I left a lot of skid marks across Spring 2009. I denied it as long as I could, but eventually had to face it…
My faith was crumbling under a barrage of rapid-fire attacks hurled by quick-witted skeptics.
A Philosophy Course…for Fun
My struggle started with a college introduction to philosophy course. I was a front-row student, and my hand logged more hours of air time than the average Blue Angel pilot. As I faced swarms of questions without answers, doubts bred and populated my mind like rats.
All of my neatly packaged Sunday school answers were deflected and shredded like Nerf darts by skeptics. With an exhausted quiver and splintered bow, I turned to a familiar face: research.
Attempting to Research My Way Out
As a nationally ranked high school debater, I believed all answers could be found through research. I was raised to think critically and study rigorously. Why shouldn’t I prevail over the skeptics? (20/20 Hindsight Note: Because if prevailing was so easy, brute rational force and cunning logic would have banished skepticism into extinction long ago) So I kept a list of questions and slowly researched them at night after school.
Fuel for the Fire
By mid-semester, I ran into a Christian blogger named Demian Farnworth who was running a series of interviews with atheists at his blog. My close interaction with online skeptics in the blog’s comment section was fuel for the fire. As the atheists out gunned me in every exchange, I started losing sleep over a surging riptide of questions. I had amassed a file of nearly 400 articles – all written by skeptics – that I intended to refute.
But I couldn’t do it. 25 out of 24 hours a day would not have been sufficient to craft refutations to the skeptics. They spun me around in their technical lingo and smeared my face into questions I couldn’t swallow.
I wasn’t willing to say there was not a God, but…how do you figure out how to stand up when everything you used to stand on was pulled out from under you?
Broken But Not Without Hope
I was finally broken. I had no hope that I could hold my faith together by my own strength. Nor could I create the faith in my heart that I needed. I wasn’t hopeless, I just gave up hope in me.
God, in His great faithfulness, graciously crossed my path with Al Hartman. Al made noteworthy appearances in the comment section at Demian’s blog and always spoke truth with God-given clarity. That was what I needed.
Jude 22: “Have mercy on those who doubt…”
Al was patient, and brought the Truth to bear on many of my questions. One key statement by Al marked the turning point in my crisis of faith.
“Assuming a God exists, how do we figure out which one does without contradicting ourselves?” [Because the logic I was using to “prove” God exists was the same logic every other religion uses to argue for their gods. And if I reject their gods and logic but accept my God by the same logic, isn’t that a contradiction?]
“’Assuming, Brother? Figure out, Daniel? Contradicting ourselves? Have you come to such a crossroads, where you must decide today who you will follow? …But I ask you, whose reputation is at stake– yours or God’s? For we walk by faith, not by sight [i.e. not by assumption, calculation, contradiction, etc.]. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
I prayed long and hard that night after reading that email from Al. I’ve never prayed so hard in my life. It was a desperate prayer if ever there was one. I cried out to the Living God to preserve my feeble faith. That’s all I wanted. Preservation. Just get me out of the wasteland alive and don’t let me lose my God. Mark 9:24 summed up my plea: “I believe, help my unbelief.”
Things began to turn quickly after I stopping pretending reason and logic were sufficient supports for faith. I knew my faith wasn’t a result of academic knowledge or natural aptitude. Faith is a God-given gift from start to finish. It was a gift God poured out on me generously from that day forward, causing all of the arguments from skeptics to disintegrate.
“The mind is never so enlightened that there are no misgivings. With these evils of our nature, faith maintains a perpetual conflict, in which conflict it is often sorely shaken and put to great stress; but still it conquers, so that believers may be said to be [in spite of their own weakness, most secure].” – John Calvin
My resolution was simple. Since I can’t know everything in order to refute everything, I will know the one thing that matters: Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). That’s it. I want to know Jesus Christ, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Plowing into Romans
In the following months, I plowed into Romans. The gospel of Jesus Christ shone brightly. Prayer also became an even greater delight, a blessing that resulted from God granting me clearer eyes of faith to see how real He is. Prayer and being struck by God’s reality go hand in hand.
My writing has reflected these recent events. My passion is to see God’s people walk by faith and not by sight, with confident hope and conviction to live life in light of His unseen reality.
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