A popular view of faith is as an absence of doubt. But Greg shows us why this view not only is a barrier to new believers, but is also a dangerous way of doing faith.
The traditional view of faith is that it the opposite of doubt. In other words, the more psychologically certain you are, the “greater your faith.” This view assumes that God places a value on certainty. But this view is a barrier to new believers, is an unhealthy way to live out one’s faith, and ultimately does not reflect the biblical model of faith.
New believers are daunted by this model because they are bound to experience doubt as they learn a new way of thinking, believing and living. It takes time to become comfortable in a new belief system, and during that time people have many questions and doubts. We need freedom to sit comfortably with ambivalence as we grow in our faith.
It also is not a good way to practice one’s faith. When your definition of faith is unwavering certainty in your current view, and you can’t even conceive of the possibility that you’re wrong, that makes it difficult to have conversations, because you’re too busy defending your beliefs at all costs (because your very faith hangs in the balance!). It causes us to become closed-minded. People like this are at risk of being more concerned with being right than with finding truth, or having authentic conversations with people who hold different views. These individuals are also at greater risk of having an all-or-nothing view of faith, where if one aspect of their faith is challenged (or proven false), their entire faith could come tumbling down like a house of cards. It’s not secure and adds pressure to the urge to be closed minded.
It is also not biblically sound. As we see in James 2:13-18, simply believing something is not a sufficient definition of faith. Even if we believe with absolute certainty the fact that God wants to clothe the naked and feed the poor, it means nothing if you do not actually ACT to clothe the naked and feed the poor. Even demons believe that God exists!
A truly biblical model of faith is that faith is a commitment. It’s the willingness to commit to God and God’s will, even when there is doubt. It is like a marriage covenant– if you simply believe that someone is your spouse, but continue to think and act like a single person, people would call that not being faithful. Being faithful, in a covenent sense, is staying at our spouse’s side even when there are doubts (or temptations) around us. This is the model that God wants us to emulate in our religious faith. Doubt is not a threat to our faith. On the contrary, God can use doubt to move us away from unhealthy beliefs or practices, all while we remain committed to Him and walking with Him.
Changing our view to this covenantal model of faith frees us from all of the limitations of the certainty model. We can confidently engage in enlightening conversations with others because we are free to share, listen, and learn and ultimately to grow. Because the basis of our faith is a commitment to Jesus as lord of our life, our faith need not be threatened by any of our other peripheral beliefs.
If you are experiencing doubt, Greg encourages you to examine the source of it. Most often, doubt is the result of one of three causes:
1) Volitional: is there something in your lifestyle that you know deep down is inconsistent with walking with God? Investigate that and find out what that is. Identifying it is critical to correcting it.
2) Intellectual: maybe you just never found a compelling reason to support a belief in Jesus? If so, you are in the right place because Greg Boyd has written several books on this subject (aka apologetics). Dig deeper and learn some of his reasons for believing– he and other authors can present some strong arguments that are worthy of consideration. The evidence– that Jesus is who he says he is — is stronger than the evidence that he isn’t.
3) Emotional: The third common reason for doubt is that God just doesn’t “feel” real to us. The thing to remember if this describes you is that all feelings are a result of what goes on in our imagination. Our imagination conditions what feels real and what doesn’t. Spend time imagining God. Hear Jesus’ voice, see his eyes, hear what he says to you, feel the spirit of God within him. Imagination is not fantasy when it reflects what we profess to be reality.
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