Why All The Doubting Believers?

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People who honestly put it out there that they disbelieve in a God’s existence are not the only one’s plagued with uncertainty. Christians of all backgrounds are filled with doubts about their beliefs. Evidence for this is not hard to come by as many Pastor’s and their congregants admit this within their prayers and their musings on an almost daily basis.

There’s a common prayer extracted from the New Testament, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” For whatever reasons, and the justifications are often varied, Christians insist that their beliefs are true and that it isn’t necessary for them to provide reasons that would seem to speak to the legitimacy and reliability of their position.

There are many important fronts where faith is unable to distinguish itself from myth. In example, the teaching that Christian conversion is a supernatural event wherein the living God now resides within a person’s heart for the first time, is a belief largely taken on faith alone.

It is recognized that subjective feelings and experiences can fail the test. The test for what? The test for distinguishing God from our own intuitions. The other side of this argument which favors conversion as a supernatural event is that one could be entirely mistaken. One’s sense of guidance, confirmation, and intuition could be failing them due to an inability to actually know whether Christian claims are reliable.

Another avenue that provides little certainty is whether there is actually any agency and guidance behind people’s prayers? Certainly many sincere Christians have some measure of confidence that something or someone is at work behind the scenes but how well supported is this notion? It remains an ongoing in house debate as to whether a God’s handiwork can be deciphered from mere coincidence and the way events unfold with or without prayer as the common variable.

Miracle claims and claims of healing, almost as a rule, are met with a lot of skepticism within many Christian circles. The Charismatic movement appears to be riddled with false claims and a lack of discernment as to how to establish legitimacy. The examples go on and on.

What this may indicate is that many Christians handle their doubts in such a way that maintaining a belief in belief is the desired goal. Rather than believing Christian claims because the claims themselves can be understood as legitimate in their own right, it is now a prominent attitude to harbor a strong belief in belief itself.

This is because faith is very much stressed as a commitment. Just as marriage carries the common theme, “till death do we part,” belief in Jesus is handled quite like marriage is handled. The point I would stress is this, this approach to maintaining belief in God carries within itself the potential to be entirely mistaken.

This kind of approach toward truth claims doesn’t appear to be presenting itself as deeply concerned with whether or not Christianity can be known as true without a doubt. This is sometimes done knowingly, but often unknowingly. As a final clarification my phrasing, “without a doubt,” that I used above is not an unrealistic appeal to absolute certainty. It is an appeal to being able to adequately make a ruling in favor of Christian claims being able to be presented as true with a high degree of accuracy. “Without a doubt” is an appeal to being able to establish a claim as a known fact and ruling out falsehoods.

 

Christian Conversion (Part 2) What Could It Be?

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” -Titus 3:4-7

Continuing on from my previous post, if Christian conversion is not a supernatural process, what is it? How can we best understand it? In the case that we are mistaken, in example, if it is the case that we are unable to discern between God and a deep intuitive feeling, then it is important to grasp that this may be the best way to sum up what faith is psychologically.

This sense of the Spirit of God dwelling within us, whether that seems more accompanied by certain feelings or not, could simply be, at best, a deep and heartfelt sense of intuition. An intuition that could be failing us as a barometer for truth because of the distinct possibility that past miracle claims and claims to divinity cannot be guaranteed as either reliable or legitimate.

The New Testament seems to teach that receiving the Holy Spirit is a kind of guarantee of one’s salvation, but many honest believers, including myself when I believed, admittedly have a difficult time knowing this claim tangibly. That is, in a way that can be confirmed as reliable. It is recognized that this is what Scripture seems to teach, but as to whether one can be reliably certain that they have the Holy Spirit, well, that too often becomes a matter taken on faith.

One may be beginning to notice a pattern here? Regarding New Testament miracles, including the resurrection, and regarding Christ’s claims to divinity, the question remains, can we make a definitive ruling that such claims are reliable? If so, what is our process for determining that?

Then as it relates to discerning whether one has the Holy Spirit this conundrum pops up yet again. How is it that I can reliably know that I do in fact have the Holy Spirit? It begins to be a matter of not whether we desire to believe these claims, but are these claims in fact presenting themselves as without a doubt able to be relied upon? Are these claims, as a rule, true in their essence? If so, how can we know this for ourselves?

The alternative to this supernatural interpretation, again, could be that at best what Christian conversion appears to be is a heartfelt sense of intuition that wants, perhaps even feels like it needs Christianity to be true. This sentiment is often expressed in worship.

“I need Thee every hour, teach me Thy will.”

