I was born to Christian parents. I went to the same church for the first twenty-three years of my life. It’s natural that I’d follow in their footsteps. I believed from a young age. As a young teen, I began reading the Bible for myself, and spending time in prayer. Bolstered by my parent’s faith, I began my own relationship with God. I saw rapid change in my life, as I learned to listen to and obey God.
I was confident in the validity of my faith. As part of my home-school studies, I loved to study ‘proofs’ of God’s existence, especially materials that spoke out against the theory of Evolution. Truthfully, I thought that everyone from the scientists to the ‘poor public school kids’ who believed in Evolution were deluded, maybe stupid.
At age twenty, I enrolled in a local conservative Bible college. In my second year, during a course called ‘Faith and Science,’ I read a book called The Lost World of Genesis One, which espoused the view that as 21st century, scientific minded people, we couldn’t read Genesis one literally, as the Hebrews would have. The creation story was actually a response to the Babylonian creation myth, and didn’t truly mean a literal seven days of creation.
It was frightfully logical. I dove into study, and realized that whether I believed in the young earth creationism of my youth, or that the earth evolved under God’s direction, I could find equally convincing evidence for my ideas.
Was The Lost World correct? And if so, what else couldn’t be read literally?
My protective bubble shattered. I was shattered, and very angry. I began to view knowledge with cynicism, and discount whatever people said about the Bible or God. After all, however convincing, there was probably an equally good argument against it. They might be lying. I wanted to talk about my doubts, but when I did I’d only become angry and cry.
One day a professor suggested that God sometimes causes evil to accomplish his purposes. Causes evil? Didn’t that make him evil? I lay in bed that night, broken and in tears. What would I do? Could I believe in anything anymore?
It’s occurred to me that this is the part where I’m supposed to say, “And so I became an atheist.” Many stories do end like that: “I had questions, and no one could give me convincing evidence, so I ceased to believe.” I sympathize, but that’s not how it ended for me.
Lying in my tears and snot, I asked myself, “Do I believe that God is good?”
“Yes. I do believe that God is good.”
I fell asleep.
My questions weren’t resolved. In fact, on the question of Creation, I simply had to suspend judgment. I had no more energy to expend on it. Is God good? This has been resolved through time.
I’ve seen his faithfulness in the midst of a horrible job and the depression that resulted. I saw his provision when I lost that job and went without a job for over two months. I managed to find enough money to pay all my bills–actually, partially because of an injury while doing casual work. I see how he’s orchestrated my life, brought good from bad events, and led me to a fulfilling purpose to drive me from day to day.
But mostly, I experience his love, forgiveness, friendship and fatherly guidance on a daily basis.
Can I argue from philosophy? Certainly. I still love to study how to defend my faith. I can tell you the logical reasons why I need a god in my life, how without God neither I nor you have inherent value, how without God we must base our lives on the ‘firm foundation of unyielding despair’ (Bertrand Russell).
Does that cement my faith? No.
It is the simultaneously tenuous and bulletproof foundation of God’s love in my life that I build upon. My story cannot be proved, nor disproved. It is only mine. But I hope it will encourage you to probe your own ideas, and seek a firm foundation.
8 thoughts on “My Story of Doubt”
I tried to leave a comment earlier, but it says it failed. Sorry if it comes in twice. Let me try to repeat it.
Sometimes what we hear isn’t true.
For instance, the question of the earth being created in 7 literal days. If we look at the original meaning of the Hebrew words in Genesis – that’s not what it says. It says the earth was created in 7 periods of time related to an event. A better English translation would be that the earth was created in 7 epochs. New earth problems gone – because it doesn’t say the earth is new.
As for the question of God doing evil things – look at Pharaoh as an example. The English translations tend to say God raised Pharaoh up. The Hebrew version would be that God allowed Pharaoh to come to power. Huge difference.
Sometimes people, maybe especially Calvinists, think that God has to have total control over everything in order to have things come out His way in the end. That means He has to do evil things. But can we not believe that God can & does leave us to make our own choices – including the choice to do evil – and still have enough power over His own creation to ensure that things come out the way He said they would in The End?
I’ve had some of the same question as you. I posted my own answers recently, in the problem of predestiny if you’d like to check it out.
And keep searching / asking. The truth can stand up to everything we can ask – as long as we keep an open mind. And – keep praying for wisdom.
Thanks for your well thought-out comment. I’ve heard your argument for the seven epochs before, and equally convincing arguments that a day is in fact a ‘day’. You may find The Lost World of Genesis One quite interesting, as the theory in there bypasses the ‘day’ question entirely.
I haven’t read your article on predestination yet, but this is one of the things where I prefer to walk down the middle on. Not so much either/or but both/and.
It’s interesting how the same book can cause wildly different responses. I found great comfort in Lost World when I was feeling very confused. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thanks for commenting, Marc. In what way was The Lost World of Genesis One a comfort to you?
