[reasons they leave #6] the church is unfriendly to doubt

Written by Nikole Hahn

Nikole Hahn is a recovering perfectionist blogging at "Life Upside Down" at www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com. She is also the publisher of The Relevant Christian Magazine (@TRCMagazine). She is a member of Word Weavers International, a book reviewer, writer, and coffee addict.

November 4, 2011

[serialposts]My Thoughts on Reason #6 of The Barna Report

They threw leaves into the air on this beautiful Fall Sunday. I wish all our days could reflect such happy abandon. I stood in front of my church across from the courthouse plaza watching those kids. On my mind, like weights, were the names and faces of people questioning, doubting, and walking away from God. When I volunteered for this blog post, I thought of them. I thought of many things. But how do I talk about Reason #6? I decided to get our youth pastor’s perspective.

Pastor Tony Clark is the Pastor of Student Ministries at FBC Prescott in Arizona. He said…

“Doubt kind of gets a bad wrap. We often talk about people who are doubters like they are ignorant, lesser people. We like to equate certainty with strong leaders. And those of us who have doubts are somehow left behind. But doubt isn’t always a bad thing. Doubt in our faith is no different from the other doubts we experience every day. It’s part of how God has wired us to process truth. Doubt is just part of our lives, and it’s there for a reason. Doubts related to our faith can help us begin to have a stronger and more personal belief. Doubt causes us to ask questions and get answers. If you are trying to figure out how to avoid doubt all together, you are in a losing battle. It isn’t going anywhere. Our doubt can be part of the process in the path towards deeper belief.”

I am blessed to attend a church that welcomes discussion, but do congregation members at any church in our country respond positively to doubt?

Rick Perry had his one day of prayer for the country. I tuned in via webcast and signed on to twitter. One of my twitter friends began conversing with me about Christianity.

I didn’t know he was an atheist.

He sent me a tweet: Could he ask questions about my faith? I gladly gave my approval. I left my faith open for him to pick a part. This left him surprised. He said to me that most Christians got upset when he questioned their faith. Some are easily ruffled, I agreed. If someone questions their faith, some Christians link it to an all-out attack on Christianity instead of exercising discernment and probing the questioner for sincerity.

Do we feel threatened because we are ashamed of our doubt or because we don’t have all the answers? Do we get upset because we view it as one more attack against Christianity from the left? Do we allow people room to ask questions?

I thought of the next part of Reason #6:

In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%).

Allison Strobel, author of Composing Amelia, had a friend diagnosed with Bi-Polar. I found this interesting in her article:

It was during this time that Jen was subjected to the most stupidity that Christendom has to offer the sufferer of a mental illness. You can read about the details in my article, but the end result was that her new faith was shaken. There were times of doubt. There were times of fear. There were times of anger, confusion, frustration. But in the end we both came to realize a few things:

  1. There are no promises in the Bible that followers of Christ will have an easy life. In fact, that opposite is made quite clear. Check out John 16:33, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, and 2 Timothy 2:3 as evidence.

Like Pastor Tony said, doubt can be part of the process in the path towards deeper belief.

Hardship is part of the Christian life as Strobel pointed out. Doubt is not a bad thing. Maybe not every day could be a throwing-leaves-in-the-air kind of day, but if we remember those happy, carefree moments and praise God that He allows questions we might just get through this life, spirit and hope intact.

8 Comments

  1. Andy Carlson

    Hooray for those who allow, encourage and share in the doubt of  fellow Christians and especially in the broader reach of our community.  When we are open to our own doubt and the doubt of others we open the door to understanding and to the releasing of the Holy Spirit’s presence.  Hooray for those who encourage with patience and gentleness as they share their own faith…and the doubts we have.  I so welcome with gratitude and even tears those willing to share with the doubting…..Thank you Lord for pastors and fellow faith walkers in being open and vulnerable with those seeking to know…..strengthen us Lord to do so.  And Whoa to those who close the door……in whatever fashion…

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

     There are no promises in the Bible that followers of Christ will have an easy life. In fact, that opposite is made quite clear.
     Wait a minute that doesn’t sound so “seeker friendly”. There lies the problem:
    The more You read the Bible, the more You discern the doctrines and traditions of men inserted. Pointing these out causes friction. For a historical look at this friction over the centuries, read Foxes book of Martyrs:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22400/22400-h/22400-h.htm
     For a more weekly example: do a descent research on the Sabbath, You will find that all “Christians” kept the Sabbath for 300 years after Christ, until the council of Laodicea, a group of men, declared the opposite day of the week(the day of the sun, see Ezekiel8) the new “Christian Sabbath”.

    Reply
    • Nikole Hahn

      I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make, Theophile, but the Bible is not designed to be bent in order that it may be more pleasant to men. Seeker Friendly is not on God’s list of priorities; our soul is.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Hi Nilole,
         I agree, sorry for not putting the opening sentence by Allison Strobel in quotes, my statement “wait a minute…” was in sarcasm.
        BTW have You read Foxes Martyrs?

        Reply
        • Nikole Hahn

          I’ve never heard of it. :o) But that doesn’t mean anything. LOL.

          Reply
  3. J.K. McGuire

    What I found in my own church experiences was a lack of patience with those who doubt. “Well I just want to ask him since he knows the truth… why he doesn’t just believe already?” As if we have a monopoly on understanding what draws people to Christ and what their doubts should entail and what all the answers should be.

    I like what your pastor has to say about doubt. We should be ok with doubt… we should be ok with not having all the answers and being honest about it. It’s our weakness and ability to be less than that draws people to us. NOT arrogance. NOT knowing it all attitudes.

    Doubt is ok.

    Reply
    • Nikole Hahn

      Amen. :o) Perfectionism is the draw of the enemy.

      Reply

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  1. why young christians leave church by Dan King – BibleDude.net - [...] Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt. [...]
  2. Looking For Guest Posts For Fridays « Nikole Hahn's Journal - [...] I am guest posting over at bibldude.net. Won’t you stop [...]

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[reasons they leave #6] the church is unfriendly to doubt

by Nikole Hahn time to read: 3 min
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