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Tags: Doubt, insecurity, knowledge, security, trust, truth
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting,
for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea
that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
James 1:6 (ESV)
Apologists work in the tempestuous seas of doubt. This is not always a safe place. Quite often it’s terrifying. Like an ocean voyage doubt can be used for great exploration, with curious questioning driving us to distant answers and new solutions. But when doubt is let loose without the pacifying presence of reason, reality, humility, and truth doubt can quickly capsize even the most confident Christian. Apologists must do battle with their own doubts so they can better help others through theirs. Our public ministry hangs in the balance. When our doubts are only superficial addresses or emotionally swollen they can effectually weaken our knees. We can lose heart, lose confidence, lose nerve, and recede in the faith. applied to public ministry we risk imparting our own insecurities, fears, and confusion to others. We risk harming those we’re helping.
To “doubt your doubtts” means you apply skepticism to itself, questioning whether a given doubt is even justified. Rather than starting with doubt, questioning everything, granting nothing, we can, instead, start with reality, granting that our senses and knowledge are broadly reliable even as they are subject to revision. Knowledge, not doubt, get’s the “benefit of the doubt.” Rather than let some raging insecure doubt enter my mind and rule my whole worldview, I’m going to have to see some “ID first.” I demand that a given doubt offer some plausible and reasonable justification for why I should let his doubting skeptical outlook come in and interrogate all things I hold true. I’m not assuming perfect knowledge, but neither am I going to flip the switch and revert to chronic doubt. That’s not realistic, reasonable, nor safe.
When we harness those nagging questions and grapple with emotional insecurities to make them submit to Christ’s truth, then we can begin (by God’s strength) to right that ship and keep from sinking. Sometimes that battle is rational/logical, where you find or remember established truths or sound reasoning that first led you to the foot of the cross. Other times that battle is emotional and willfull, and we need Christian fellowship, rest, solace, healing, quiet, friends and family, or any number of concrete-tangible manifestations of Christian truth. Ideas can’t hug you, but they can comfort you. When ideas aren’t enough, you may need a real hug too. Christian apologists need to approach doubt with guarded optimism. Doubt is not some glowing happy hope that we should eagerly embrace with confident zeal. No, sometimes doubt hits us like a brick truck full of burdening grief. Other times, doubt is a guest of depression and despair. Still other times doubt is just a curious uncertainty needing good reasons and settled truth.
However doubt hits us, we should remember that it can easily drown us if we don’t respect it’s oceanic force. We don’t have to be scared of it but neither should we ignore it. Doubt can rot the foundations and frame of our Christian worldview if you let it flood you. Instead we can take it seriously ourselves, learn from our own battles with it, grow stronger and wiser through its trial, and employ that seasoned learning as we counsel others in the middle of their doubts.
Tags: apologetics, cause, explanation, philosophy
Tags: apologetics, hearing, listening
Tags: Eternality, heaven, hell, Interstellar, Purgatory, Temporal, time
If time is relative according to the theory of relativity, and that means it’s a contingent thing, not a necessary thing, then that leads to the conclusion that it’s not an absolute framework for all existence. I’m wondering if that Einsteinian principle gives us a clue about Divine eternality?
In the movie Interstellar the characters find themselves, at one point, deliberating whether or not to do an exploratory mission to find out if a given planet is habitable. The trick is that this particular mission would put them in a sort of time-stretching perimeter where one hour there would be 7 years back on earth. Wild thought! But, lets suppose that Einstein was right–I’m in no position to question him. And suppose, further still, that the movie’s premise is at least someone close to how time could work–where time really is stretched and shrunk as just another contingency in this vast complicated universe. If time does not frame everything absolutely, like some changeless immortal foundation for existence, then there could be things which have a relation to time which has no duration while others have a long duration.
