Have you ever known someone who no matter what, you knew you could count on their faith? Someone whose faith was so central to who they were that you could not begin to imagine them without it? Someone who regardless of what was going on would cling to God to get them through, and their faith often helped you to get through as well? Someone who every time you talked, you were encouraged and your own faith was bolstered?
For many, I was that person. But now, I’m so filled with questions and doubts that I don’t know where to turn. I am still 100% convinced that God exists and that He is active in this world, but how can I know that He is actually the Christian God as I have always assumed? It is incredibly disconcerting to go from being the person described above to not knowing what you believe at all, but that’s where I’m at.
Everything I know of God, everything about my faith, has been based on the Bible. Without that, I am lost. I feel as though I am adrift at sea with no way back to solid ground. It’s a strange sensation after the years I devoted to Jesus. I was completely certain of my identity. I cherished my relationship with God. I proclaimed Christ to those around me. I taught hundreds of children and teenagers His love. Everything I was, was defined by the God of the Bible. Now I feel as though I have no identity at all, and I miss the relationship I had with Him. But I can’t keep pretending the uncertainty isn’t there just so I can be whole again.
I was taught that the Bible was the inspired, inerrant word of God. Yet there are many things that some manuscripts include and others leave out. There are numerous places where numbers don’t match, or names are slightly off. And, of course, the place where Paul makes a distinction between his own words and those of God. If there is a distinction there, in the middle of this book that is thought to be wholly inspired, how do we know there are no other places that are just the human author’s thoughts?
Some might say that my experiences of God should be enough for me. And the fact that many of those experiences had to do with the Bible should definitely count towards the authenticity of the book. But I can’t help but wonder, did my experiences only involve the Bible because that is what I know? Did God only choose to speak to me through that book because it was the one that was available to me? After all, He has used plenty of other things besides the Bible in my life, so why should His using it cause me to assume the Bible is inspired?
Dave Schmelzer, pastor of the Greater Boston Vineyard Christian Fellowship, tells the story of the first time he prayed in college. He told God that he didn’t believe He was real, but that if He was, it would be a great time to show up. Later that night, he got lost twice, despite possessing an excellent sense of direction. The first time, he rammed a giant floodlit cross while studying a map, and the second he parked underneath a different floodlit cross without realizing he was doing so. A few months later, after many other experiences that he could only explain as divine, he spoke to a friend. The friend insisted that he was a Christian because he had ended up under crosses. The friend said that this clearly showed that he was interacting with the Christian God. But Dave asked what the odds were that he would run into a mosque in that neighborhood. He agreed that something was at work, but it did not follow that he was a Christian simply because it was a cross that got his attention.
That’s kind of where I’m at. There’s definitely a God out there, and I know I’ve experienced Him, but I’m not so sure how to bring that back to Christianity. Whether the Bible is trustworthy is a pretty fundamental issue. I want to believe it; I’ve certainly dedicated enough of my life to it. But I can no longer pretend that the questions aren’t there. The Bible makes some pretty radical claims and strong demands. While I think it’s probably true, and I certainly want it to be true, I can’t stake my life on a hunch.