I have asked a few respected Evangelical scholars and authors to contribute on the issue of Christians and doubt. I am grateful to each one of these men for not only contributing here, but being the type of scholar who deals with such issues with openness. I am posting them one at a time over the next couple of weeks.
Habermas is Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy and chair of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University. He holds a Ph.D. (1976) from Michigan State University in the area of History and Philosophy of Religion and an M.A. from the University of Detroit in Philosophical Theology. He is well know in Evangelical circles for his work in apologetics (defending the faith). Most specifically, he is considered to be one of the leading experts on the historicty of the Resurrection of Jesus. You can visit Gary’s site here.
On Emotional Doubt
Humans often seem to conclude that what happens to them in life causes the majority of their pain and suffering. However, many studies have indicated that what we tell ourselves about what happens to us is even more responsible for our personal suffering. If this is applied to the subject of religious doubt, then we all need to be much more careful about how we download what occurs to us. In other words, repeating comments to ourselves or even thinking things such as, “I’m probably not even a Christian” or “What if Christianity is false?” can cause devastating emotional stress and suffering. So there are at least a couple things that we can do. We must stop saying and thinking these sorts of comments. Further, in their place, we need to substitute other thoughts. Assuming that we have indeed entrusted our lives to Jesus Christ, instead of questioning our salvation, we might repeatedly respond to the first assertion with something like: “Why wouldn’t I be a Christian? I trust the Gospel message and I am trying to live by Jesus’ principles.” Instead of the question about Christianity’s falsehood, we could assert strongly: “ ‘What if’ questions don’t prove anything. Anything at all could be questioned this way. What is the actual evidence that Christianity is mistaken?” Countering our false thoughts and assertions and then stopping them altogether is crucial to reducing our levels of pain and discomfort.