the Israelite who ate pork but approved of the one who slaughtered Amalekite toddlers. I can’t love that God.



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thevorlon

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:26 am


I feel the exact same way Jason, you aren’t alone. I feel like so often people want to get in our face and ask us whose side we’re on, when in reality we’re on the side of truth. (as if there is any other side)
personally its not only the simple contradictions of timelines (although thats big with me) its even the authorship. the fact that these books appeared decades later than the events, that the “supposed” authors were actually poor jewish arabic speaking peasants who magically learned to write complex thoughts in Greek. all of these things I’m currently struggling to reconcile. so bottom line is, you definitely aren’t alone.



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Jason Postma

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:28 am


Jason,
Thanks for this post.
I used the title of your most recent book in a sermon of mine, in which I look at the relationship between fear and doubt.
I posted it here for feedback – http://rootedradical.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/o-me-of-little-faith/



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Ed Cyzewski

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:34 am


Jason,
The approach to truth you describe resulted from Christianity’s jousting with modern/Enlightenment thinking. In response to liberal thought that questioned the truth of the Bible, conservatives placed the Bible itself at the foundation of our faith as the absolutely true basis for everything. This elevated inerrancy to untenable heights. The Bible was written as a true and trustworthy work of history and literature, but its reliability or relevance for us does not hinge on reconciling every event precisely like a scientific textbook.
When the Bible becomes our foundation we forget that Christ is our one and only foundation and that the words of scripture are a reliable testimony intended to lead us to him. Jesus is our one foundation. Those who try to line up every little bit of chronology will either end up lying to themselves or becoming a skeptic like Bart Ehrmann.
Thanks for bringing up these tough questions. Thankfully our faith does not depend on perfect answers.



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Ryan

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:46 am


As Mr. Calvin said, “These pages, these words are meaningless. The Spirit of God is the only thing that makes the Word true and alive.” (a possibly inaccurate paraphrase)
Trusting the Spirit is my only solace in regards to the Bible. Embracing scripture as inerrant and infallible is not something my head will allow me to do. I sometimes struggle to even respect the words of the Bible. I do believe in the Spirit, however. And I believe the Spirit can make itself known through the Word, even magically I suppose. It’s a blind and possibly foolish perspective to believe that a book carries eternal weight in spite of it’s content, not because of it, but it’s all I can begin to reconcile.
Thanks for this post, JB. I’m so glad to see this blog doing so well.



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Ryan P

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:46 am


Thank you for your column today. This issue is one that I, myself, grapple with, too.
Also, I enjoy saying “grapple”.
This sort of thing seems to come up a lot in churches I’ve attended. We get the sermons that quote specific scriptures to support a particular point of view and told that the Bible is the literal Word of God. But when we see a section that doesn’t support our particular worldview, we just ignore it or do some crafty logic acrobatics to interpret the words into something we can support.
I do believe that there are great truths within the Bible, but by insisting that every word is the literal Word of God, we frequently subvert our own cause and, often, look like hypocrites.



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Dona Pugh

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:52 am


I appreciate your post, Jason. I know that these questions are valid, and are asked by many who are looking for truth. I can only say that in my own experience, since I trusted Christ as my Savior and began reading the Bible for myself some 30+ years, that I have only become more confident of the truth within its pages. I do not have pat, pretty answers for these questions; maybe that is where an element of faith comes in. I have found while reading the Bible with certainty that the God of the Bible is real in my heart and life; that He loves the world, and wants to have a relationship with everyone. My understanding of all that He is grows with each day’s journey, and amazingly, all these questions are answered within my own soul, and the doubts fade.



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Matt

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:16 pm


It seems like you’ve made doubt so much a part of your identity that it’s not something you’ll likely shake off – even if you wanted to.
But I don’t think you want to because your doubt gives you a voice. It makes you interesting and keeps people reading. I’m not trying to say your doubt isn’t genuine (or wasn’t at one point), but spending so much time pointing out little discrepancies and considering it your job to reveal them to people, at least to me, seems a little…lame.
I’ll definitely keep reading your blog, but it occasionally leaves me feeling discouraged. And that’s not discouragement from doubt or uncertainty over the two creation accounts in Genesis, but because it feels kind of hopeless in here.
Where’s the hope? Where’s the redemption?!



