Faith in the Fog: Surviving As a Skeptical Christian

Faith in the Fog: Surviving As a Skeptical Christian May 28, 2017


This is the first post in my ‘Faith In The Fog’ series on my experiences with doubt, skepticism, mental health and forging a different kind of faith.

Part 2: Science, Atheism and the Search for Proof >

How do I trust God when I’m no longer convinced he even exists?

How do I stop myself from being swallowed whole by the fear and despair that can come from seriously rethinking my beliefs?

How do I pray when it seems like there’s probably no-one listening?

Can my faith survive this?

If you have ever asked questions like these, I hope you know that you are not alone.

If your doubts become so overwhelming that you wonder if you are losing your faith altogether, then you are in good company.

Having serious doubts about the faith that has been a (possibly the) central part of your life can be unsettling, confusing and scary.

I don’t know many things for sure these days, but I am fairly certain that it’s possible to have an authentic, healthy and soul-nourishing faith whilst also being a skeptic. I continue to wrestle with these questions almost daily, but I no longer fear that I am losing my faith. I actually think these questions are a valuable part of my faith.

One of the biggest shifts in my thinking has been the realisation that faith is not supposed to be about having strong beliefs.

It’s still a pretty widespread assumption that being a Christian is mostly about what you believe. Of course, how you choose to live is important – there are very few Christians who would deny that. But it seems to me that what matters most to the majority of Christians is believing certain doctrinal statements. If you accept these statement as fact, you are saved; not by doing good works, but by asserting the validity of a particular set of intellectual propositions.

I’m not saying beliefs don’t matter at all. What we believe to be true drastically affects how we live our lives. It’s just that when we’re talking about things like God and the nature of reality and the future of the cosmos, we can never really know, can we? We are human beings, by definition limited in our capacity to understand such things.

It’s fine (and necessary) to have ideas and theories and doctrines about God, provided we remember that as long as they are contained within language and can fit neatly into human brains, they are utterly inadequate. A human claiming to understand God is not dissimilar a fruit fly landing on the tail of a Boeing 747 and claiming to understand the intricacies of aeronautical engineering.

(This may seem obvious to some, but it took me a long, long time to come to this realisation).

Once I started letting go of intellectual beliefs as the centre of my faith, things started to get decidedly foggy. My beliefs had been a sturdy framework on which to build my life; an interpretive lens through which I made sense of the world. When those beliefs started to shake and evolve, it was unnerving to say the least.

I’ve asked about every troubling question you can imagine, and yet my faith remains intact. It’s a lot less comfortable than before, and in some ways barely recognisable, but it’s also deeper, richer and more authentic. It’s constantly changing too, which can be exhausting, but also kind of exhilarating.

Forging a different kind of faith

In this Faith in the Fog series I plan to go into detail about various aspects of my evolving faith, coping with skepticism, and ways of thinking about things that have helped me navigate uncertainty and doubt.

I have things I want to say about the Bible, science, learning to trust again, prayer and spiritual practices, and mental health.

Mental health has been a particular interest of mine for over a decade now and it has become intertwined with my understanding of spirituality and faith. I think the two are inextricably linked in many ways. I particularly want to explore the mental health issues that can arise as the result of a “crisis of faith”, and share some coping strategies I have picked up along the way. (My life has been one long “crisis of faith” in recent years, and as someone prone to anxiety I have worked hard to find ways of maintaining some sense of equilibrium in the midst of existential chaos).

Experiencing serious doubt and skepticism can be tough, scary and depressing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re losing your faith. It could be the first step into a deeper, richer, more authentic faith.

You can take the plunge and face the difficult questions head on. Your faith might change beyond recognition, but it can survive.

Part 2: Science, Atheism and the Search for Proof >

Read the entire series here.

Image via Pixabay


Faith in the Fog: Science, Atheism and the Search for Proof

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  • Thank you for writing this and sharing your thoughts and your heart on this topic. Such a valuable conversation for so many. I look forward to reading more.

  • Great post – looking forward to the series. Totally been going through this atm (feels like forever). I love what Pete Rollins says: “when we speak of God, we speak of less than God”. Your site looks beautiful BTW.

  • tonycutty

    This sort of thing is very common these days. When people sing that song, ‘Oceans’, where it says things like ‘Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me, take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Saviour’, this is what it means. Some believers might sing that song wholeheartedly, and then when He does actually lead them like that, they think they’re backsliding or losing their faith. But the end-goal of all this is that your faith will indeed be made stronger in the presence of your Saviour, because all those certainties that we thought we knew were actually just smoke and mirrors. And it doesn’t stop, because God loves you too much to not hep you get to the next stage of blessing. And He blesses you in real-time too, while you’re still going through it. Did you start reading Pete Enns’ book, ‘The Bible Tells Me So’? I know it was coming up on your reading list….

  • Isn’t doubt your brain trying to tell you that you’re backing the right horse? The difficult issues fall away when you consider that Christianity might be simply the religion of your locality, no more true than Hinduism or Shintoism.

  • brassyhub

    I love your headline, ‘faith in the fog’. The real world is full of fog. For me, faith means clinging to that sense that I am still a beloved child of God, even though there’s an important part of my life seems to make no sense, that seems to me, at present at least, to be a curse and not a blessing. After thirty plus years in a childless but largely happy marriage, my wife and I both discovered that we were in a ‘mixed orientation marriage’. The reason for the deep sexual dissonance and incompatibility was because my wife is a lesbian. Fighting against her sinful desires, but unable to change her basic orientation. So for both of us, our sexuality is more of a curse than a blessing. We married because we both felt that it was God’s will for us. Years of unanswered prayers, for change, or if not change, at least a level of peace and acceptance… Divorce, separation, infidelity would all be traumas at some fixed point from which time would move us on. This trauma is renewed daily.

    A lesbian, married to a man, so like me in a MOM, wrote me, “Something I read in ‘The Screwtape Letters’, spoken by a demon: ‘Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will (i.e. God’s will), looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.’ We obey for the deep abiding love of God that cannot be shaken.” Amen!

  • jekylldoc

    Well, at least you are acknowledging her orientation. I can see how it must be confusing, but including the label “sinful” about her desires is not clarifying matters at all.

  • jekylldoc

    Since faith is not really an intellectual issue (it is clearer if you substitute the term “trust” which has not acquired the baggage of modern debates), doubt is more like “buyer’s remorse”, where the emotions that wash over a person have their origin in the natural reaction to making a choice. Christians know this in their gut, and it doesn’t help to have fundamentalists trying to push a line about the intellectual side. They just add to the fog.

  • brassyhub

    I see that my post was none too clear. My point was that when we married, we both considered homosexuality a sin, and my wife believed that her ‘same-sex attractions’ would, with God’s help, disappear. And of course, they didn’t. It’s taken her the best part of a lifetime to accept her orientation as a reality that will not change, and that is OK. But at what cost to us both! I only hope and pray that as same-sex partnerships become more visible, normal and accepted, fewer couples will find themselves in the situation that we are in.

  • Emma Higgs salutations to the Divinity within you and thank you for a great article,
    As Christians we chose Christianity as a map to the spiritual world, but then we cling to our beliefs, concepts and laws because we are afraid and then they obstruct us from the spiritual freedom that comes with letting go. If we want to enjoy the spiritual bliss we need to look beyond the map and feel at one with our Divinity or soul within that permeates everything with love. Jesus is pointing to this deep embrace with love in the pure consciousness of the Father, which is bliss, much better than feeling in control of the unknown.