Last Christmas Eve, I sat with my youngest grandbaby on my lap, full to the brim with the joy of family and the spirit of Christmas. As I nestled my grandson and listened to the pastor expound on the birth of Jesus Christ, I began to think about the fact that my pastor was not merely telling us an allegory or a metaphor or a fable meant to inspire. Rather, he was ceding a historical account, with a tacit assumption that the events written in Luke 2 had actually happened. For a few moments, I took myself out of believer mode and listened with the ear of an outsider. Suddenly, our otherwise rational, articulate, well-educated pastor sounded like a lunatic.
With a straight face, he spoke about messenger angels, ancient prophecies, and a virgin birth. His message concluded with the confident assertion of the return of a resurrected Savior who would establish an eternal Kingdom on a refurbished earth. Continuing in my outsider mode, I marveled that this guy genuinely, and with great passion, believes every bit of this stuff.
This is really where I went in my mind on Christmas Eve. And this is where I have been going the last year, as I’ve been wrestling in a rather unsettling season of doubt. Why, in the times in which we are living, when modern science explains so much, would any sane adult believe in such outlandish claims? Why do my husband, my children, most of my close friends, and countless other prudent, sensible, healthy, intelligent, level-headed people believe it? And why would I?
The Shadow of Doubt
A few years ago, in a blog I wrote explaining to unbelievers why I believe what I believe, I made the claim that I believe it without a shadow of a doubt. But I don’t think I was being completely honest. The shadow of doubt is a menace that hovers above my belief almost constantly, threatening at any moment to pull the one thread that will unravel all I have held as truth for so long.
Alisa Childers, author of the book Another Gospel, said, “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. Unbelief is the opposite of faith.” I don’t like the season I’m in. I love God. I am committed to Christ. I revere him and love him dearly. Yet, I sometimes get caught up in worry, fearing that all I have come to believe may not be true. That everything I have committed my life and my work to, the personal sacrifices I’ve made and see others making, are all for naught. The most terrifying thing I can think of is that there is no loving God, no Savior, no heaven. What if non-Christians are right?
God’s Nearness to Doubters
In the end, what I have found in this season of doubt is a God who does not reject me. In fact, he draws near to me and gently reminds me of the truth when I doubt. Just like he did with Thomas (John 20:24-29) and with John the Baptist (Matthew 11:1-19). And like he will for any believer who becomes afraid under the weight of an unbelieving world.
My doubt has led me to search, which, as God promised, led me to find (Matthew 7:7). And in the finding, I can now “make a defense to anyone who asks” why I believe what I do (1 Peter 3:15), and why this belief offers hope and peace and confidence, even when I doubt.
My Prepared Defense
If you ask for the reason for the hope that is in me, I will tell you what I have found.
1. Science is too remarkable and natural things too intricate to have been randomly generated.
The complexities of life cannot be explained by uncreated phenomena.
Consider this one fact: If it were possible to stretch out all of the DNA in a single human being and lay it end to end, it would reach to the sun and back six hundred times. That is fifty-five billion, eight hundred million miles of DNA in just one person. And DNA perpetuates itself in vastly complicated chemical processes on and on and on throughout generations of all living things, according to their kinds (Genesis 1:24-25). It takes great faith to attribute the enormous complexity of procreation to random processes of fortuity.
2. The existence of existence is inherently astounding.
While science may explain the workings of the world, science cannot explain the existence of existence. So any explanation we land on carries with it a level of absurdity.
Those who decry Christianity in favor of say, an influencing universe, or an impersonal deity, or any variety of polytheism, or a gospel of science, or even no belief at all, are not adopting any belief system less absurd than that of Christianity.
3. Biblical Christianity offers the best explanation for all that is.
The complexities of the natural world affirm, at the very least, an intelligent higher power. But Christianity asserts a personal Deity who sees us, knows us, and loves us. Why would anyone believe that?
Peter replied to Jesus in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” The claims of the Christian Bible provide the most plausible explanation for the intricacy of the natural world, the vast intelligence of science, the beauty and order of math, the purity of love, the reality of evil, the appeal of sacrifice, and the very existence of anything at all.
So I write with a straight face that
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Not without a doubt, but with a decided Amen.