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Jason Boyett

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm


@Matt:
I get what you’re saying, and I understand it, though I think it’s arrogant of you to presume that you know me well enough to decree that I’m holding onto my doubt because I want to, or because it gives me a platform. Yes, I have a book about it. Yes, my blog is related to my book, and therefore it’s a blog about doubt. It’s my thing, at least for now, as a writer.
But to say that I want it? That I LIKE being a doubter? I can’t go that far. Maybe I’m making the best of an uncomfortable season in my life by writing about it, and hoping that others find some encouragement that they’re not alone. Maybe, like Paul, I’m boasting in my weaknesses so that God’s grace may be magnified. Some find hope in this, and when they do, I’m glad.
I recognize that it’s not for everyone, though, so if it discourages you, if it’s too hopeless, if you think it’s lame, if it’s not redemptive enough for you, then you don’t have to read it.
(And for what it’s worth, I never said it was my job to reveal biblical discrepancies to people, so I’m not sure where you get that. My job as a writer is, hopefully, to tell the truth. I’m not going to fake hopefulness if, on occasion, it’s not there.)
Thank you for your comment. Thanks to all of you for the encouraging words.



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Jonathan Chang

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm


I’ve wondered why God told Abraham to take his only son Isaac and sacrifice him, when Isaac was born after Ishmael. Makes no sense. I understand the figurative and spiritual point of why Isaac is the “only” son but still confusing to me.
I never understood how Moses wrote about the creation story and the story about Noah and the flood. He wasn’t even there.



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@LaureeAshcom

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm


i love the fact that you are honest about your questions. i think it is sad that too many churches act like a person is a heathen if they ask questions.
sometimes i wonder if God allows the contradictions because he wants us to ask questions. if we ask questions about him then we are seeking him…..
blessings



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Kori

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:12 pm


@Matt – to me the hope and redemtion are in the very fact that he is willing to ask the hard questions rather than walk away or continue to blindly follow what he was taught growing up. And further the hope and redemption come when nonbelievers may see raw honesty and how maybe there are a group of Christians they want to engage.
@Jason – thanks for this post and your voice out there.



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David

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm


I grew up with the same understanding of the Bible and faith as you did, Jason, and have been struggling with the same questions throughout my 20s. I’ve recently come to some level of peace about some of these (and by peace I mean I’m not fighting them anymore, not that I have them answered), but I’m struggling with how to pass on our faith to our children when I only know one way to do it – the way it was taught to me. I plan to write more about this struggle on my blog, but I am interested if you have any insight on this. How does our generation of Christians pass on a solid faith when our own may feel anything but solid?



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Dave Wilson

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm


Jason,
If Matt’s question about whether you find identity in being the “doubt guy” makes him arrogant, I may be guilty too. Like you, I have an advertising background, and at times I have wondered if doubt had become your “brand.”
I don’t know you well enough to presume that’s true. But I have read enough of your writing to have the question come to mind.
What would you say was the goal of today’s post, for example? Do you see yourself as someone who is hoping to overcome doubt, like the father who said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Are you seeking confirmation that it’s okay to struggle in your faith? Are you looking to understand, or to be understood?
The apparent contradictions you innumerate all have solutions that do not require one to commit intellectual suicide. But you don’t seem to be soliciting input. Or am I just being ungracious?
I trust that I’m not judging you for doubting. If I am, then I’m being hypocritical, because I struggle with unbelief at times. We all do. My hope for you, and for all of us, is that we can all “glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
Dave



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Rachel H. Evans

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:43 pm


Great post, Jason.
Occasionally I’ll bump into some of my old apologetics professors who express dismay about my (now very public) doubts about Christianity. I gently remind them that they were the ones who taught me to deconstruct “opposing worldviews.” It was only a matter of time before I turned the same critical eye upon my own.



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Kristian

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm


If someone’s doubt, logic and reasoning eventually leads them to abandon Christianity or faith altogether, that isn’t in any way a negative outcome. It’s just an outcome. Most people who have left faith behind them live just as happy lives after the fact than before. Some are happier. Many feel more free.
If that’s not hope and redemption, I don’t know what is.



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Jim Zangmeister

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:55 pm


Sorry, Jason. Your recent post doesn’t work for me.
Your “passion for truth” does not extend far enough to chase down answers to the apparent discrepancies in Scripture. It appears that you are neither willing to put forth the serious effort it takes to resolve your concerns nor are you willing to accept the responses of those who have put forth that effort.
Your own insight is lofty (“I see too much” – wow!) but the thoughts of better minds are dismissed. Why?
Why are you suspicious of “Let me explain this” apologetics? Jesus explained his words to his disciples. Paul explained things. Or should truth not require explanation? Your entire post is a “Let me explain this” apologetic for your doubt. Should we dismiss your post on that account?
And what’s wrong with the idea that Scripture should sometimes be taken literally and sometimes taken metaphorically? Jesus said “Before Abraham was, I AM” and “I am the gate”. He spoke literally and metaphorically. What’s wrong with allowing any writer to do the same?
You dismiss the idea that “the full truth could be arrived at via proper interpretation of the details and the stories.” Why? You wave away ideas like this without giving reasons.
Was your religious upbringing authoritarian and repressive? Were you not free to ask honest questions? Or did they not equip you to find intellectually satisfying answers? But that can’t be the case because you wrote that you were brought up with a “love for the truth.”
The ‘truth about your doubt’ is that your doubt is getting you money and attention. What incentive would you ever have to resolve it? You’ve made doubt into an end in itself, instead of a means to an end.
Stop whining and grow up. Seriously.



