Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: evidence

In defence of doubt

As Christians, we tend to have this utopian belief that a true believer will never have any doubts about matters of faith. Thus, when a brother or sister has the courage to admit to doubt, we react with something akin to panic.

Why do we react like this? Isn’t it because deep down we ourselves doubt whether there is a satisfactory answer for the doubt expressed by our brother or sister. So we label the doubt as unbelief and tell the doubting person to repent of that unbelief.

In most cases doubt is simply a feeling of uncertainty, a longing for answers and not a refusal to believe. We all have doubts at times and it is not healthy to suppress them. If we go on for too long simply stifling our doubts, they are apt to erupt one day into a major crisis of faith.

We need to look for answers to our doubts, and to the doubts of others. Right here we often encounter the biggest doubt of all: are there really answers to our doubts? How can we even know that God exists?

We should be wary of answers that assume that faith and reason are mutually exclusive realms and that we just need to have faith. Sometimes Christians use a variant of this type of answer by coming up with stories that supposedly prove Creation, the existence of heaven or hell, or some other tenet of the faith and say we have a different kind of knowledge than the world has. Most of these stories do not stand up under close scrutiny and have the effect of confirming the world’s perception that Christian’s aren’t very bright.

Blaise Pascal said “The heart has its reasons, which reason cannot know.” Yet he went on to develop arguments to show the reasonableness of Christian faith. There is no contradiction here — Christian faith does provide the best explanation for things as they really are. Those who rely on reason alone and deny the very possibility of God have created well thought out explanations for the existence of the world and all natural phenomena, including the workings of the human mind. The problem is that new evidence keeps cropping up that does not fit these explanations, so new explanations need to be developed.

There is no absolute proof for any aspect of Christian faith; on the other hand, there is no evidence that contradicts the faith. When looked at objectively, without the blinders created by a refusal to admit any possibility of the existence of God, it becomes clear that God is the explanation that best fits all the available evidence.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith then is really all we need, faith in God and faith in what He has revealed to us in His Word. But questions and doubts will arise, and we need not fear them.

The world has developed supposedly scientific ideas about what is best for the mental and emotional well-being of mankind. Here too, an unblinkered look at the evidence shows that they don’t really work. Having confidence that there really is a God who created the world and everything in it, including us, should give us confidence to trust that His plan for the church and the home are exactly designed to meet our real needs. Let’s not panic when someone expresses doubts. Consider that an opportunity to examine the evidence and have our faith renewed.

No evidence for this hypothesis

The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end and imagine those twelve men meeting after Jesus’s death and conspiring to say that he had risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost.

-Blaise Pascal, Les Pensées

Conversion

In recent years we have been hearing a teaching that goes something like this: the new birth can happen in an instant, but conversion is the work of a lifetime.  This bizarre statement has left me puzzled about how one can reconcile it with the Scriptures.

In Acts 15:3, we are told that as Paul and Barnabas made their way to Jerusalem “they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.”  They were recounting to fellow believers along the way how that many Gentiles had come to the faith.  This was something that had already happened, there was no need to wait years after they were born again to see if they would also be converted.

In Luke 22:32 Jesus speaks to Peter, saying “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”  If conversion is the work of a lifetime, when exactly was it that Peter was supposed to strengthen the brethren?  As we follow the story of Peter, we see how he began doing this immediately after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

Is it safe to gather from this that the new birth and conversion are completed and sealed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit?  I believe it is.  Words like new birth, regeneration and conversion all speak of a break with one’s former life, a change of direction and the beginning of a new life.  When this happens we become children of God and He gives us the Holy Spirit as a seal.

Galatians  4:6 “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

Ephesians 1:13-14 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”

Romans 8:9 “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

These verses make it clear that the Holy Spirit is given to all who are truly born again, converted, regenerated.  The Holy Spirit is not just a passive passenger in our lives, He wants to direct our lives in the ways of God.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:22-25).

Where then does this idea of conversion taking a lifetime come from?  It is a proposition of Calvinism.  Believing in unconditional election and irresistible grace leaves them with masses of people who have been born again, but show no evidence of it.  Therefore, they must grant such believers a lifetime for some evidence of the new birth and conversion to manifest itself in their lives.  This may be an intellectually satisfying proposition, but it gives a false comfort to those who are struggling to maintain a semblance of Christian life without the grace given by the Holy Spirit.

Genuine evidence of the fruit of the Spirit should trump any intellectual proposition that lacks a Biblical foundation.  True repentance leads to the new birth, conversion, regeneration, adoption or whatever word might be found to describe a transformed life.  The evidence will follow; sooner, rather than later.

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