This is the beginning of a series of writings for those who are concerned that they might be losing their faith and are wrestling with the challenge of wanting to be intellectually honest and at the same time wanting Christianity to be true.
If you’re reading this, chances are you or someone you know is struggling to keep their faith. I want you to know that I’ve been there, and I can relate. I know firsthand that going through a faith crisis is nothing short of an existential crisis. That’s because it goes right to the very heart of everything we hold dear and threatens to destroy them: our sense of who we are, our understanding of reality, our sense of belonging, our sense of security, and our sense of purpose are all intimately tied to our faith commitment. That’s why when it's threatened, we’re filled with uncertainty and fear. And resolving it can be an all-consuming obsession.
No two faith crises are identical, but they all have at least one thing in common; something grabs our attention that causes us to doubt the truth of our religious beliefs. For some people it’s a negative experience, (being hurt by the church, or feeling betrayed by God), for others it’s a problem of reason (not enough evidence, or persuasive counterevidence), and for others, it might be a lack of “fit” between what the Bible says and what they experience. Despite the differences in what originates a faith crisis the experience itself, at least for people who are deeply religious is largely the same; it’s torturous.
That you (or someone you love) are in the middle of a faith crisis means at the very least that you (or they) are caught somewhere between pursuing the truth wherever it leads and hoping and praying it leads back to Jesus. If you didn’t want to know the truth you would have just suppressed the doubt, and the voice of your inner skeptic, and told yourself “there’s nothing to see here.” If you didn’t want to retain your faith, you would have simply given in to the doubt and jettisoned your faith. But here you are; reading about how to maintain your faith in the face of doubt.
So, how do you do it? How do you move forward, trying to be intellectually honest and at the same time hoping that Christianity is true? How does your search for the truth not end up as little more than an exercise in confirmation bias? Likewise, how do you avoid downplaying and being overly critical of the reasons that support the claims of Jesus in the name of being objective? How do you differentiate between the voice of reason and that of insecurity in evaluating your doubts? When is skepticism warranted and when is it the byproduct of a negative temperament? There are no easy answers to these questions. But these are the kinds of questions that need to be asked by anyone who is in the throes of a faith crisis.
In this series, I’ll address some of the above questions. I hope that you’ll find what I have to say helpful. And by helpful, I mean it will allow you to have an intellectually virtuous faith in Jesus. Not a faith that is without doubt, but one that you can hold despite your doubts because you have, to the best of your ability, faced them and discovered that while challenging, they are not ultimately persuasive. I believe a space for faith can be carved out. Doubt and faith can coincide.
At the same time, I am quite certain that there will be some who won’t find what I write helpful. That’s the thing about faith crises, they’re deeply personal and unique. There is no, one-size-fits-all, method for surviving them. Sometimes doubt overcomes faith and it becomes impossible. For some, faith dies.
Nevertheless, if Jesus and his vision for humanity are even plausible, it’s a faith that’s worth fighting to maintain. Even when the fight is against ourselves.