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Jason Boyett

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:29 pm


@Dave Wilson:
No, Dave, I can’t deny that, right now, Doubt is my “brand.” Of course it is. It’s the subject of my book and blog, until the next book comes along. It benefits me to write the book and continue the conversation here at the blog. I can’t deny that.
But does that mean I’m only writing about it in order to stay in the public eye or get attention? I hope not. I hope I’m not that shallow or cynical. I’m writing about it because it’s where I am right now. I’m writing about it because it helps to encourage Christians who go through the same struggles (struggles which, I think, can actually strengthen one’s faith). I’m writing about it because it builds bridges with non-Christians, who seem to appreciate someone acknowledging that he has questions, and that everything isn’t quite so black-and-white. It creates common ground, and I like that.
But it would be dishonest to say it’s not related to my work as a writer. My question is: Why is that wrong?
The goal of today’s post was to explore the paradox that the Christian idea of truth, which was drilled into me as a kid and which I hold to today, was the very thing that spurred me into my adult doubts. I didn’t sit down to get confirmation that it’s OK to struggle (I spend a lot of pages in the book acknowledging that, and have come to terms with the necessity of doubt as a companion to faith). Yes, maybe I’m looking to be understood a bit…explaining WHY I doubt, that it’s not just the oft-characterized sinful rejection of God. But mostly I wrote it because I like to start conversations, which this post has done.
If it seems like I’m not soliciting input on the biblical contradictions, it’s because for a decade I’ve been soliciting input on them. I’ve read the “solutions,” from McDowell and Strobel on one side to Ehrman and Robert Price on the other. Intellectually, I want to be satisfied by the McDowell/Strobel side of the answers, which reaffirm my childhood faith in the Bible. But it’s not that easy.



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Jason Boyett

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:38 pm


@Jim:
I’m suspicious of the explanatory apologetics because, despite their efforts (and despite my desire to have my doubts be satisfied by them), I still struggle with the solutions they offer. I’m not dismissing the idea explanations at all. I WANT explanations. But I want explanations that make sense. I’m saying that the typical explanations can only take me so far…and often they cause additional uncertainties to crop up.
As I mentioned to Dave Wilson, I’ve put in the work, and the prayer, and the reading of better minds. I guess that may not have come through in the content of a single blog post, but I have been chasing down explanations for ten years. What do you suggest I do when those explanations don’t fix everything?
Thank you for your comment.



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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:52 pm


it’s easy enough to simply doubt God, without religion piling stuff like that on top of it.
and its so easy spending your time doing those acrobatics to make it all work instead of simply pursuing God.



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Dave Wilson

posted August 26, 2010 at 5:50 pm


Hey Jason,
Thanks for your thoughtful response.
Question: what encouraged you to look for solutions to biblical contradictions from guys like Ehrman and Price? Aren’t they self-described agnostics or skeptics?
Dave



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Jason Boyett

posted August 26, 2010 at 6:02 pm


@Dave:
I started with guys on “our” team. The typical Bible Answer stuff. But I thought it might also be instructive to get explanations from someone who has less than a stake in the answers being “right.” Someone not coming from the same bias as me. Plus, I’ve just always wanted to learn about theology and where the Bible came from and all that stuff.
This led to a desire to learn more about biblical and textual criticism, the kind taught at most seminaries but not really taught from the pulpit (where the Bible is spoken of more in devotional terms). Ehrman, though controversial, comes from a ministry and evangelical background, and approaches it with a caring, pastoral perspective despite being agnostic. I appreciate him, because he talks about hard aspects of the Bible but is careful to explain how faith is still possible despite some of these hard questions.
Others, like Price, are less charitable. But to get back to the idea of truth, if you’re looking for it, you don’t just look for it among the home team. You appeal to “outside” sources, too. If it’s true, it ought to be able to stand up to that kind of honest inquisition. Outside opinions can be quite challenging and uncomfortable, but I prefer discomfort to ignorance.



