Have you ever been shut down when you’ve had a question about God? Has someone ever told you, “don’t question, just have faith”? Have you ever been in an environment where it’s felt as though if you were to ask questions about God or probe deeper about faith, you would offend? Conversely, do you struggle to make sense of a sermon especially because it doesn’t seem to be consistent with real life? Ever wondered what the point of Christianity is if it isn’t intelligible or applicable to everyday life? Do you grapple with the big questions of life? Is faith in Jesus rational and coherent?
In the first chapter of Romans, Paul makes a statement which implies that God has revealed Himself to mankind [Romans 1:19]. It implies God can be known. Contrary to what so some have said, believing in God isn’t abandoning reason. Our minds are God-given, they are essential in every aspect of life. Being able to reason is one of the traits that make us humans. Why would we switch off reason when it comes to understanding a God who has revealed Himself to us? Instead, it seems to me that an inquiring mind is innate. As many parents can attest, toddlers start asking “why” as soon as they start talking. I suspect many of us would agree that being inquisitive is essential for learning and growing.
- S. Lewis in an essay titled Man or Rabbit states: “Christianity claims to give an account of facts—to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitiveness must make you want to know the answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.” Our natural inquisitiveness should drive us to examine what we believe and why we believe it. If this is not the case, it’s either not as important as it ought to be or a choice not to dig deeper. In one of his letters, Peter urges all believers to be prepared to make a defence for our faith if someone should ask us about it [1 Peter 3:15]. Are you?
I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to imply that both Peter and Paul expected the Christian faith to be scrutinised by believers and unbelievers alike. I infer from their letters that they expected Christians to be able to explain why living a godly life, different from the rest of the world, is not only coherent but also the right thing to do. They expected us to be able to explain why believing in an unseen God is much more logical than believing there is no God and creation came into existence by chance. They expected us to be able to explain why trusting in God and keeping the faith irrespective of our circumstances was rational. I also believe, they expected us to be able to testify about God’s character because it is not enough to know God exists. It is equally important to know what kind of God He is.
In my experience, doubt is unavoidable for an inquiring mind. I found that when I started taking God seriously and probing deeper, it raised even more questions. Philip Yancey in his wonderful book Reaching for the Invisible God says this about doubt: “doubt is the skeleton in the closet of faith and I know no better way to treat a skeleton than to bring it into the open and expose it for what it is: not something to hide or fear, but a hard structure on which living tissue may grow.” It has been my approach when faced doubt to carry on searching and probing even deeper. I do so on the assumption that God wants to be known, and He promises that if I seek Him, I will find Him.
Helpfully, others have also thought about the same questions I have and they have written or spoken about them. As a result, there is an abundance of excellent resources readily available today which examine the Christian faith in significant depth. Granted some of these resources are unhelpful and misleading but if you start with the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the basis for all truth, and prayerfully seek wisdom and insight from the Holy Spirit, you will be able to discern what is false. For the unbeliever, my advice is to keep an open mind and dutifully follow the evidence. If Jesus is who He says He is, then He will stand up to scrutiny. When His disciples doubted His resurrection, He ate in front of them and allowed them to examine His scars to see that it was really Him and not a ghost. He will do the same for any of us who truly seeks Him.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus towards the end of His ministry asks His disciples: “who do you say I am?” [Matthew 16:13-20]. Jesus didn’t ask for blind faith, He expected His followers to think through their decisions. However, once His disciples were convinced, not even the threat of death would change their mind. For believer and unbeliever alike, the ultimate question is” who is Jesus?”. Christianity stands or falls on the answer to this question. Again, C.S. Lewis captures this argument beautifully: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important”. Have you scrutinised the evidence and made up your mind about Jesus? If you believe in Him, would you be willing to give up your life because you are absolutely certain of your faith in Jesus? If you haven’t thought your faith through, what is stopping you?