When I first met my husband almost 25 years ago, we were working on the same project at the same company. We worked together as friends for many months before we began dating. Our dates usually involved going to see local bands perform live music and when we couldn’t do that we would easily talk for hours about music. The best kind of date involved music and food, because we’re Italian.
When not talking about music we’d have deep conversations about faith and God. Although we had been friends at work for a while, we really got to know each other well through these exchanges. Sometimes they turned into fiery and passionate debates and we would leave each other feeling exasperated and annoyed. It sure wasn’t the most romantic way to begin a courtship. My dear grandfather used to joke that we liked to argue about how we argued. But looking back after 21 happy years of marriage I recognize just how pivotal those conversations were.
My husband (then boyfriend) would ask me questions about God, Jesus and Christianity that I had never been confronted with and didn’t know how to answer. He asked tough questions about what seemed like contradictory biblical narratives and troublesome problems of church history. These were not benign questions, but challenged the legitimacy of God’s existence. It was unnerving to realize how this agnostic skeptic could so thoroughly shake up what I thought were firm convictions and unshakable beliefs, since I had been a Christian from childhood. I became uncomfortably aware of emerging doubts and how much I didn’t know or still had to learn.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with this man who enjoyed debating me and who challenged my faith so seriously, or that it would matter so much, but it did. It was part mental upheaval, part spiritual crisis and it sent me searching for clarity and answers. I began rediscovering my faith through a new lens of honest inquiry, and whenever possible tried to think like a skeptic. It became important to me to approach the issues from a critical perspective for the sake of finding truth.
Scripture teaches in 1Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” I had not been prepared to articulate and defend my faith, but wanted to be! I wanted to confront my doubts to find answers to my own questions and be ready to offer compelling reasons for others to believe.
In the book of Acts we learn about a group of residents in Macedonia, the Berean, who heard Paul and Silas preach. From Acts 17:11: “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.” The Bereans searched the Old Testament Scriptures and compared them against Paul’s teaching. They listened with open minds and did further research which ultimately led to their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, as well as an expansion of Christianity.
The Bible also teaches that faith in God is not blind trust or an irrational exercise. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (King James version). The word ‘substance’ comes from the Greek hypostasis which means “a setting or placing under, a substructure or foundation, that which is firm, that which has actual existence.” The word appears elsewhere in the New Testament in Hebrews 3:14 as confidence: “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” The word ‘evidence’ comes from the Greek word elegchos, meaning “a proof, or that by which a thing is proved or tested; conviction.”
These words ‘substance’ and ‘evidence’ demonstrate that the proper approach to biblical faith is confidently trusting in something we have good reason to believe is true. Faith hinges on the conviction that God is worth trusting because we have concrete evidence that He exists; also that the resurrection was an historical event, Jesus Christ is the risen savior, the Bible is reliable and that the power of the gospel is transformational. There is a lot more to say about this; perhaps in a future blog post.
These 3 verses from Acts, Hebrews, and 1 Peter are both challenging and liberating. They are liberating because we have freedom to wrestle with doubt and ask tough questions. God wants us to think! He wants us to critically examine His word like the Bereans, holding it to a high standard. We are to examine it for insight and wisdom from the Holy Spirit. We can believe in Him with confidence because we know His word is reliable. He also challenges us to compare his word against other doctrine to root out false teaching and defend it from a hostile world of critics. He wants us to be prepared to give an honest account for the hope that we have.
I wasn’t aware of what I didn’t know. Until I began thinking more critically (like a Berean) in response to my husband, I didn’t realize my faith was on shaky ground. My beliefs hadn’t really been challenged or tested, so I was ill-equipped to defend them. As I began seeking evidence for God the process led me into a deeper faith. My skeptical agnostic husband became a believer as well. I just love the irony in that; God had bigger plans for both of us.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:4
Do you have good reason to believe Christianity is true? How would you answer that question? How do you confront your doubts? Please share them with us! We would love to have a conversation, consider these things thoughtfully and pray together with you.