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Kristian

posted August 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm


I’d say it would be sensible to assume that, whether you believe in God or not, the bible probably doesn’t represent “the truth”, “the word of god” or any other absolute.
If hordes of brilliant men over decades haven’t come up with intellectually satisfying explanations why something in bible contradicts other parts or in other ways don’t make any sense, it’s probably an indicator that it’s just a bunch of human writings coiled together, with various values of truthfulness from absolute bunk to at least partially fact based.
It’s just a book. Human stories, tales, descriptions, parables, embellishments, omissions, lies, truths and half-truths.
Christianity doesn’t crash and burn if “literal” interpretation is thrown out the window. Christianity doesn’t need to crash and burn if the entire bible is thrown out the window. A religion is supposedly more than just a book. The bible doesn’t prove anything.
If, without bible or any other holy texts, god still makes logical sense to you, that’s cool. You have your faith right there. If, without bible, a god that’s loving, caring and willing to walk the extra mile to forgive you still makes sense, then that’s the essence of your Christianity right there.



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Adam Ellis

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:45 pm


@Jim,
I’m going to make a wild guess and say that you’ve never read any of Jason’s books. If you had, you’d know how truly silly your accusations sound. Disagree with the man if you want to, but Jason does his homework and puts his heart and soul into wrestling with these issues. I’d also bet that if we took a poll on which of the two of you needed to grow up…just based on what’s been written here…it wouldn’t be Jason.
AE



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KJ

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:36 pm


I think some of our struggle comes from our understanding of truth from a cultural perspective. As people raised in a scientific/modern age, our understanding of truth is colored with a lens that seeks out empirical, verifiable, factual proof. Our first instinct is to take the bible at face value and assume that it’s all literal, unless it’s clearly allegory in a spot. But I’m not convinced that is always the case, and not an accurate way to read a book that is a collection of books written 2000+ years ago. If only the writers had a good collection of emoticons to let us know when Jesus dropped a ;-) after saying something outrageous…



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Charlie Chang

posted August 27, 2010 at 7:41 am


Another big thing I wonder about is in the NT. Like when should we take heed listening to Paul. A lot of times he says, “I, Paul XYZ” not “God says XYZ.” Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what Paul says is very good and makes sense. But then the cultural timing can screw us up 2000 years later as well. Especially with what he said about women teaching. But we won’t go there right now.
nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com



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John

posted August 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm


Jason,
Your words resonate with me deeply. I just ordered your book and I’m looking forward to reading it. I’ve struggled with doubt for years, but by His grace I continue on in my faith. I think people either understand doubt or they don’t. Many simply follow a blind faith or perhaps are afraid to ask tough questions. I see doubt as a cross to bear, not unlike one who might struggle with addiction or despondency throughout their faith journey. The difficult thing is that the church rarely encourages discussions about doubt. Most doubters keep it to themselves. Thank you for opening that door and having the courage to engage in an honest and frank discussion. Blessing to you.



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Ben

posted August 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm


It is scary that the more you study and research the Bible, the more contradictions that are found. What makes it worse is what you’re told, and what you mentioned above. “Don’t worry about that.” “Just believe that the Bible is true.”
I’ve always been told to let the scholars work out the details, but at the same time I’m also told to have a personal Savior. So Jesus is personal, but I need to leave the details about him up to strangers. It doesn’t make sense.
It seems that people always need a golden calf to worship, and I think for Christians the Bible has become that calf. God isn’t visible or obvious, but the Bible (and all its laws and stipulations) is concrete. So Christians tend to worship it, subconsiously more often than not.
But like I said above, the more you study the Bible the more you come to realize that it is not the beginning or end of our faith. Jesus is, and once you can erase the Bible’s altar in your heart, you can finally acknowledge what it truthfully is: one of the best tools we have to understand God, but at the end of the day, still just a tool.



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Eric

posted September 2, 2010 at 5:35 pm


I wonder if Paul believed that his writings were the word of God. I mean maybe he thought they were “inspired” in the way that Mere Christianity or Purpose Driven life were inspired, but not scripture.
What basis have we made Paul’s writing the word of God? I don’t think he ever made that claim, did he? Basically a bunch of men said that his writings were the Word of God. What if they were wrong?



