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How to deal with doubts

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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young man reading a small bible (Credit: Mele Avery via Fotolia)

On Monday I began a series on the top ten spiritual truths I’ve learned over the years.  We’re discussing them in chronological order, from the first lesson I learned to the latest.

Here’s #8: God wants us to love him with our minds.

My brother and I did not grow up in church; by the time I came to faith, I had many questions.  I didn’t understand how science and faith could cooperate, or what happens to people of other religions, or why God allows bad things to happen to us.

Friends told me, “If you have enough faith, you won’t have doubts.”  Since I had doubts, I concluded that I didn’t have enough faith.  I assumed something was wrong with me, and even doubted my salvation for a period of time.

When I was a senior in high school, someone gave me a copy of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.  For the first time I met someone with questions like mine and the willingness to wrestle with them.  His story was transforming for me.  I discovered Isaiah 1:18, where God says,”Come now, let us reason together.”  I learned that “reason together” translates a Hebrew word that literally means, “argue it out.”  I found Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  If the Son of God could ask “why,” couldn’t I?

Professors in college assured me that the only bad question is the one we won’t ask.  In seminary, I took a philosophy of religion class that let me ask my questions, and found a home.  I completed a Ph.D. in the subject and have been engaging contemporary issues and faith questions ever since.

On occasion I still meet people who think that Christians can’t think.  I remind them of Paul the Apostle, the favored disciple of the greatest teacher in Judaism (Acts 22:3).  He was so well educated that Festus could speak of his “great learning” (Acts 26:24), and was so skilled an orator that the Greeks called him “Hermes,” the messenger god (Acts 14:12).  Some of the greatest thinkers in history, from Augustine to Francis Collins, have been strong believers.  Faith and reason are not competitive but complimentary.

When a boy was asked to define faith, he replied: “Believing what you know ain’t so.”  He was wrong–Jesus wants us to love God “with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  The donor who gave the academic scholarship that enabled me to attend college told me when I graduated, “The Holy Spirit has a strange affinity for the trained mind.”  The more prepared we are intellectually, the more usable we are.

We love God with our minds by studying and obeying his word, learning to think biblically about the issues and decisions of our day, and pleasing him with our thoughts: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).  Would God say that you love him with all your mind this morning?