2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NLT)- "So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ."
First off, this will be a fairly long post, but I hope you'll stick around and see where we end up. If not, that's okay. My only request is that you don't partially read this post. It's not one that you can skim and walk away with a better understanding of the gospel. If less people read this because of the disclaimer; that's fine with me. (The estimated reading time is 6 min, 38 sec)
If you are still reading, awesome!
I hate that doubt is something that turns people away from Christianity. I’m just going to be open with you guys in this post and I hope you will read it with grace in your heart.
Sometimes when I paraphrase the events of the Bible, I come up with a picture of God that isn’t the one I know to be true. Recently, I began telling my daughter the story of Noah and quickly realized it isn't a children’s story at all. At least not in the traditional sense. Here's a glimpse into my paraphrased version:
Basically, God created the earth, and its inhabitants. The people became so corrupt, that He decided to drown them all in a flood, and start over with one man named Noah and his family. They were the only people who still cared about doing what was right. Noah was to build a boat and escape the fate of the rest of the world. God had him collect two of each animal other than the ones that produced food. He could bring more of those. Noah built the boat and people mocked him. Rains came and Noah closed up the boat. Then God killed everyone other than Noah. Afterward, he created the rainbow as a promise that he wouldn’t destroy the earth again. Noah and his family then began repopulating the earth. The end. Good night, have sweet dreams Violet.
This is just one story, but the Bible is full of God doing things that make me ask, “Why would he do it that way?” If you want to take Paul’s approach, then you can shut up and stop questioning him, because he’s God. He can do what he wants. I’m paraphrasing, but If you think I’m making that up read Romans 9. I think we could easily stop there, but for those of us who want to understand more, there needs to be more discussion about this kind of stuff.
I’ll admit, there have been times that I’ve had doubt because of things I’ve read in the Bible. Not doubted God’s existence, but his intentions for us. The story that has been told throughout the world’s history didn’t reveal the whole truth about God’s nature until about 2000 years ago. (Rather, we didn't see that it did.) Around that time a huge knowledge bomb was dropped on the world.
Jesus came teaching that God loves us all, that he desires that all should come to know him. He doesn’t want anyone to feel left out. Honestly, when I read the Old Testament and then the New Testament, I have a hard time connecting that they are talking about the same God.
I don’t doubt that they are, and I don’t doubt that God is who Jesus proclaimed that he is. The lack of connection actually creates more of a desire to know God. It blows me away that the atheist community is full of scientists. I would think that if you don’t understand your Creator you’d want to dig in and figure out more about him, not try to prove that he doesn’t exist. Maybe this conversation is getting over my head, but I really don’t get it.
I’ve seen too much to doubt God’s existence, and I’ve also seen too much to doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. I love the mystery of not understanding everything about God. Just like with any relationship, I’m learning more and more about him on a daily basis. His vastness has no end. Therefore, if I stop learning, it’s because I’ve stopped searching, not because I’ve figured it all out.
If your only knowledge of God was an angry being who destroyed cities when they became too sinful, destroyed the earth when it was evil, and created rituals such as sacrificing animals to pay for sin; you might think that Jesus’ message was better news than you currently do. Until Jesus came to earth, the majority of the knowledge of God was terrifying. The good news is that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, God is no longer counting men’s sins against them. He is creating new people whose capacity for love is way bigger because they aren’t terrified of the intentions of their creator. They can join in a relationship with him because they know that he likes them.
Jesus was a game changer.
As the Son of God he had more insight into God’s true nature than anyone else. More than Moses who documented the life of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the law. More than any person who ever lived. If we really believe that Jesus is God’s Son, then our perspective of God has to change. We can’t believe the way that people did before Jesus came and revealed new parts of God’s nature. (I say new for lack of a better word. What I really mean is undiscovered. Not that God changed when Jesus came to Earth.) When we read the Old Testament and don’t understand something we have to ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and keep having faith that what Jesus said is the truth. If not then we might as well not be Christians.
I believe there is a lot less room for doubt when I trust what Jesus said about God’s intentions. I think that Jesus knew more than Moses did about God’s nature. That last statement kind of offended me when I wrote it. I don’t know why. If that offends you, that’s okay. It offended the pharisees too, so they plotted to kill him. Their disbelief came from an unwillingness to open their eyes and see that Jesus was the only one with a perfect insight into God's true nature. They had a granite view of God that didn’t fit the way that Jesus taught. I pray that we can be more open-minded than they were.
I think if you look enough, you can find glimpses of the loving nature of God that Christ alluded to, in the Old Testament. You might even find that Jesus fulfilled all the prophesies about the Messiah. The Old Testament wasn't abolished by Christ’s arrival it was fulfilled.
Every story I’ve mentioned, even Noah, is about God’s grace for humanity. It was his grace that didn't wipe out the entire earth with the flood. I'm here writing because he spared Noah. So, I can be ignorant and say he should have done stuff another way, but in reality I don't understand everything. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis: There is no alternate universe where I get to tell God what he should have done.
To answer the question I began with: I believe it is okay for Christians to doubt while they are having faith. Asking questions isn't wrong, but it should be partnered with a continual belief that Jesus has the answers. I either have to trust that God knows what he's doing while I learn more about him, or I have to decide that he's wrong and walk away. I can't decide that he's wrong and learn more. I also can't trust him and walk away.
I’m sure this post has opened up more doors than I’ve closed with my opinions, but I want to know if anyone else ever feels the way I do. Why is there such a perceived contrast between Jesus’ description of God and the people of the old testament? Also, is it possible that the earliest humans didn’t have as good of a grasp on God as we do now? Was Jesus painting a picture of his Father that was contrary to anything previously said about him, or was he just revealing a more compassionate side of him?
At the end of the day, I hope that we can be people who embrace doubt with faith and strive to find more answers instead of shutting the door on inquisition.
Also, I highly recommend doing the weekly challenges, or buying the book and taking the 28 day challenge. As you try to figure out who God is, you should definitely still do the things Jesus commanded. Sometimes, we learn more in our interactions with others than we do trying to think our way out of doubt.