Archives For Spiritual Formation


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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Doubt & Faith

Paul McMullen —  January 20, 2017 — 9 Comments


As I lay there looking up at the ceiling, I reached out my hand into the darkness and cried out on the inside, “If you’re there, won’t you let me know?” I spoke to God, whose existence I was uncertain of. I often laid awake at night, wrestling with doubt, wondering if he was there, wondering why he made it so hard to believe.

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Dwelling in the Word is a spiritual practice of taking a text of Scripture and meditating on it over an extended period of time. Neil Cole observes that many Christians are “educated beyond obedience”. They know a lot about the Bible, but they actually practice a small percentage of what they know. Dwelling in the Word helps believers to simmer and stew and marinate in one section of Scripture in order to work out its implications in their lives — so that they begin to intentionally practice what they sense God saying in the text.

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Baby sleeping

I’ve been reflecting lately on the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4. The temptation that grabs my attention right now is when the tempter takes Jesus to the highest point of the temple – the center of religious and spiritual life in Jesus’ day — and challenges him to jump off and let God’s angels catch him.

The devil even quotes Scripture to Jesus, from Psalm 91, about how God commands his angels to keep his chosen one from dashing his foot on a stone. Temptations wouldn’t be so significant if they didn’t sound good; if there wasn’t a dash of truth thrown in there. One of the lines in Ben Rector’s song “If You Can Hear Me” says: “Sometimes the devil sounds a lot like Jesus.”

The heart of this temptation for Jesus seems to be the invitation to prove himself. To show, in the middle of the crowds at the temple grounds, that he is someone special. To start his ministry off with a spectacular, miraculous bang. Who wouldn’t respect Jesus and listen to him if they saw angels rescue him in mid-air as he launched himself off the top of the temple?

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I sat across from my friend as he spilled out his challenges through heart-felt words. I knew there was an expectation that we’d pray for his needs soon. This prayer time was common practice, a show of belief that God should be involved in such things. As I prayed for my friend, I asked for healing, for guidance, for patience while he waited for the answer. I covered a lot of bases because the truth was – I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from our prayer. I said the words “please heal” because I knew I should say them. But my expectations on this occasion didn’t include any immediate healing.

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