Last week we wrapped up our current series “Skeptics Welcome!” I appreciate that our church is doing this series, because it’s not every church where skeptics are actually welcome. In fact, Austin covered this during the first week of the sermon series: People often sense that doubt or uncertainty is not acceptable in church and therefore they feel the need to exit the church in order to process their skepticism. Christians and churches play into this negatively, because we are often associated with political groups, divisive tendencies and at times, legalism. That could be why there is such a vast exodus in church and faith. But, as Austin said, it is possible to doubt faithfully and we can learn how to do that. As Christians, we should give the people around us the freedom and encouragement to process what they need to, in order to grow and journey forward in their faith. We can help them doubt faithfully.
I feel as though it is important to recognize and understand that doubts and uncertainty do not mean we are saying no to Jesus and Christianity. It simply means that we are in fact human, and we are a part of something that is far beyond our ability to fully understand. That is where real faith comes into play. The Bible says that faith is the conviction of things not seen. Christianity is mainly spiritual; we can agree on that. As humans, we are often confident in things we can see, touch or know for a fact. We rely heavily on our senses in the physical world.
For me personally, I have a strong need to see proof of something in order to believe it. But faith is the "sense” that allows us to believe in a spiritual world we cannot see with our eyes. Sometimes that’s when the doubt begins to creep in. We might feel like faith will not sustain us anymore. We may want proof and evidence; maybe we have too many impending questions. But like we’ve said, we can doubt faithfully and be assured that the full certainty probably will never come, outside of faith. Austin says that our faith was set up to fail by the expectation of certainty; doubt is a problem if certainty is the expectation. Why do we feel like certainty is the expectation? I believe we are taught to be certain, or we are not a "credible witness.” I do not agree with that suggestion.
I don’t know if I believe that God, science, and Christianity is a mystery to be solved. But rather, an opportunity to live in a place of awe and wonder and know that there is an Author of it all. I believe we will find ourselves in a place of reverence and admiration when we establish our faith there, even in the uncertainty. I went through a really difficult season of losing sight of the “Sunday School Jesus,” in which my faith went into crisis, because everything I was taught no longer made sense in my adult mind. I felt as though I needed to walk away from Christianity entirely…instead of doubting faithfully. But, my intellectual side knew that there is a greater story out there. During that time of my life, I chose to open my Bible one night and came across 1 Peter 1: 8-9, which says “though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an expressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”. It was there that I gave myself permission to believe in Him and to love Him, without seeing Him, which has allowed me to receive the joy that this scripture is talking about.
In Austin’s book, Faith In The Shadows, I found great encouragement when he talked about the story in the book of Mark, chapter 9, where a man brings his son to Jesus, asking for him to be healed. But, even in his conversation with Jesus, verse 24 says: “immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief’". Maybe that’s where you are today. You have belief, but you also have unbelief. Austin said, "faith is not a certainty, but a willingness to act despite uncertainty". I believe that is exactly what that father did that day. He had doubt, but he still pursued Jesus. We should all land in that spot.
A newfound freedom comes when we can acknowledge where we are in our faith, and no longer deny the doubts due to shame, fear, rejection etc. Sometimes we get to a place where we need to let go of the Sunday School Jesus, and pursue Him in a new, healthier perspective. I believe our faith will find new confidence when we do that.