Help For Those With Doubts

Help For Those With Doubts April 18, 2013

by Bruce Gerencser

You are a Christian.

You put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

You have been baptized and you are a member in good standing of a Christian church.

For years everything was fine between you and God.

But now, suddenly you have doubts.

Maybe something happened in your life to cause you to question your faith.

Maybe you are having trouble accepting some of the teachings of the Bible.

Maybe you have come to see that Christianity is not all it is cracked up to be.

Maybe you have read a book from an author like Bart Ehrman and now you have questions.

Whatever the reason for your doubt, I am here to help you.

Going to your pastor or a fellow church member won’t help you. They will tell you to pray, trust God, or resist the temptation of Satan. I suspect you have tried all these things and yet you still have doubts.

Christians are taught not to doubt.  Just believe. Just have faith. Only in Christianity is the natural human experience of doubt considered a bad thing.

Doubt means you have questions. Doubt means something doesn’t make sense to you. Doubt means that the answers of the past no longer answer the questions of the present.

First, it is OK to doubt. Anyone who tells you otherwise has something to hide or has an agenda. Your pastor wants to keep you as a church member and he knows that the exit door of the church swings outwardly on the hinges of doubt. So, he tells you to trust God, pray, read your Bible, attend church more, and confess any sin in your life. Yet, you still have doubts.

Second, the only way to find answers for your doubts is to be willing to read and study. You must be willing to work hard. If you really want to know…the answers can be found.

Third, be honest. I mean completely honest. Don’t lie to yourself.  Be willing to meet the truth in the middle of the road. Engage every bit of new information and weigh it carefully. Don’t move forward until you really understand the new information.

Fourth, you must be willing to follow the path wherever it leads. Are you willing to lose your faith if that is where the path leads? Are you willing to leave the church you are a part of if that is where the path leads?

Fifth, the only person you have to answer to is yourself. This journey of yours is singular. It is a lonely walk that you must take by yourself. No one can guide you, direct you, or tell you which way to go. You alone must chart your course. Remember, the journey is more important than the destination.

Sixth, Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time. You have your whole life ahead of you.

Seventh, be careful who you share your doubts with. Christians are known to turn on those who don’t think like they do. They think their God demands conformity and obedience and as a doubter they will have “doubts” about you.

It doesn’t matter where your journey takes you. Maybe you will stay right where you are, but I doubt it. It is likely that your doubts are telling you something about where you are now. Staying where you are is not an option IF you are really serious about finding answers to your doubts.

Not everyone can embrace their doubts. They fear losing their faith. they fear the judgment of God, They fear hell. They fear disappointing their family and friends.  Ask yourself, should fear be a motivator for doing anything?

Here is what I know from my own experience…you will always have doubts. Having questions is how we mature as human beings. As we seek answers to the doubts we have we develop a better understanding of self and the world we live in. Pity the person who never doubts, who never seeks answers to questions. Ignorance is not bliss and understanding self and the world we live in is key to living a happy, productive life.

I am here to help you, no strings attached, I don’t want your money, life, or soul. I have no desire to convert you to atheism. In fact, I am quite certain that most people will not end up where I am.  It is not about you being like anyone else. It is your life, your journey, and I hope you will walk on in openness and honesty.

Comments open below

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Bruce Gerencser blogs at The Way Forward.

Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Way Forward blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 32 years. They have 6 children, and five grandchildren.

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  • This is good. I have one thing to add– be on the lookout for unexamined assumptions everywhere, and not just within Christianity. Modern Western secular culture has many unspoken epistemological assumptions (how we know that we know what we know; what constitutes adequate proof or rational warrant to believe something), not all of which stand up even to their own criteria. For instance,when I came to understand that the statement “If it’s true, it can be proven scientifically” could not itself be proven scientifically, I decided to question not only whether I had really experienced God, but to also to question the claim that I could not have really experienced God, because I couldn’t “prove it.” This was immensely helpful to me, and because it may be to others, I mention it here.

  • Alexa

    Or leave behind conservative fundamental Christianity!!!!!
    Not all Christians are preached at not to doubt. I’m an Episcoplian, we are encouraged to doubt, to question, to make our faith our own. We believe it’s not a true faith if it hasn’t been doubted and chosen. That doubting is human, normal and healthy. That through examining our beliefs and actions, whether we continue to believe or not, makes us better people.
    I realize you’re writing towards a specific segment of the Christian community, but I hate, HATE, HATE, how Christianity is continuously defined by its crazy cousins.

  • madame

    There is no tangible proof of the existence or non-existence of God.
    Thanks for pointing that out, Kristen!

  • madame

    I attended an Episcopalian church when I spent a few months in the US. The rector was very open to people’s questions, and he didn’t presume to have an answer for everything or understand everything. I asked him why they remembered the deceased in their prayers and why they practiced infant baptism, and he explained what that meant to them, but never said that it’s “Biblical” or “the only right way”.
    I think some conservative Christians are more humble than others. We have to accept that people choose one denomination over the rest for some reason, and many Christians are honest in their faith and their motives. I don’t like attacks on Christianity for that reason.
    My parents are honest to goodness, conservative, fundamentalist, patriarchal Christians. They have their questions, and they have their way of dealing with them. They are good people, who love and care for people, regardless of whether they agree with them or not. They care for the poor, get angry at injustice, often not just get angry, but DO what is in their power to speak up against or do something against it. I may not agree with them on many issues, but I respect their integrity and don’t appreciate sweeping statements that would negate that integrity.

