November 7, 2013

Doubt and revelations

“I will have to see it before I believe it.”

Every person has said that about something. I said it when my husband retired. I know him well. He put in his retirement weeks ago and he is still working full time.

Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, said the same words two thousand years ago about an event far more earth shattering. The other disciples told him that Jesus had risen from the dead . . . 

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.” (John 20:25–27)

While tone of voice is missing, I’m fairly certain Jesus’ words were spoken in kindness, not with a scolding tone. He knew the incredulous nature of this event, but He also knew the nature of humanity. We are born with questions. Even the eyes of a small child who cannot speak are filled with wonder, and among that child’s first words is “Why?”

Doubt begins here too. As we grow, we learn certain things are true and when something invades that knowledge, a battle begins in the mind. Will the new thought replace the old? Or will old patterns of thinking and acceptance win over the new?

Besides this inner challenge, the world is filled with external challenges to our belief system. On all sides are temptations to questioning. In a positive sense, this is valuable for discovery and progress. For instance, in every flower petal and every cell of every flower petal, there are a hundred things to discover. Scientists might spend years investigating the petal and years more investigating what they discovered in the petal. It seems that God planned His world to stir our curiosity and intellectual activity.

However, the way we investigate truth in the realm of the spirit does not work like that. We could blame prejudice, heredity, or presuppositions, which do play a part, yet the Bible says sin has blinded our eyes and deadened our ears. Surprisingly, an even bigger issue is that God did not design our minds to discover truth about Him through scientific investigation and reason. He designed us to know Him through His revelation of Himself, just like we get to know anyone else.

There is a problem with this. God freely reveals, but our brains cannot freely receive. Sin, prejudice and so on block it and we cannot see without two things: rewired brains and an interpreter, the Holy Spirit who does both. Without the Spirit, even those with rewired minds realize that is not enough. We cannot see or understand matters of the spiritual realm without the help of God to overcome our inadequacies.

Not only that, spiritual truth is doubtable. Reason cannot prove God exists, nor that the Bible is His Word to us. Even if granted faith to believe these basics, our understanding of God is colored by our human experience. We think He is like our human fathers, for example.

For all of this, it was the choice of God to reveal Himself. He did that in the events and lives described in the Bible, but even with that amazing account, without His power to open my blind eyes and invade my wrestling mind, I could not see or know God from reading the Bible on my own. I did that for nearly twenty years and remained clueless.

I now understand that God’s ways are not my ways. I’m not thrown for a loop by the contradiction of new thoughts with old beliefs. That battle still happens, but I’ve learned to investigate rather then toss out new things. God tells me that this is a wise way to deal with this . . .  

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

However, even as a believer in Jesus Christ and in the Bible, doubt and lies are a continual threat to my faith. I understand Thomas who wanted to see Jesus before believing. Do I not have that same mind when I pray for many years without seeing an answer? Doubt creeps in when life does not go as I hope, or as my prayers request. I battle the lies of the enemy who knows all my weak spots. I seek truth daily from God and know how far I would fall without Him.

Needing God to reveal truth is a humbling thing, particularly to those who think their minds work well. Not only that, I’m humbled to realize that those wrestling matches would never happen if I could simply believe God. However, these realities in my spiritual life gives me greater sympathy and toleration for those who seek truth on other paths and for those who do not accept God’s revelations that are now part of my life. All of this makes me realize that we are sinners together and we need to help and encourage one another.

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