Last night at our church, Peter Laws started a three week series looking at doubt. While you’ll quite easily find Christians who will admit to struggling with prayer (me), or Bible reading (absolutely not me); you will be hard-pushed to find anyone who will admit to having doubts about their faith. But lots of Christians have them. Perhaps not all the time and perhaps not about the same things; but every now and again doubts surface, and as Peter said, it’s completely normal. We are, after all thinking people and it would be abnormal for us not to think about what we believe. It would be wrong of us not to doubt what we believe, because how else can we test that what we believe is true?
One of the things I love about my particular Baptist church, is that it does not contain 200+ identikit people and I’ve often compared us to being spiritual flotsam and jetsam. People from a great many backgrounds find a home there; from former Roman Catholics, Anglo-Catholics (me), former Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostalists, Spiritualists, creationists, evolutionists and even the odd former militant atheist. While we all fundamentally believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and the only means of salvation; we’re all in very different places about the rest of it. But somehow it works, there’s an intelligence and a latitude about our congregation that means you seldom find anyone smacking you over the head with an NIV, berating you because you believe in evolution and they’re a literal seven-day creationist. People work through things at their own pace while keeping that core truth in place.
Peter talked last night about the part that ridicule plays in doubt. In the UK, TV programme makers always seem to portray Christians as either out of touch dinosaurs or complete nut jobs. You will rarely find your common-or-garden Christian in a TV drama. One of the last books I read was Stephen King’s Under the Dome and one of the main characters, a Christian, turned out to be the biggest load of incarnate evil going. I won’t lie to you, it made me feel sad. Not for the character – because that’s Stephen King’s right to portray the character like that. I was sad because it will, for many people, just add weight to their beliefs that Christians are just a load of hypocritical bastards and Christianity is just a crutch for the weak and feeble minded. I have an honours degree in Geography and Geology, my husband has a PhD; several other people in our congregation are Professors, have science-related PhD’s and Master’s degrees – we would take issue very strongly with the notion that Christianity is for the weak and feeble-minded. But that doesn’t stop the ridicule that we are.
I’ve always found Christianity to be a robust faith. A faith that allows itself to be kicked about, tested and scrutinised in a way that you seldom find in any other world faith. It’s been kicked about for over 2000 years and look at it; it’s still as fresh and real and life-changing as the day a tiny baby boy came into the world in the most humble of circumstances in Bethlehem. You can kick it about to Kingdom come. In fact go ahead, knock yourself out and kick it about until Kingdom come, because if it’s not changed now it’s never going to. EastEnders can get Dot Cotton to spout all kinds of mad things, Richard Dawkins can say what he likes about my God, it isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to me. I believe wholeheartedly that God exists. I know I’m not perfect and I know I’m never going to be perfect, but I’m not the out of touch nut job the media tell me I am.
Peter’s challenged us this week to be more open about our doubts. My doubts are a subtle bunch and they coalesce around the same idea: God transforms and changes the lives of so many people; within the Bible, through history and right here today, but that transformation isn’t available to me because I’m not good enough. I don’t say that because I don’t believe I have to earn God’s favour, I know it’s freely given to any human; but that I don’t deserve those blessings because of something intrinsically rubbish about me, as if I’m the runt of the litter. On my more robust days I look back at those statements and laugh; but on dark days, it’s very easy to believe them.
They are not doubts that have come about from anything external; they’ve not been fed to me by Dan Brown, the Daily Mail or Richard Dawkins (is there always a D in things that seek to undermine God? 😉 ). Those doubts are right there within me. They rise from my own inability to consistently believe that same power that enabled Jesus to rise from the dead is available to me right now. Months can go by where I do believe it and I see the results. But at other times a shard of doubt gets in and before you know it, I’m riddled with the stuff and it’s a struggle to break free.
I don’t have those doubts today, I can think objectively and clearly. But they will come back, it’s inevitable. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t doubt, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t think. However, it’s good to hear the subject talked about and exposed to be a normal part of the Christian experience.
Peter Laws continues his series on doubt at Ampthill Baptist Church on Sunday 4th and 11th November at 6.30pm. The first part will be available on the church website when I get back to work! 😀