10/13/16 Julius and Martin Early 20’s
Two college roommates were happy to talk with me about both their beliefs and their doubts during a sidewalk outreach conversation. One of them, Julius, had grown up in Wheaton, IL, known for its many churches, where he felt a Christian outlook was expected of him. With heavy church and youth group involvement in high school, he feels like he has "been there, done that" with traditional Christianity, and now rejects the Christian label as too confining, and attendance in one church or denomination as too restrictive. It didn't seem like he rejects Christianity completely, but instead he believes he can gain more respect for his beliefs in the world and with his friends by often playing the "devil's advocate" with hard questions and a self-professed uncertainty about matters of faith. He views having doubts about one's faith as a positive attribute. Julius believes this to be a less arrogant, more humble approach to faith, yet it leaves people like his friend, Martin, who has no church background and is somewhat clueless about Christianity, in the dark.
During our conversation it was Martin who showed the most interest in hearing the Gospel, while Julius was quoting various philosophers and asking provocative questions that cast doubt on the certainty of absolute truths. I do think it is important to be honest about our doubts and questions, because God wants us to worship Him in spirit and truth. Thomas, known as the doubter, was not condemned for his caution in jumping into believing, and he ended up exclaiming “My Lord and my God!”. But if we are asking difficult questions just to discredit Christianity, or to arrogantly display the depth of our intellect, then our insincere questions will only be met with God's silence, or worse.
I told both Julius and Martin that I have learned to give God and the Bible the benefit of the doubt, which to me means I need to be willing to wait on God's timing for answers. It means we shouldn't expect answers to difficult questions to come to us in sound bites, and we might even need to wait until another season of life before we have the maturity to understand certain truths more completely. We need to accept that there are some questions we will never be able to answer, but also trust there are many truths God reveals to us that we can and should act on right away. Giving God the benefit of the doubt means we move forward in faith and obedience with what we know to be true, without waiting until all our hard questions are answered.
I think Julius is probably well-intentioned with his questions, wanting to show Martin that Christians can be thoughtful, self-reflective and discerning. But I think he is also misguided. It is all too easy to take our questions too far, into the knee-jerk camp of pessimism, criticism, and questioning of all things Christian. More and more, the world does that enough all by itself.