C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote “If you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time everyday. That is why daily praying and religious reading and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief, nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. As a matter of fact, if you examine a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?”
Several years into my life as a Christian, I began to doubt what I believed about God. I wondered how I knew that God was real and why I thought the Bible was the Word of God. Fueling my doubts were experiences with Christians who did not demonstrate much love, grace, and mercy, nor seemingly any concern for the unity of the believers in Christ. I thought “if I don’t see God through the lives of the people who believe in God, how do I even know that God exists?” At the time, I was teaching band in the public schools, which did not leave much time or energy for studying what I believed. I also had never been confronted with the need for reasoning my beliefs. This mix of hurt and lack of knowledge came together to create “the perfect storm” for my Christian beliefs.
Rather than turning only to the arguments that would support my doubt, I went looking for answers to the doubt I harbored. If God is real, I figured I should find really good answers in support of his existence.
As I read arguments for and against his existence, the reliability of the New Testament texts, and the evidence for the resurrection, I found that the best answers pointed towards the reality of God. These findings brought me to a place where I could no longer say “I have no good reason or evidence to believe in God.” I still had questions, but I could not get around God as part of reality. Now let me be clear. I realized I couldn’t just believe in God because I wanted God to be true. Actually, I did not know if I even wanted God to be true, because of my painful experiences with members of the church. I wanted answers. I wanted to know what was actually true so I could live my life better in accordance with reality; no matter what I found.
It was certainly possible for me to turn away from my former beliefs and focus on building a case against God. There is a lot of material available for doing as much. However, I did not see that as a responsible reaction to my situation. I had to be careful that my doubt was not simply fueled by hurt or anger with people. So I read the arguments on both sides of the issue. I then read the refutations of those arguments and the refutations of the refutations. This may seem like overkill, but for me it was necessary so that I could honestly look people in the eye and say, “I believe in God, because….” It took a few years to come back to trust that God is real. It also took a lot of study. Perhaps this situation could have been avoided if 1) I was originally committed to learning about my beliefs, and 2) the Church was committed to rigorously train congregants about their beliefs and doctrines.
Here we return to C.S. Lewis’ quote that once we have individually grappled with why we believe God is real and our reasoning for the faith we have in God, we must continue to think on these matters, as well as on our doctrines. Part of faith in God includes a lifelong commitment to learning about him (Proverbs 4:6-7, Romans 12:2, Eph. -15). Notice also how Lewis points out the reason we must think on these matters is that neither belief in God, nor any other belief, will remain alive in our minds if we do not think on these matters. That was the aspect of my Christianity that I had almost completely neglected: thinking on the doctrines of God. I guess I figured, “I’m saved. So I’m okay.” Yet, this was just not true. I wasn’t okay and I didn’t even realize it. I was not being responsible with what I professed to believe. I had not spent adequate time learning my beliefs to gain an understanding of why I believed.
If we, as Christians, are going to say we have the truth, then to be responsible with that belief we need to actively pursue an understanding of our profession. We must be ready to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001, S. 1 Pe 3:15