Archives For Apologetics

Jesus & Doubt

Paul McMullen —  March 15, 2017 — 4 Comments

Jerusalem_Gethsemane_tango7174

(By Tango7174 – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26323542)
(The picture above is the Garden of Gethsemane. The olive trees are thought to be millennia old, possibly the same trees that sheltered Jesus and his disciples 2000 years ago.)

Over the last two months, I’ve explored the topic of doubt in relation to faith through several posts. I’ve used the book Benefit of the Doubt, by Gregory Boyd, to help spur the discussion. In today’s post, I’d like to share some insights from chapters 5 in BotD.

The last biblical character we looked at was Job. Boyd suggests that Job’s faith was most on display through his honest struggle with God. In chapter five, we move on to Jesus himself.

If anyone had perfect faith it must be Jesus, right? And if perfect faith equals unquestioning certainty, then how do we explain the following two incidents in Jesus’ life?

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Wrestling Match

Paul McMullen —  February 15, 2017 — 3 Comments

Randy "macho Man" Savage, Hulk Hogan

In the last few posts, we’ve worked through Gregory Boyd’s objections to “certainty-seeking faith.” For many folks, I suspect you’ve been interested in getting to a renewed biblical view of faith. It’s not enough just to deconstruct our understanding of faith (as idolatrous!); we want to know how to reconstruct a faith we can live in.

Others may be happy that we’ve deconstructed certainty-seeking faith (with some pushback), but may be hesitant to move toward the reconstruction phase. We’ve been burned once, and we don’t want to get burned again. If you’re feeling that way, let me encourage you to simply consider a fresh look at faith. Honest searching is good and healthy for the soul.

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walker

This post continues looking at Gregory Boyd’s 9 objections to what he calls certainty-seeking faith. The bullet points below correspond with objections 7-9. Boyd takes a whole chapter to work through #9, so I’ll spend a bit more time explaining it.

The Case Against Certainty-Seeking Faith

  • Feeling over-certain in your beliefs is the cause of religious extremism and acts of violence in the name of God.

It’s an interesting point, and certainly relevant to our time. Boyd contends that this wouldn’t occur if people were more doubtful and humble. But can’t we just be humbler? Does doubt have to be the reason we don’t kill each other?

  • The end goal of certainty-seeking faith is for the believer to feel good about themselves. It’s self-serving rather than primarily concerned with truth. “The goal of believing the truth and the goal of feeling certain you already believe the truth are mutually exclusive” (pg.51). Boyd presents the case that rational pursuits of truth involve individuals weighing available evidence in a highly ambiguous, uncertain world.

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i-object-animal

Last week, I introduced Gregory Boyd’s recent book Benefit of the Doubt in a post called Hitting the Faith Puck. This week I’ll continue interacting with Boyd as he presents his case against certainty-seeking faith.

In chapters 2-3 Boyd raises nine objections against certainty-seeking faith. I’ll share a brief description of each objection and make a few comments afterward in italics. I’ll have to split this one up into two posts. Just a head’s up: these reflections are more philosophic, psychological in nature. We will get to Scripture, just not yet.

The Case Against Certainty-Seeking Faith

  • Trying to convince ourselves of certainty, without pursuing further evidence for a belief, is irrational. We shouldn’t have to convince ourselves to believe in something more fully than the evidence warrants. Forcing “certainty” doesn’t work.

On the other hand, repetition of a certain belief (“I do believe, I do, I do, I do”) does seem to eventually convince. In recent times the case has convincingly been made that people who listen to one viewpoint for long enough become convinced it is correct (and are astonished that others could disagree!). But I agree with Boyd that this is not a preferred approach to greater certainty. Repetition does nothing to change the evidence we’ve encountered about a belief.

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When I got into church planting, I wanted to do evangelism differently.

Most of the churches I’ve been a part of had a “believe then belong” paradigm for evangelism. In other words, after a person believes in the gospel and gives their life to Jesus then they can belong to the church – that is, participate in ministry, be a full-fledged member of the community, etc.

Even if this paradigm isn’t voiced in churches, non-Christian newcomers can sense it. One doesn’t fully belong until one becomes a Christian. Which makes sense to a certain degree – it is a Christian community, after all.

Practically speaking, evangelistic Bible studies are the front door of interaction with non-Christians in this paradigm. A couple years ago one Christian participant of Storyline observed all the non-Christians hanging out with us at parties and gatherings and asked me why we didn’t have more Bible studies going on with them. She had grown up in the “believe then belong” paradigm.

I was, however, smitten with an alternative paradigm to evangelism – “belong then believe” – articulated by people like George Hunter, Brian McLaren, Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas. Non-Christians come to faith by belonging first to a community of believers – participating in ministry, knowing others deeply and being known deeply – and then discover that in the midst of it all they believe!

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