Okay, it’s confession time. I am a Facebook gamer and enjoy a little time being challenged by figuring out (at least attempting to) puzzles and games that test my mental capabilities, which I often find sadly lacking. Although I see such a past time as brain therapy, my wife sees it more like therapy for the brainless.
While playing my game of choice the other day I noticed I had received an “extra life” (those with like addictions will understand) from another player whose Facebook name is “Reasonable Doubt” – that got me to thinking. As most know, Reasonable Doubt is a legal term; a standard of proof used in criminal trials by prosecuting attorneys who must submit sufficient evidence demonstrating a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In light of the apologetics movement (of which I a am a part) birthed by such people as Dr. William Lane Craig, who desires to equip followers of Jesus with the knowledge and skills to defend their faith by showing faith to be academically reasonable and not a mindless leap into the dark taken by ignorant people grasping for straws; that Facebook name made me take pause.
For many who deny the faith, it is not a scientific measure used to balance their reasons for rejecting the Christian message. A large number of such people simply have unanswered questions. They are perplexed by the fantastical nature of the supernatural claims faith in Jesus represent. This was brought to the forefront for me as I thought back to a message delivered by one of our pastors at church a few weeks ago concerning Jonah; The bible story of a man swallowed whole by a big fish, spending three days inside its belly then being puked out onto a beach somewhere along the Mediterranean seaboard three days away from his destination. That’s a pretty tall tale, you must admit, and a bit difficult for even a Believer to swallow (no pun intended), much more, the person looking for answers, for sensible reasons to believe.
Whether you are an apologist, a student of apologetics, or just that person who is concerned for the eternal destiny of a friend or loved one having difficulty embracing things spiritual. We should remember reasonable doubt is reasonable. Was there a time when you found yourself in a wrestling match with a couple of thousand jigsaw puzzle pieces trying to get them all together so they looked like the picture on the box? This is often the plight of the unbeliever, the person who takes the middle road of agnosticism, or, the casual atheist, if you will – the unconvinced. They are familiar with the pictures drawn in God’s word, they have heard the gospel message, but putting the pieces together so that they draw a rational conclusion can be a real challenge, especially with the influence of those who subscribe to opposing religious views and the prevalent offerings of science. Helping such people to see spiritual truth begins by validating their questions and doubts – not attacking or criticizing.
Honestly, stories such as Sarah giving birth to Isaac at 90 years of age, the nation of Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea (as depicted on the big screen by Cecil B. DeMille’s version of the Ten Commandments), water from a rock, manna from heaven, the walls of Jericho tumbling down, time standing still, a virgin bearing a child, and the dead exiting the grave alive and well all sound pretty bizarre; certainly enough to foster reasonable doubt, and a boat load of questions. Topping it off, these are but a few of the incredible stories found between the bible’s covers.
Defying natural law, the miraculous events recorded in scripture have challenged the world’s brightest minds and deepest thinkers for centuries, and there are still far more questions being asked than answers given. Do you not have a question or two you’d like to ask God if given opportunity? Most of us do.
About the Questions
Internal or external, questions are always posed to clarify a matter, to eliminate ambiguities, confirm facts, and often to remove elements of doubt. They are the means of discovery by which we solve problems and find answers – a good thing. That being said, we want to understand doubt, then, is nothing more than unanswered questions rolling around in a person’s mind, a plea for clarity, and a request for more information. This is fair, and should be treated respectfully – not as foolishness.
Many years ago I worked as a machinist for a company specializing in the production of magnets (you might be amazed at the many things magnets are used in). New on the job and inexperienced, I was having an issue with my assigned project that day and called for my supervisor’s assistance. It was a simple problem for him but major to me. Looking back to that moment, there are two things he did I have carried with me as helpmates in life. One, he did not treat me as a subordinate, making himself look superior and me foolish or ignorant, even though I was. He treated my concerns with respect, validating me as a person of intelligence and my questions justifiable. Second, he did not just spit out an answer but asked questions related to what troubled me about the task. Cleverly and systematically posed, the questions he asked led me to the answers that made perfect sense and what I needed to do plain. Ladd (my supervisor) saw what I could not see, and knew what I did not know, aware that where I was in inexperience, it was not possible that I could know.
Spiritual doubt is the outcome of questions generated as a non-believer attempts to understand things spiritual. You might call it, unfamiliar territory, an area of life he or she has little or no experience in. Much like I was early on in the machine shop.
1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” This passage reminds us of the futility in attempting to preach our way into causing a change of heart with a person who has had minimal exposure to the spiritual realm, or none at all. Whereas the use of scripture is good and profitable (see 2 Timothy 3:16), as Solomon points out, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Sometimes, if not most, the answers sought will not best be served with a series of book, chapter and verse quotes from the bible. Gentle persuasion that legitimizes both the person and the concerns expressed will result in a victory for the kingdom of God where a barrage of scripture will often fail. Furthermore, the grand finale we hope to witness is not that of a fourth of July fireworks display lighting up the night sky and sending chills running down our spine, but a quiet and peace-filled moment where someone comes to that place of faith humbly concluding – Jesus Christ is Lord.
Lastly, might I suggest having a few questions of your own readied. As suggested by Gregory Koukl, in his book “Tactics”, questions are the allied forces you want to deploy when your goal is turning reasonable doubt into reasonable faith. Questions allow you to enter the combat zone without being combative. You can ask questions that allow the person with doubts to remain in the drivers seat while you steer the car (this is what my machine shop supervisor done). Questions that affirm the justifiable nature of their inquiries while leading them to think differently, on a different level or plane, one that acknowledges the legitimacy of the claims we Christians make.
Personally, I am convinced most everyone wants to believe. So many of the people standing on the outside of the stained glass windows are simply asking questions and looking for answers they hope to find, and according to 2 Timothy 4:2 we need to always be in a state of readiness to provide the answers sought – patiently and in love. For “a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NLT).
Thanks for reading – comments encouraged.
“Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics” by William Lane Craig; Crossway; 3rd edition (June 9, 2008)
“Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions” by Gregory Koukl; Zondervan, May 26, 2009
Stand to Reason: http://www.str.org/
Explore God: http://www.exploregod.com/
Reasonable Faith: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/
Reasonable Faith East Dallas https://www.facebook.com/groups/1557766204487351/1622560141341290/?notif_t=like
Apologetics: Defending the Faith