It's okay to doubt
It turns out, "I doubt it!" is not such a bad phrase after all -- at least according to Tim Keller.
If you have had your doubts about the resurrection, or know someone who has, you are not alone. Keller would even argue the necessity of those doubts provided they are carefully scrutinized.
A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person's faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.
Jesus was not bothered by doubts--even when they sprang from those who had walked closely with him. Take Thomas. One would think that walking with Jesus for a few years would wash away any lingering doubts about his identity and his claims -- not so. When Jesus died and "rose again," Thomas wasn't buying it.
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29 ESV
In a display of patience, kindness, and love, Jesus does not berate, chide, or scold Thomas for his doubts. Instead, his challenge to that first-century skeptic was straight-forward: "Put your finger here ... Do not disbelieve, but believe."
What to do with your doubts
The interaction between Jesus and Thomas provides a great model for anyone wrestling with doubts about the resurrection.
- Own your doubts. To Thomas's credit he owned up to his doubts: "Unless I see . . ." That's healthy. As Keller has noted, "A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it." If you have doubts about Jesus or the resurrection, it doesn't make you a second-class citizen. Own it. And then take the second step.
- Test your doubts. You have to put your doubts to the test in order to put your doubts to rest. Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here . . . ." In his book, More Than A Carpenter, Josh McDowell chronicles his journey from skeptic to disciple. That journey began when friends challenged him to honestly investigate the person of Christ and claims of the Bible. McDowell's skepticism could not stand up to the person and work of Jesus. The evidence was too overwhelming. Josh became a follower of Christ, and has spent his life sharing the message he once criticized.
- Make up your mind. Jesus challenged Thomas, "Do not disbelieve, but believe" (John 20:27). In other words "Thomas, you have to decide." In his book, Seeking Allah Finding Jesus, Nabeel Quereshi shared how he came to the point of decision about Christ, "I now knew the truth: God was calling me to accept the gospel" (p. 266). Doubters must have the freedom to doubt, but they also need to be challenged to make a decision in the face of the claims of Christ and the evidence about him.
- Declare your faith. After scrutinizing the resurrected Jesus, Thomas proclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Jesus calls those who believe to openly confess their faith in him: "So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).
Resources to help work through your doubts
Any Sunday I address the resurrection, I know I can never provide an extensive list of resources for the skeptic to consider. There simply is not enough time. That was true yesterday. My sermon, Hope For All, looked at the "living hope" that Peter had because of the resurrection. His hope was not wishful thinking, but a confident expectation that impacted him past, present, and future.
In my sermon I mentioned that I would provide a list of resurrection proofs in this blog post. It turns out I will have to provide that later this week. Apologies for that!
What I can do is include this list of helpful resources. I am indebted to my friends and SRC leaders, Hank Kreh, Greg Hazle, and Greg Hoffman for their help in compiling this list. I pray God uses it to help put your doubts to the test so you can put your doubts to rest:
Phone apps & media:
- Cross-Examined App -- Featuring a "Quick Answers" section that helps you respond to popular objections to Christianity.
- Ravi Zacharias International Ministries YouTube Channel -- Catch video snippets of RZ engaging in interesting discussions regarding atheism, the validity of the Bible, Christ, Christianity.
- Connect with these folks on Twitter:
- Go to your smartphone app store for mobile apps for Ravi Zacharias Ministries, Stand To Reason, and Reasonable Faith.
Blogs & Websites:
- The Constructive Curmudgeon is the blog of Douglas Groothius, Ph.D. His latest post is called “Evidence For Easter”.
- Stand To Reason -- Greg Koukl started out thinking he was too smart to become a Christian and ended up giving his life for the defense of the Christian faith. His radio/web broadcast is very good. Greg has spoken at SRC.
- Reasons to Believe -- RTB's mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature.
- The Poached Egg -- Our goal is to help guide believers, seekers, and skeptics alike to the Ultimate Source of Truth and a better understanding of the Christian worldview.
- Apologetics315 -- The vision of Apologetics 315 is to provide educational resources for the defense of the Christian faith, with the goal of strengthening the faith of believers and engaging the questions and challenges of other worldviews.
- Reasonable Faith with William Lane Craig aims to provide in the public arena an intelligent, articulate, and uncompromising yet gracious Christian perspective on the most important issues concerning the truth of the Christian faith.
Books to consider:
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. A classic text from an atheist turned follower of Jesus.
- The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller. Keller has an amazing ability to connect with people who are grappling with Christianity.
- The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel. Strobel, former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, cross-examines a dozen experts to consider the person of Jesus and the resurrection.
- The Case for the Resurrection: A First-Century Investigative Reporter Probes History’s Pivotal Event by Lee Strobel. This short booklet (96 pages) provides new evidence that shines a fresh light on the resurrection.
- Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias. We are living in a time when you can believe anything, as long as you do not claim it to be true. Zacharias says such reasoning is absurd.
- Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospelsby J Warner Wallace -- In Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally recognized skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs. Wallace has also spoken at Spanish River.
- The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas & Michael Licona. A comprehensive and far-reaching argument for the historical veracity of Christ's resurrection.
- The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ by Lee Strobel
- The Answer by Randy Pope. How to find satisfaction in a world that disappoints.
- Just Thinking -- this is a quarter-hour weekday broadcast by Ravi Zacharias The programs seek to explore issues such as life's meaning, the credibility of the Christian message and the Bible, the weakness of modern intellectual movements, and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.
- Stand To Reason -- Since 1990, Greg Koukl has provided thoughtful commentary on ethics, values, and religion, and engaged stimulating questions and challenges from callers from all over the world on his call-in program.
- Cold Case Resurrection by J. Warner Wallace. Wallace is a Christian apologist. This is a link to a talk he gave at Spanish River.
- The On My Walk Podcast -- Check out "The Strangest Story In The World."
Doubting is a frustrating place to be. It is my prayer that these resources will help you put your doubts to the test. More than that I hope they will enable you, like Thomas, to move from disbelief to belief.
"A faith without some doubts ..." from The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. New York: Dutton (Penguin). Pages xvi-xvii.