As the token Calvinist, i’d like to address a point that whichgodsaves made, in addition to what your professor said. God doesn’t cause evil, but he does allow it to happen. sometimes these evil acts are very specific, and in fact ordained by God to happen. The penultimate evil act comes to mind. Peter tells us that the crucifixion was predestined to occur, through the hands of Pilate and the ones who crucified them. Can we really believe that, when God predestines something to happen that he is going to rely on the free-will choices of humans to carry it out? and that in the light of so many verses that (gasp) even a person’s will is under God’s control? Here are a few examples:
Abimilech is prevented from sleeping with Sarah
We are told before the plagues that God will harden the heart of Pharoah so that he won’t let the people go
1The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD;
He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” Romans 9:19
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. Ezekiel 36:27
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Matthew 28:18 (notice that it says ‘all authority’, and not ‘authority over all things except the will of man’)
Whichgodsaves asks, But can we not believe that God can & does leave us to make our own choices – including the choice to do evil – and still have enough power over His own creation to ensure that things come out the way He said they would in The End? What does this even mean? does God have power over his creation or does man have hold the power through his choices? His comment seems to be a contradiction in terms. The whole dichotomy between monergism and synergism rests on who holds the ultimate authority. Synergism hold that man has the last word, that man’s choice has the power. if you’ve ever heard it said that Good can’t save anyone without their permission, that’s a prime example. I recall hearing that being said at one of the leadership conferences I attended.
I prefer to think of it this way, and it’s an analogy that you will appreciate. We are told that God is the author of all life. When an author writes a story, they create characters and give them unique stories and personalities. They also put them in different situations, and through these situations the reader learns whether they are the good guys or the bad guys. sometimes these characters do terrible things, things that deserve punishment. now, when we read a story where a character is murdered, we don’t go and convict the author for the crime. The author is not held responsible for the actions he ordains his characters to perform. those actions were necessary for the progression of the story. In the end, the murder was the catalyst for the story which (hopefully) ends with justice and comeuppance being served.
In the same way, we need to understand that God is the author of our stories also. He knows the day of our births and deaths. he knows every word that comes from our mouths before we speak them, because he is the author. We belong to Him, and he can do whatever he pleases to do with his creation. Some people are being prepared for destruction as pharaoh was. When is someone far removed from us, it is an easier truth to take. Pharaoh wasn’t someone we were close to, so it is easier to remove ourselves from that emotionally. but what if that person being prepared for destruction is our neighbor, our friend, our family member? When this is the case, people quickly want to say that there is hope they could still choose to believe, and the Arminian dogma comes out in full force. but if God has prepared then for destruction, what can we say? Can we get angry at him because he did what pleased him with his own creation? Especially when we consider what is said in Romans 9 -What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.
We must remember that God does everything for his glory, and when a vessel of wrath is destroyed, it should remind us that God had mercy on us, and displayed his glory in the act of destruction. Even if it is someone we are close to, we must put emotions and personal feelings aside and remember that Good can do whatever he pleases with his creation, even if it isn’t pleasing to us.
Hi Sean, thanks for your well thought-out comment. I appreciated the first section (sorry to hear it, though) but I wasn’t comfortable sharing it publicly.
As a calvinist, would you then say that there is no free will at all?
I would say that free will is an illusion. To us, it appears as though we are going through our lives and making choices and decisions every day. And to some extent we are. But I have trouble reconciling a truly ‘free’ free will with what I read in scripture. The characters in a novel never question the freedom of their actions, but in the end everything they did was dictated by the author.
Here’s what i believe. Nothing in this world happens that God didn’t foresee or ordain. He is never surprised, He is never caught off guard. He can do whatever he wants with his creation, and whatever he wants to happen happens exactly as He wants it to. In a world where God’s will and man’s will come to a head, God’s will is going to win. It makes me angry when I hear people say things like “God can’t save anyone without their permission” because it elevates man’s will above God’s. The thought that man can frustrate God with his choices goes against everything I know about what the scripture says. God is sovereign over all things. Period.
Here’s the thing: I do agree that there is a lot of Biblical evidence for God working despite man’s intentions and will, overriding it even. However, if free will is only an illusion, what glory is there for God? Since those who ‘love’ him do so because they have to, and those who ‘hate’ him do so because they have to?
Is there not also evidence of God ‘wooing’ his people to himself, evoking images of the lover, not the tyrant.
Furthermore, doesn’t this track negate your reasoning about God not causing evil? If we are only carrying out the course predestined for us, and we in that course do evil, did God not cause it?
Not in any way to attack you. I’m just curious how you’ve reasoned this through.
On a lighter note, if as an author my characters do naughty things, I sure as heck will get blamed for it (at least by my relatives) 🙂