  • I want to point out 2 things here:
    1) There can be lots of evidence for something without there being 100% “proof.” Balance of probabilities (evidence), I’d say, is on the side of Christianity – as Jesus defined it, not as our culture do.
    2) Something can be proven to you and yet unprovable to others. For example, if someone who is not known for doing favors to his fellow humans helped you in a major way, you will know it is true, whether you have evidence to prove it to others or not. I know that God have helped me in ways I cannot deny was supernatural, but there is no point in telling these testimonies to you who have no way to see if I am honest.

    So, I have recieved proof of God. I also have evidence – not proof – I can give for God. But I do not have proof I can use to prove God to you.

  • I agree. The best we can come to on any metaphysical question, like the existence or non-existence of God, is rational warrant– meaning the best reasoned position you can come to according to the evidence available to you (including your own experience).

  • P.S. And this is not the same as “believing without evidence,” which is how “faith” is sometimes erroneously defined.

  • The focus of my writing is the dominant religion in America, Evangelical/fundamentalist/conservative Christianity. This includes Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and some Roman Catholics. Even in mainline churches, especially in rural areas like where I live, there is a fundamentalist bent. The local Episcopal church has a handful of members who are quite fundamentalist, especially on social issues.

    I readily recognize there are many Christians and churches who do not consider doubts and questions as a bad thing. I do wonder though how accepting they would be if someone’s doubts and questions led them to embrace atheism or agnosticism. As an Evangelical turned atheist I have found some more liberal oriented Christians have a problem with my atheism. Granted they don’t savage me like Evangelicals do but I am not sure they comprehend or appreciate my journey.

    Thanks for posting my post.


  • Alexa

    And I don’t respect how one branch of my faith has come to dominate the discussion about my faith. I don’t appreciate that one branch of Christianity has decided that it, and only it, is the “true” Christian faith and that all others that don’t adhere to their narrow, legalistic, supposedly Biblical interpretation aren’t actual Christians. I don’t appreciate that if I say I’m Christian, I’m immediately loaded with the baggage of fundamentalist beliefs, whether I hold those beliefs or not, because those beliefs have come to dominate the discussion of Christianity in the United States. I don’t appreciate the definitions and discussions and the socio-political-cultural narrative of my faith being guided by one segment of that faith.

    Frankly, as a Christian, I feel towards fundamentalists the way many of my Muslim friends feel towards the Taliban. And no, that’s not an exaggeration.

    It’s fine if that’s how you want to practice your faith in private at home, but it’s not fine if you want to impose those beliefs on the larger society. It’s fine if that’s what you feel shows an authentic faith, but not if you demand that I live the same way and deny me my faith if I refuse to follow your patterns. It’s ok, if that’s how you want to represent yourself, but don’t paint yourself as the face and voice of my faith and the only “true” path. Just like Muslims don’t want to be lumped in with the Taliban, I don’t want to be lumped in with fundamentalist Christians.

  • Alexa

    No disagreement here, even we Episcopalians cover the entire spectrum of liberality to conservatism. I just get tired of people throwing the baby out with the bath water and the narrative around Christianity being dominated by those with a fundamentalist bent.

    As for your atheism. I’m sorry you haven’t gotten very good reactions.

    Often us more liberal Christians feel like its a knee-jerk reaction against evangelical, fundamentalist religious experiences and not recognizing that other denominations/religions might be a better fit. I know when my friends who have been deeply religious (not those who have never cared or already were atheist/agnostic), suddenly become atheists, my concern is more of letting bad experiences color Christianity and religion as a whole. I worry that they’re jumping the gun a bit. Often, as a liberal Christian, newly atheistic people sound like someone after a bad break-up who swears off dating for life. I hope that doesn’t sound belittling, especially when people leaving more stringent religious backgrounds are also leaving behind abuse.

    Once my friends assure me that it’s not just a negative reaction to bad experiences, or a religion detox if you will. I am more than happy to support them in their new world views. For me at least, my less than enthusiastic response comes from a place of concern, rather than of disapproval. A fear that radical life changes may have been made without full understanding of all the options whether it be another branch of Christianity, another religion entirely, Deism, Theism or atheism.

    So I guess I’m just wondering how much of the less than enthusiastic responses from liberal and moderate Christians to your atheism stems from a concern that you’ve completely thrown away your previous religious commitment and rewritten your identity precipitously? I hope that people’s reactions stem from a place of concern rather than condemnation, because there really is nothing wrong with being an atheist.

  • Alexa

    Ooh, I forgot to mention, I get equally concerned when a formerly atheist/agnostic friend becomes suddenly deeply religious. I worry that they are approaching religion as an unhealthy and false panacea to life’s problems and masking underlying issues in their life.

    In the end, extreme, sudden shifts in world views worry me, but gradual ones, that come from reflection and experience don’t.

  • Bruce, I appreciate your perspective. I am a post-evangelical who has had the experience of being ripped to shreds on atheist sites because as soon as they find out I’m a Christian, they decide I’m unworthy of any mercy or consideration. Same goes for posting on Christian fundamentalist sites. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about someone becoming either an atheist or a fundamentalist, when what it so often means is that I will be considered “the enemy” by both camps.