The following excerpt is from The 7 Big Questions: Searching for God, Truth, and Purpose by Bruce B. Miller and published by Global Media Outreach.
“I don’t believe in God,” he told me confidently.
“Oh?” I responded. “Why is that?”
“There’s no evidence that God exists. No proof that God is anything more than something people made up to make themselves feel better,” he said. “And I’m sick of my parents pushing church on me. Even if there was a God, he doesn’t deserve my worship. Have you looked around lately? How could there be a good God in control of the world when terrible things happen every day?”
“That’s fair,” I said. “You’re right—the world is full of pain and suffering. It doesn’t make any sense.”
He paused, briefly surprised to hear something like that coming from a pastor. Then he turned toward me more directly and looked me straight in the eyes. “Then why do you believe in God?” he asked.
It wasn’t the first time someone had asked me that question, and it won’t be the last. Seeing people’s reactions when they first learn that I’m a pastor is always interesting—body language shifts. People sit up straighter or square off their shoulders defensively. Speech patterns change. People begin to watch their language. Some become overly polite, and others borderline hostile.
But that day, I could sense that this young man’s question was sincere; he really wanted to know my answer. The conversation wasn’t a debate, a game, or an argument. There was a tinge of hopeful longing in the tone of his voice, as if to communicate his desire to see something that might point to God’s reality. He listened quietly to my response and then asked a follow-up question: How long will it take me to figure out if God is real or not?
Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question for him—or for anyone. Here’s what I do know: exploring God is a worthy endeavor. Questions like these are worth asking; their answers, worth seeking.
It’s vitally important that each person takes ownership of their own faith. It’s not enough to believe in something simply because someone told you; there’s no depth to that. We must be critical and intentional in pursuing truth and letting the answers we discover inform our beliefs. It’s the realizations we uncover on our own terms that have the potential to transform our lives.
Jesus himself encouraged his followers to go deeper in their thinking and faith by asking them questions. In fact, the Bible records Jesus asking over 225 different questions. He also said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, “I believe in Christ and confess him not like some schoolboy; but my hosanna has passed through a great furnace of doubt.” It’s from the refining fire of doubt that strong convictions can emerge, forged by the act of pursuing answers to our hard questions.
Doubt often gets a bad reputation, especially within Christian settings, but doubt can actually be hugely productive. It can paralyze us, yes, but it can also propel us to seek out truth. As pastor we must not suppress doubt but unfold it. Real progress comes from asking questions and earnestly seeking out answers. In my life, the times of deep doubt and earnest questioning have helped me to grow the most—personally, relationally, and spiritually. The process of questioning and exploring answers has the power to open minds, give rise to new ideas, reveal new horizons, and change our lives.
Even before the pandemic, nearly every Christian and Pastor (including me) has experienced seasons of wrestling with serious doubts and questions about their faith. That process often takes one deeper in their exploration of God. Theologian Paul Tillich wrote, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” While you’re here with us, we invite you to embrace your doubts, ask your questions, and seek out truth. Not every question you ask will have a clear answer. Mystery abounds in this life, and there are spiritual realities that exceed our understanding. But I agree with theologian Peter Abelard when he said, “Constant and frequent questioning is the first key to wisdom. . . . For through doubting we are led to inquire, and by inquiry we perceive the truth.” As pastors, let’s explore our own doubts and help others go deeper in their faith through the door of doubt down the path of questioning.
Read more in The 7 Big Questions: Searching for God, Truth, and Purpose by Bruce B. Miller