Because I say so? -what should I do with my doubts?

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In presuppositional apologetics[1] one of the key arguments deployed for why we can trust the Bible is the claims that Scripture makes about itself. The basis for this argument is tht at some point, we have to accept that there is a final authority, an ultimate arbiter on belief. The question is “who” or “hat is that final authority?” For some of us, it will be our teachers, others our religious tradition but often we basically want to be the final arbiter, we sit in judgement on the claims of others. Can I really trust myself to do that?

The usual response to this approach is to accuse the apologist of narrow, circular reasoning, in effect the Bible demands that we believe it is true because it says that it is true.  Not only that, but the implication which goes with it is that if we question or even doubt the truth claims of the Bible then we are rejecting God’s Word  and by doubting are acting in sinful rebellion.   After all, Romans 1:18-32 talks about humans rejecting the truth, suppressing God’s clear revelation so that they are without excuse.

I think that this is a misunderstanding both of the presuppositional argument and of what Scripture says. First of all, whilst Scripture is our final and ultimate authority and whilst God really could tell us to trust him and obey him because he says so, that isn’t in fact how he functions. Instead what we see is that Psalm  34:8 invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Constantly Scripture encourages God’s people to look back and to see the evidence of God’s power and saving goodness.   Revelation is accompanied by confirming signs, truth claims by prophets are to be weighed and evaluated and the Gospel itself goes out with a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power.

Scripture’s authority is not so much based on a snappy order “because I say so” but rather an invitation to step in and to put its claim to authority and to goodness to the test. This of course is the point about the suppression of truth in Romans 1:18-32. Right from the beginning, Adam and Eve had not only heard God’s voice when he gave the command but had experienced his goodness, his provision and protection as well. Adam and Eve had learnt that God kept his word. Yet they, and we corporately, chose to reject and suppress God’s Word. It is this that makes humanity, corporately, excuseless.

This is important then for how we address the question of doubt. Clearly, Scripture calls us to trust and to exercise faith but does that mean that we can never struggle with questions? Does it mean that those who admit they have doubts about specific truth claims, events or doctrines or struggle at times to know experientially the love of God in their lives are in sin and rebellion. 

I don’t think so. First of all, I think we have to remember that Romans 1 is not about people struggling with day to day questions and challenges but rather with a whole of life decision to reject and turn their back on God in the face of clear evidence. For me, this functions a bit like the issue of “have I committed the unforgiveable sin?” If someone asks me this, then my response is to explain that the unforgiveable sin is about a full, final and definite rejection of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the face of compelling evidence. It is about hardening your heart so that you confuse good and evil. I then explain that if you had committed this sin, then your conscience would be so hardened that you would not care or even ask if you had committed it. The fact that they are asking “could I have” points to a tender conscience which is still sensitive to and eager for the Holy Spirit’s leading.

In the same way, if you’ve been worried about your doubts and struggles and you’ve opened up to another believer about them, or you are even feeling compelled to seek advise and hope in this article then that suggests to me that your struggle with questions and doubt is not about rebellion. Rather, it shows that you are wrestling with things, you are battling the enemy’s attacks and you are turning to others in hope that you will find reassurance.

Romans 1 is about he unbeliever, it’s about the heard heated fool announcing that there is no God. This is very different from the wrestling that many of us have faced at some point both with our emotions when we don’t seem to feel anything and with our minds when we are hit with an onslaught of attacks against the truth of the Gospel.

So, what should you do when struggling with doubt? My advice is “be honest.” That means being honest with God, a Christian friend or two and most importantly with yourself about where you are struggling. Don’t run away from the doubt but take time to investigate it fully. And finally take up God’s invitation again, taste and see that he is good, learn to enjoy his goodness and trustworthiness once again.

[1] This is an approach to apologetics which seeks to identify the assumptions that are foundational to someone’s worldview and challenge them, offering them a better foundation for how they think about life.

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