"I have a friend who..."
In the last few weeks, I have had a chance to catch up on some good books.
I've been able to read novels as well as theology (which isn't directly related
to what I am preaching on). It's been really stimulating! One thing that I
read was this by Tim Keller. He wrote a book called "The Reason for God" in
response to books such as "The God Delusion", by Richard Dawkins. As a
minister in Manhattan, USA for 20 years and a former teacher of philosophy,
he has been considering issues of faith and doubt with intellectual city
dwellers and students all his working life. Now he leads a church of 5000(!)
with a generosity of spirit towards those who do not call themselves Christians.
It got me thinking; how do we show love and respect towards those who have
doubts? In the book, "Along the Discipleship Road", I wrote this about doubt:
Doubt is a human experience that touches us all. Ian Hislop, the editor of
Private Eye and regular on the TV show, "Have I Got News for You." wrote this
a few years ago. "At the age I am now, Jesus’ life was finished. He had either
completed an extraordinary mission or had been pointlessly and tragically
executed. The end is either Christ's last cry of desolation in Luke: "My God,
My God, why have you forsaken me?" or it is the certainty of the words,
"Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit." I don’t know. I've sat in
churches thinking this is all rubbish. I've thought the mockers' thoughts.
And, at other times, I have felt that this is all there is. I don't know.
I don't know. Hislop candidly expresses his doubts, and his faith. Like him,
many of us have times of real questioning. For each of us, there are days
when we are ready to walk with Jesus down the road, wherever he takes us.
On other days, uncertainty creeps in, and we wonder whether we can take a single step.
Doubt means being in two minds, having a divided judgement when facing two
choices, wavering in decision. A byway is sometimes defined as a secondary
or side road. You usually meet them at a fork in the road. Sometimes the way
to go is clear. More often than not, it is indistinct. If we take the wrong
path, we often find ourselves side-tracked and diverted from the goal of our
journey. Our doubts can be like this. We may doubt that God has the character
to keep his promises. We may doubt that the traditions or creeds of the church
tell us about the nature of God. These doubts may be based upon our understanding
of revelation from God. They are 'outside of us'. Other responses to God may
express 'inner doubts'. These are based upon whether we feel that God loves us
and is close to us.
In the words of Philip Yancey: "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 to
expose it for what it is: not something hide or fear, but a hard structure on
which living tissue may grow."
Since I am a Christian who makes a living from talking to people about faith,
people are very interested in finding out if I doubt. I am often asked whether
I ever question my beliefs in God. Yes, I do ponder issues of faith and doubt
in all areas of theology and philosophy that I am challenged over. In fact, I
think it's healthy. Wrestling with issues of faith and doubt is like exercising
a muscle. If you have prepared a muscle through regular exercise; when it really
has to work, it will be ready and not 'give out' under the strain. The same is
true about thinking through our doubts. If we ignore the areas of our life when
we are tempted to doubt, we will not engage in the necessary 'exercise' to
strengthen our faith. When the testing times come, we have not strengthened our
faith to sufficiently stand up to the strain and challenges of life. As such,
our faith can collapse.
When such a collapse happens, we may be tempted to blame God or other people for
our loss of faith. Is it really their fault? Is their 'work' we could have engaged in?
Well, there is certainly work that I should engage in! I should be listening to
people's doubts and equipping them in their journey of faith! So, I want to ask you
a question: what are the doubts you are struggling with? What are the doubts your
friends are struggling with?
Below is a box where you can write down the doubts you have, or the doubts that a
friend has articulated to you, that you would love to understand better. If you write
these down, I promise that I will address your question in a sermon this year. After
Easter (once we have gathered in all the questions, we will run a sermon series called:
"I have a friend who..."
We will group the different questions of doubt and faith. I hope that you will exercise
the 'muscle' of the mind and think up that question that you have always wondered about.
I hope that you will exercise the muscles of your legs and come and join us as we seek
for God's answers to these questions
Yours, in his service
|I have a friend who...|
|Write your Question that you or another person is struggling with:|
|Drop the question into the church office or the vicarage.|
The addresses are on the contacts page.