It’s not as if God would have to “feel” a temporal change so he could exist. Nor doe he have to endure changes or act within time so that he is subject to measurable changes. God could possess all knowledge of time, even the felt sense of “experiencing” time so long as he is not literally subject to time. God could know from his timeless eternality–say, a “temporal” point of no duration–exactly what day it is on earth, what it “feels” like to be late for work on a monday, or what it “feels” like to be old. As long as he doesn’t experience these through mediated things like a body or through time. If time is a contingency, then putting God in time potentially subjects him to something else, and that suffers allegations of subjugating the Sovereign and Self-existent God. Moreover, if God is in time, then that could only happen if there is something of Him that can be measured in terms of “befores” and “afters.” But an unchanging God has no changes whereby a “before” could be distinguished from an “after.”
Sometimes it’s objected that God is eternal but his acts are temporal, God acts in time therefore God is in time. This objection rightly distinguishes the nature of God from the acts of God. God might create the world but that doesn’t mean He is the world. The world is an effect of God’s creative causality. However, God could act for all of time and history from a logical point of no temporal duration in such a way that all of history would be experiencing the linear temporal effects of his action. And if we don’t have to dispose of the doctrine of (timeless) eternality, then it should be kept–at least since it coheres with the hard-fought vindications of classical theism. God’s relation to time is that of inventor to invention. God has created the very temporal framework and all that populates it. God is the cause of time, an effect. Therefore, God’s “temporal” position would be one of zero duration, where a backwards analysis of time unveils a singularity of infinite and zero time, likewise, it would be infinite density with zero space. God occupies no time yet is present to all time. God’s singular causal activity from within atemporal eternity could manifest as the linear reverberations across all of history.
The relativity of time may also shed light on the nature of purgatory, heaven, and hell. But that would be another blog post. But Interstellar does have a few landscapes akin to each of those too. I recommend the movie. Maybe it inspires you to think as it inspired me.
Tags: apologetics, conversations, questions, tips
“Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation?”
“Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
“Have you come out as against a Robber with swords and clubs?” (Luke 22:46, 48, 52; ESV)
Apologists often act as the ‘answer’ people. We search out tough questions people are asking and we meet them there with a ready answer. After all, is that not what 1 Peter 3:15-16 is all about, giving an answer? Well, yes and no. It’s very important that Christians anticipate some of the key questions that are liable to come up, and have at least some preliminary answers in mind. But oftentimes a good question is the best answer. Questions are valuable tools in our reportoire for several reasons. First, it allows the other person to talk. People love to talk about themselves, and they generally like you better when you show interest in hearing them talk. Also, second, while they’re talking you can seek to understand them better, listen hard, and find commonalities. These will be especially helpful if they come to trust you enough to hear what you have to say later. While listening, you can better aim your next response so that it addresses them appropriately. Third, questions allow the other person to discover a truth for themselves. People generally don’t like between told what to do or what to think. But they can arrive at that same conclusion sometimes, by offering an interesting question. Fourth, questions reflect patience and humility. Instead of jumping into your “hurry-up” offense reciting your memorized spiel, let the other person try to solve a core problem on their own. They probably aren’t going to get as much information as you want to offer, but they are likely to learn more and be more interested in it if they’ve discovered it themselves. Fifth, questions like “Why do you ask?” and “Would you clarify?” can help you get a clearer sense of what they are trying to find out. Sometimes people intend something different than what they are asking. Sixth, questions keep you from steamrolling them in a one-side monologue. Seventh, questions can put you and the other person on the same side, trying to join them in solving a common problem. Eighth, questions can “take the edge off.” Our apologetic talk is often an aggressive attack when it would work much better as an inviting conversation.
This question method is not terribly original. You may know it as the “Colombo Tactic” (Greg Koukle’s Tactics) or the “Socratic Method” (Socrates’ preferred means of discourse). But it can be traced back, as well, to Jesus himself. The night of Jesus’ arrest, He models a precise use of questions. When he could have shouted, “You idiots! Quit sleeping!” or “Judas, don’t kiss me your traitor,” or “You villains shouldn’t be arresting me.” Instead, Jesus asks a question in each case which challenges them to reflect on their behavior. This verbal move might seem less pointed but it’s actually more penetrating. His words aren’t punishing them, instead it lets the people do that themselves. Their own self-reflection reminds them of how they’ve gone wrong. Jesus’s point is better made because of the questions. Apologists would do well to master the art of asking good questions.