On a Facebook thread I’m currently following concerning the need for good apologetics, as nonexistent apologetics and intellectual doubts are contributing to many leaving the Christian faith, someone made this comment:
No one leaves the faith for intellectual reasons. Those who left were never of us 1 John 2:19.
I am upset, but more so deeply heartbroken by this person’s statement, as it demonstrates both his ignorance and a lack of grace.
Review of the Past Year
I feel like I can speak on these things with some authority, as I’ve been there before.
This time last year, I had renounced the Christian faith and identified as a deconvert who attended church only because of familial obligations and fear of repercussions. I had both emotional and intellectual reasons for leaving the faith. I spoke honestly with more Christians during that time than I had my entire life as a believer.
I had people respond to my stance as the gentleman above did, including one brute who told me that because of my doubt, I never knew God and needed to repent. I had good Christian friends who, once they learned of my disbelief, decided they’d rather throw away our friendship than be associated with an unbeliever. Yet, I had other Christian friends who patiently, and with much grace, loved me right where I was and answered any and every question I could think of. (Shout out to Pastor Doug for his patience, wit, and kindness! And to Paul C, Michael P, and Timothy M also, for answering both my intellectual and emotional doubts!) They loved me back to the Gospel and I am grateful for their presence in my life.
Addressing the Naysayers
Let me get this out of the way first: I am not encouraging senseless doubt of God simply for the sake of doubting. There is a difference between that kind of doubt and doubting with a purpose.
Contrary to popular belief, there are intellectual reasons for doubting the nature, character, and motive of God (e.g. The Problem of Evil). Granted, none of those reasons are ultimately good or sustainable for continued disbelief in and of God, but they do exist.
1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to “honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (HCSB).” Note that the Scripture doesn’t specify “reason.” Not a “only if I think this is a legitimate, valid concern” reason or a “this has to line up with my interpretation and view of Scripture before I answer” reason. No, you and I are to give a defense if asked for any reason for our hope in Christ.
A Final Word of Advice
Do not push away or give easy, Christianese pet answers to the kid in your church wondering why he should believe the Bible as opposed to the Qur’an or Book or Mormon. Do not scoff at the college sophomore and tell her she just “needs to have more faith” that God will “work everything out for her good” when she wonders where God is after life throat-punches her repeatedly. Give them a reason for your hope without invalidating their questions and experiences, without being an intellectual snob, and do so in and with the love of Christ.