Feelings, Doubt, Faith

Introduction to Theology Books  Sometimes doubts arise in our Christian faith.  Some people struggle more, some people struggle less, but all Christians deal with doubt to some extent.  While I appreciate many aspects of Alister McGrath’s book on this topic, Doubting, I really liked the following words he wrote about faith and feelings:

[Some people] might suggest that we rely on our feelings and emotions.  If God isn’t felt as real, he isn’t real, they might suggest.  If we don’t experience him as present, he isn’t present.  But how unreliable our feelings can be here!  They are influenced by a huge variety of factors: our health, the weather, the state of our bank balance, our personal relationships, our work or career – just to name a few obvious ones!  God doesn’t cease to exist just because we’ve had a bad day at the office or had an argument with a friend.  Our emotions, distracted and confused by our various anxieties, may tell us that God isn’t here – but that is not a particularly reliable or informed judgment.

In the end, Christianity stands or falls with the trustworthiness and reliability of the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  By meditating on that first Good Friday, we can remind ourselves of the unreliability of our own judgment, on the one hand, and of the faithfulness of God’s promises on the other – thus we can put doubt in its proper perspective.  For, seen properly, doubt is not a threat to faith but a reminder of how fragile a hold we have on our knowledge of God – and how gracious God is in having revealed himself to us.  For, without God’s revelation of himself, we would have been left totally in the dark concerning him and his love for us.

God is not capricious or whimsical, nor does he fail to stand by his promises or to act in accordance with his nature and character, as we know it through Scripture and through Jesus Christ.  Instead, we know a God who is faithful to his covenant, who promises mercy and forgiveness to those who put their trust in him.  Instead of trusting in our own perception of a situation, or relying on our feelings or emotions, we should learn to trust in the faithfulness and constancy of God” (p. 148-149).

Alister McGrath, Doubting (Downers Grove: IVP, 2006).

shane lems

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