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Webminotaur

posted September 5, 2010 at 7:42 am


Let me begin by saying that most mainline Christians consider me a heritic with my attitude toward the Bible. I like to read pre-1960 histories about the Bible. They give a lot of insight to help me understand it. Post 1960 writings tend to either discredit the Bible or elevate it to the level of God, himself. What follows is not offered as an explanation, but just something that gives me some comfort with the type of problems you expressed.
2 Tim 3:16-17 All scripture is given given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, thourghly furnished unto all good works. (KJV)
Notice it does not say it was written by God; it was inspired (prompted) by him. There are only three places where God actually did the writing. The first was destroyed by Moses. The second got lost along with the Ark of the Covenant. There is no mention of what happened to the wall in Babylon. All the rest was written by man. Since man is flawed (thanks, Adam!), everything he undertakes is inherently flawed. That includes the Bible. That does not negate what the Bible says, but means we should not expect it to be perfect.
We must also consider the culture of the time various parts were written. Each author used words and expressions understood by himself and his audience. To make matters worse, translations are based on what some person or group thought the words and expressions meant and then expressed using words and expressions understood at the time of the translation. Over time these words and expressions take on different meanings. This often shows up in the different versions within the same language. Once anything is committed to writing it is fixed; even if the language continues to change.
Another thing is to consider when each portion of the Bible was written. That is, how much time passed between the event and its being recorded. For example, John was written about 50 years after the death of Jesus. Then, too, it was based on what John had been saying all those years. Can anyone tell the same story over and over and always keep all the details accurate? No one that I know. Mark is generally considered to be written by Peter’s nephew and based on Peter’s relating the story. That has a double memory problem: Peter trying to remember what happened, then Mark remembering what Peter said. Kings and Chronicles were written at different times using different sources and memories. So it is natural that there would be variants in them.
During the Babylonian exile, there were mostly only fragments of the Old Testament taken by the exiles. The people needed something that would re-instill the worship of God among them. This resulted in a reconstructed version. During the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple, the pre-exile version was found. Later the Jewish leaders combined the two versions into one. Where possible, the two versions were incorporated into a single set. However, some portions were sufficiently different that they just put one version behind another; generally the newer (accepted) version followed by the older version. That is why we have two versions of the creation and Noah’s ark, and what appears to be repeating in Kings and Chronicles.
NOTE: The newer versions did not always make sense. In Genisis 1 God created light three days before he created the source of light. Noah was told to select different numbers of clean and unclean animals about 13 – 14 centuries before clean and unclean animals were identified.
The Bible was written to show God’s relationship with man over time. God does not change, but man does. Just as a parent cannot treat a child the same as the child grows, God treats us differently as we progress(?). God’s dealings with Abraham and his family were not the same as with Moses and the Israelites coming out of Egypt. As you read through the Bible you can see how God dealt differently with the people at various times. The one constant thread is that God always took care of those who sought him and tried to follow his directions.
So, lets look again at 2 Timothy. What is the purpose of the Bible? Are these variances critical the stated purpose? Would knowing whether Jesus cleansed the temple twice or only once cause you to love those around me more? Would knowing how Judas died make you trust God more? If not, then do not dwell on those things. That does not mean ignore them, just don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them instead of what is really important to your walk with God and Christ. If it really bothers you, then ask God for his input; just like Daniel did. My own experience was not as dramatic as his, but God did give me his answer (not really what I was looking for, but what I needed). If you are sincere, and these questions are a hindrance, then he will hear and answer your prayer.



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Lauren C is my name

posted May 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm


Hi Jason,
I think asking questions is good, but remembering that God’s ways and understanding is above ours is also ok… no, It’s not a cop-out as many think, it’s an acknowledgement that He is who He is, and we cannot comprehend Him fully, or His word fully…. If He were small enough to understand fully, He wouldn’t be God, or be big enough to bother worshiping. Hope this isnt seen as a cop-out for you :)

Also, I wrote an article about thinking about God truth’s and having hope in trusting in them, if you’d like to read it [ if You dont post links to anywhere else] then read it yourself and you can edit out this link and the last paragraph :)
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/8096613/listening_to_your_own_doubts_listen.html?cat=34

take care – Lauren C



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Mark

posted June 6, 2011 at 11:53 am


I appreciate your post and I will be truthful and say that I doubt also. I am not trying to get into philosophy or psychologically about this issue but there is a difference between knowing something is true and believing something is true. And I doubt that a person can have belief without doubt. If there was not a little doubt about the truthfulness of something, then you would know it was true.

It has taken me a long time to figure out exactly what I believe. It took me even long to figure out why I believe it. I read a book recently by John Ortberg called Faith & Doubt.. I have to say that this book put it into perspective for me.

As a police officer I can also tell you that proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a hard thing. As an exercise, have two different people watch a movie (or even a commercial) and then immediately question them about specifics of what they witnessed. Have them write it out. Their impression and the things that stand out to them are going to be different. Then ask them twenty years later what they saw. See if it is even close.



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