Continuing on in how to engage someone in a faith crisis. Today we look at the importance and necessity of Christians being open about their doubts. Why its necessary how it shows humility and one’s humanity. And how it can help those on the outside in a faith crisis. The story of a courageous act by Andrew White when he shared his struggle with the doubt of the 2nd Adam.
“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
John 20:27 NIV
“If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble.”
Andrew White and I were co-workers. We worked together in the same office and sat about 30 feet from each other. When we worked we could often hear each other on the phone or what was being said. It’s like any office environment. During my faith crisis he often engaged me while pursuing lunches, dinners, or coffees. Today I want to talk about one thing he did that I found to be incredibly brave. It was bold and it gave me a lot to think about as I was processing my faith crisis. It’s something that I didn’t think too much about at the time but today I hold in high esteem. Here’s what happened, and I write this as a means to encourage those who are dealing with a loved one in a faith crisis, as this can be helpful. One work day Andrew wanted to grab lunch an we did so in the cafeteria. While there he did something profound that as I reflect upon the situation today, I never heard another Christian do. Andrew started to talk about his problem and his faith struggles in regards to the doubt about him being the second Adam. He mentioned that he never could understand why he was so tainted and what happened in the Garden of Eden came down and had affected him. I sat there and listened and was perplexed. It was so different that it was raw. I never heard of anyone doing this before, after all most of the evangelicals I knew were always so certain. I seldom if never heard someone say, “I don’t know” or a person opening up and saying, “Can I tell you my problem and concerns with the my struggle with God in regards to the problem of evil?” Evangelicals just don’t do that at all. That conversation with Andrew over lunch I look back today as being one of the bravest things he did. It puzzled me at first but his doubt tapped into my doubts in this area and it affirmed in me that there were other people who dealt with doubt. I was not alone in my emotional faith struggles. Andrew showed me a way in which some evangelicals can help deal with a difficult situation…it was a unique way of empathizing.
Why its Important to be Open about your Doubts
There are many reasons why its important to be open about your doubts especially if you are the individual reaching out to a person in a faith crisis. I’ll quickly discuss those here. The first thing I would say is that it shows humility to reveal your inner doubts, or the problems that keep you up at night or with which you privately wrestle. Its important to show humility because that also shows authenticity. I think in this area they go hand in hand. You can not have one without the other. This kind of humility is desperately needed today in many parts of evangelicalism. The key to Christianity is that strength comes in showing your weakness I would suggest. It shows how important it is to be humble. Humility can affect many parts of the faith and life. For example for me writing some of these posts have not been entirely easy as I had to re-live difficult moments or experiences. In other situations I’ve talked about something that I really have not told others. That post on prayer that I did a week or so ago is reflective of that aspect. Also being open about your doubts I would suggest shows your integrity and how you are not insecure. Maybe this is why so many people refuse to talk about their doubts….they are insecure or afraid how others will view them. In practicing this kind of integrity you are also tearing down the façade that many evangelicals struggle with. Also that façade helps feed those in a faith crisis or those on the outside. How? It builds walls, creates expectations and leaves two camps entrenched where they are at. Tearing down the façade helps build trust and build a means to engage someone. Finally it also shows one’s humanity. One of the criticisms Neo-Calvinism has is that it is more Islamic in its approach to theology due to the kind of sovereignty that is taught. Plus it also creates people that need an answer for everything. While some Neo-Calvinists take comfort in the answers they get, I would also suggest that they are denying their humanity in the process. Furthermore I would also suggest that those answers that Neo-Calvinists cling to become their God in the end. Its another form of idolatry I would suggest but I will talk about this another time in another post.
What Being Open can do to a Person in a Faith Crisis
For me Andrew being open about his problem of the second Adam helped in the course of time. It gave me something to reflect on and it also made me wonder…how could he have faith about such an issue and not let it affect him in the end? It almost seemed as if Andrew was living in the tension. That’s not something that you find today, often its an all or nothing situation to the point where a person rejects everything or accepts everything. Its a by-product I would suggest of black and white thinking that is so narrow focused. What Andrew did was very courageous but he was not the only one. This conversation with Andrew happened early on…long before the relationship fractured. As I got to know Scott Van Sweringen in Kansas City and discuss things with him he did a similar thing in his own way. But it was different than Andrew, Scott came out and told me a number of times that he didn’t know the answer to the question I asked him. He was very upfront about it, plus he also told me he never thought about some of the questions I was asking him. I appreciated this line of thought as well because all too often previously I seldom heard the phrase, ‘I don’t know…” All too often I heard an answer for everything, even when it stretched the situation. For me when I was in my faith crisis the responses by both Andrew White and Scott Van Sweringen gave me something to ponder, something to think about. However I had my own struggles in regards to being open about that because I was so deeply immersed in a canyon of doubt. Today as I reflect back on the situation those conversations both in a cafeteria and through Scott on the phone or by email revealed a lot about both of those individuals. It revealed their character and humility at the time. It also revealed their courage as well. The sad part as I reflect on all this is that how many faith crisis can be downplayed or diverted if people were allowed to doubt in the church? In reflecting on this topic we need to create communities were people can be free to openly ask and doubt their faith. I would like to pursue this later but doubt is an indicator of faith.