In my post, “Reasons to Disbelieve“, I discussed the various struggles that I went through trying to ascertain whether or not Christianity was really true after I had become a Christian. As I have reflected upon this period in my life, there has been the temptation to feel as though I had wasted time in rebellion against God. It kind of feels as though, having received the eternal gifts of God, I diligently searched for reasons to change my mind. Using the common idiom, it feels as though I looked a gift horse in the mouth.
As I look back on it, the primary source of doubt was the nagging fear that the Gospel was not really good news. How did I doubt that the gospel was good news? Consider a conversations I might have had with a Christian at that time.
“Hey man how is it going?”
“Going pretty well, but struggling with some passages in the Bible. What the Bible teaches about Hell and what it says in the Old Testament makes me doubt the truth of Christianity.”
“How could the Bible make you doubt the truth of Christianity? Everything in it is cause for rejoicing! God destroys people who like fornication and drunkenness and burns them in fire forever! God orders his people to commit genocide against wicked sinners who liked to drink and party! And when we get to heaven, we will eternally sing of the glory while throwing down our crowns before the one who sits on the throne! Just thinking about God’s goodness makes me want to go home and read the Bible!”
“Oh goody”, I thought to myself sarcastically, “No horrible and evil stuff like drinking and dancing and having sex, but we can study the Bible and enjoy the smoke rising from tormented sinners forever! Doesn’t that sound like fun?” Christians that condemned various forms of entertainment like movies and video games exacerbated these doubts. Would a heaven with such people and such a God be any fun? Did I really want to go there? While I believed that there was really good evidence for God’s existence as I studied the evidence of creation, my doubt that God was really good increased as I continued my study of the Bible. As I have shared elsewhere, I finally only resolved all my doubts (not my questions) by deciding that I would believe in the person of Jesus Christ. I need Him, I love Him, I want to be like Him and I decided that I would trust that He was the way the truth and the life despite any unanswered difficulties.
Some fifteen years later, I have satisfied myself regarding all of these questions. I have experienced enough of the Joy of the Lord while in worship to know that it would be possible to enjoy an eternity of singing God’s praise if that, as seems extremely unlikely to me, is all we will be doing. Likewise, I have come to appreciate the beauty of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Though I recognize that the church is deeply flawed, Christians do share a love of righteousness and fairness that gives the church a very striking beauty. When I speak to those who do not believe, it seems as though they do not care if people murder their own children, commit suicide, mock the beauty of the New Testament or degrade God’s beautiful gift of sex. These things deeply disturb my brothers and sisters in Christ, however, and when I see this love of righteousness all my reservations about being associated with the church disappear.
Similarly, I have answered my questions about hell and the genocides in the Old Testament. The journey was long and there was a great deal of struggle, but the process was extremely beneficial. Reading a difficult passage in the Bible, I would consider the possibility of discarding portions of God’s word as I failed to make any sense of it. Reviewing the fundamentals and reminding myself that the Bible was vouched for by Jesus, I would go back and attempt to understand again. Some might say that by questioning the Word of God so extensively I was doubting God’s truthfulness, but I believe that this process of questioning was really a positive act of obedience.
To understand why I believe this is even possible, we need to understand that it is something of a simplification to say that the gift of God is “free”. While it is true that you could never earn the gift of God, the Christian life is not without cost. When you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you are recognizing that He has the unrestricted right to your whole life. This means He has the right to your bank account, your time and to guide every aspect of your behaviour. The gift is “free” because you do not earn it and because it is not conditional on your giving your life perfectly in exchange. On the other hand, if your life shows none of the fruits that come from offering Jesus your life in exchange then there is a legitimate question as to whether or not you really received the free gift. Investigating doubts thoroughly is an act of obedience, therefore, because you are really seeking good reasons to live a life fully committed to Christ.