At the core of the gospel message it is stressed that one of our greatest human needs is being met. The need to be forgiven. The need to be reconciled to God. Now, this is probably deserving of another blog post. What human needs is Christianity claiming to meet? What role does this play in our ability to distinguish between reliable and potentially unknowable information?

It is certainly a tedious process to begin the journey of attempting to discern how reliable a set of claims present themselves to be? What can we know personally? How certain can we be? Once we’ve determined how certain we are, based upon what can be known, how should this inform belief? What does this reveal about a mindset of faith in contrast to these important questions about determining reliability?

As a reminder, here’s what we are trying to determine.

1) Assuming that you presently believe that Christian conversion is a supernatural process, how are you attempting to rule out the distinct possibility that it could simply be a deep sense of intuition, one in which you deeply desire for these claims to be true without actually knowing it?

2) How important is it to be able to know to some degree that Christian claims are reliable? Does it seem fair that discerning reliability would serve to best determine how to judge whether it is true?

3) If, while in the process of investigation it would seem that the reliability of these claims is unable to be determined, how does this go on to inform your sense of certainty? Are you more certain or less certain? What is the relationship between certainty and belief?

Thank you for taking the time to consider these important questions. Perhaps if you know something that I don’t know, something that deeply convinces you that Christian claims can be determined with a high degree of certainty as reliable, you’ll want to share that with me below? We may or may not see eye to eye in how to determine reliability, but I am definitely always open to other arguments.

By the way, I’ve decided that I will be doing a third post to this blog series. We’ll be exploring the human needs that Christianity claims to meet and trying to gauge how deeply that may come into play when informing one’s sense of certainty? Should be a pretty fun topic so don’t go away!

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Christian Conversion: Part 1: Questioning Assumptions

There is a mindset, yes, dare I say it, a process of religious conversion that can be explained. Particularly, the supernatural language that is used within Christianity to incite and explain a conversion response. I am a person that has, as a rule, reevaluated many things about my own past.

In my attempt to be transparent and demonstrate how it is I believe that I was mistaken, and how many others today are likely mistaken, I have come to pinpoint as exactly as I can how it is that supernatural conversion can be explained naturally.

I write this to Christians who believe that they are born-again. Evangelical Christianity, especially, stresses this idea that becoming born-again is in fact a supernatural experience. It is quite literally thought of as God transforming the human heart. It is quite literally this idea that through the process of regeneration God is now, for the first time, residing within a person’s heart.

It is important to be able to extract a big assumption out of this. That assumption being that coming to Christ is without a doubt a supernaturally driven event? The point I’d like to stress with my Christian friends is this, it might not be. It truly, as a matter of serious evaluation might not be.

It may feel to us as a matter of deepest heartfelt longing and desire that it is God. God speaking to us, God moving us, God leading us, God transforming us from within, but whatever these feelings, these inklings, these intuitions are, it may in fact be all that they are.

We need to take note of this, we need to be aware of this. WE CAN BE MISTAKEN. Especially as it relates to seemingly supernatural phenomena. So it is that I now have a challenge for the Christian. How is it that you can reliably know for yourself that you have met the living God? Is it important for you to be able to discern this for yourself?

A problem that arises here, both for myself when I believed, the duration of that belief commitment being for ten years, and for those who still believe today, is that this is a bit of a Wizard Of Oz scenario. It appears that we have no idea who or what is behind the curtain, and this should be a matter of concern.

Based on some rather obscure miracle claims from thousands of years ago, we are willing to commit without knowing? To worship and adore without truly knowing whether there is a receiver of it? Even right now many are whispering to themselves, well, that’s the whole point of having faith.

I suppose that at least one is being honest in admitting that they won’t know the truth of these claims until they die, that is, if there even is a chance to know after death? The thing of it is that Christians aren’t taught to live silently. They are taught to spread this message to the world as gospel truth, and this is now where I have a valid contention with faith.

Faith acts as if it is true without knowing it is true. It heralds good news to the world without knowing in all actuality if it is legitimate. To any logician this should raise some red flags. So that’s why I’m now here, working in the trenches, attempting to make it clear just how presumptuous faith appears to be.

To state it plainly, it appears as if faith is all too willing to ignore the process in which we can legitimately come to know a set of claims as true. Like a broken record I tend to stress that there appears to be no valid way to establish whether miracles and claims of divinity are even reliable. This could be a logical disaster.

In part two of this blog post I will delve further into how Christian conversion can go on to be understood as a natural process. It involves concluding differently about basic assumptions and seeing how it plays out in reality. Stay tuned!

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Is The Christian God Failing Us?

1) If the God of the Bible exists
2) And it is generally accepted that he wants the world to believe in him (1 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:23, John 3:16-17).
3) Why is it that roughly two-thirds of the world, possibly more, lack the basic underlying assumptions needed to conceive of this God correctly?
4) Not only that, but why is it that even when many people are confronted with the Bible’s claims, they remain in a place of uncertainty and/or disbelief?
5) Would this be attributed to human choice or would it seem more evident that if this God exists he has failed to provide the means to bring the world into a correct understanding?
Thanks for your input. I’m trying to help all of the Apologists out there!
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Reliability Isn’t Merely Assumed And Then Believed

Miracles, divinity, presence. Say it again with me, miracles, divinity, presence. These are three separate categories which would appear to incite skepticism within many open but cautious inquirers into Christianity as well as into the world’s religions at large.

Contrary to what some folks may think I am actually quite ready, willing, and open to meet my maker if in fact it is accurate to think about my existence in those terms. I am not opposed to a good God existing, but I am also not in favor of giving credence to such beliefs if I cannot gain a reliable foundation from which to build certainty.

When I used to identify as a devoted Christian I was under the mistaken impression that doubt was a terrible trap to fall into for too long. It took a little time for me to adjust to the fact that being skeptical is yet another useful tool in the arsenal for discovering and highlighting what is true.

As it pertains to claims about miracles, the divinity of Jesus, as well as the idea that God is present, more specifically, in the form of the Holy Spirit residing within a person, it would appear that there are good grounds to question whether there is sufficient reason to believe that these claims are inherently reliable.

What makes this project challenging is that I am presenting a case for the Christian to reevaluate how he or she is presently building their own foundation for sufficient certainty. My argument is that Christians do not have sufficient means from which to conclude that miracles, divinity, and presence are reliable avenues from which to gain certainty. I would equate gaining a sense of certainty to forming a belief that Christian claims are in some way reliable.

I will first focus on the nature of these claims and what they appear to require from the Christian in order to solidify belief. From the very onset Christianity requires assumptions that are not necessarily legitimate to accept as it relates to making a solid case for inherent reliability.

Miracles

  • At most it would seem that one can only assume that miracle claims are inherently reliable. Assuming that a historical Jesus literally turned water into wine, walked on water, and rose from the dead is not a clear indicator that he actually did. The question remains, would beginning with this assumption actually merit a belief that such claims can be understood as reliable? This brings into question whether gaining a sense of confidence about this issue is warranted in light of an inability to discern what is factual?

Divinity

  • At most it would appear that one can only assume that Jesus was divine by accepting Christian doctrine. This does not establish whether he was actually divine. Again, this brings into question what is actually contributing to one’s belief that such claims are even reliable to accept in the first place? How is the Christian bridging the gap between the assumed reliability of this claim, a form of reliability that cannot be guaranteed, and their belief that it is in fact true? Assuming reliability does not actually show that the claim that Jesus was divine is legitimate in its essence. If not even the Christian can gain insight into the inherent reliability of the claim that Jesus was God, what exactly does a Christian understand as their own source of assurance? What rests at the foundation for properly forming one’s beliefs?

Presence

  • Let’s narrow in on the claim that a Holy Spirit resides within a person. How is it that a Christian gains certitude about the reliability of this claim? Could it be just as likely that a Holy Spirit does not reside within a believer? That it may not even exist? How would one attempt to discern the difference? How does one evaluate and conclude that such a claim is trustworthy?

It is fair to note that not everyone thinks in the same way. That being said, I am trying to honestly inquire into how an assumption about the inherent reliability of miracles, divinity, and the presence of God in one’s life leads to a sense of assurance? My honest evaluation is that this appears inconsistent. In other words, it appears insufficient and not well supported given what can be known about these matters. I don’t see how assuming reliability should further lead into a belief that these claims have shown themselves to be legitimate in their essence, especially as it relates to these three very questionable categories.

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Are You Sure About Your Christian Beliefs?


I find this to be an intensely interesting inquiry into trying to understand the essence of one’s confidence as it relates to miracle claims, claims that someone is/was divine, or even that a Holy Spirit is thought to somehow reside within a person. How is it that one gains and remains in a state of assurance, trust, or certitude about the assumed reliability of the claims I mentioned above? 

Let’s just narrow in on the claim that a Holy Spirit resides within a person. How is it that a Christian gains certitude about the reliability of this claim? Could it be just as likely that a Holy Spirit does not reside within you? How would one attempt to discern the difference? How does one evaluate and conclude that such a claim is trustworthy?