Month 11:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5941:310 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 31 January 2018
Doubt and Faith I
Why They're Both Necessary
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and Mishpachah - my brothers, sisters, fellow workers and fellow foot soldiers in the army of our Messiah (Phil.2:25) - I hope this sabbath morning finds you all firmly planted in your emunah (faith) and ready for war, particularly those of you who, together with me, were witnesses to that UFO yesterday evening .
The Battlefield as It Is
Having said that, I want us to be realists so that none of us enters the battlefield with naïve ideas or fantasies about ourselves. We need to be brutally honest without letting go of "the hope of salvation" (1 Thes.5:8, NIV). We have been under a heavy enemy barrage now for some time and we have experienced it in assaults on our health, disturbances at night robbing us of our sleep, doubts about ourselves, our salvation, our worthiness, and doubtless much else besides. Though it's true the intensity of battle is by no means constant - there are times when we experience little more than skirmishes (which can make us careleess) and at other times full-frontal assaults (which can drain us) - and whilst there are lulls (the long ones of which can send us to sleep if we are not very diligent), we need to be reminded that the whole of mortality is, in a very real sense, a combat zone, the more so for believers.
Atheist Dan Barker's Advice
For myself, as you all know, this has been a very challenging time indeed. Sometimes the battle can appear overwhelming and impossible to win. By various means the enemy seeks to wear us down. Sometimes he succeeeds, as he did with former pastor-turned-atheist, Dan Barker, who has written many best-selling books hostile to the Besorah (Gospel). He once said this:
Believing in Belief
"In their most inner thoughts, even the most devout Christians know that there is something illegitimate about belief. Underneath their profession of faith is a sleeping giant of doubt...In my experience, the best way to conquet doubt is to yield to it" .
Hopefully you can all see the fallacy of such an ultra-sceptical approach to life. There are a lot of people who think like that, especially former believers. How can former pastors like Dan Barker arrive at so radical a conclusion? Madelein l'Engle, who is a Christian, urges us to get a proper perspectibe by considing the following:
The Dead-end of Purely Intellectual Faith
"Those who believe they believe in Elohim (God) but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of Elohim (God), and not in Elohim (God) Himself" .
There is a stark difference between believing in Elohim (God) which involves both head and heart, and believing they believe in Elohim (God). The difference is important. Until your heart is penetrated by His ahavah (love) and presence, your belief is just belief in an idea about Him - the mind itself is not sufficient for conversion. It's the difference betweeen reading the Bible after you have met Yah'shua (Jesus) and reading it before being regenerated by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). A purely intellectual approach to the Besorah (Gospel) will always lead you to a cul de sac, a blind alley, a dead-end. And there are those who would best be described as intellectual believers who think thereby that they are actually Christians or Messianics.
The Parental Rôle in Shaping Children's Perception of Elohim
I know I have mentioned this before, and whilst I hope this does not apply to anyone in this assembly, this may resonate with some of our readers. It's fact - and I mentioned this quite recently - that our parents play a significant rôle in shaping a child's perception and view of Elohim (God). It cannot be an accident - and indeed it is not - that most of history's most famous atheists - men and women like Bertrand Russel, John Paul Sartre, Friendrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, Sigmund Freud, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, and Karl Marx - all these had a strained relationship with their father or their Dad died early or abandoned them at a young age, or their mothers removed them from their fathers when separating or divorcing. The effect of this created in them an enormous difficulty in believing in a Heavenly Father .
Elohim as a Parent Image
It's a fact that Christian psychologists have known about for a long time, namely, that people often define Elohim (God) as a parent image. It is no accident that He is called "Father" lots of times. He is, unlike human counterparts, our perfect Dad. The same is true with mother issues because Elohim (God) is also our Heavenly Mother, and specifically in the Elohimhead, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). The kind of relationship we had with our father or mother goes a long was in sharing our earliest views of Elohim (God) which we may never get past, for one reason or another.
From Desperation to Rebellion
It's particularly hard for children whose parents have, or had, unrealistic expectations of them. This is easily transferred to Yahweh, our Heavenly Father. If we fail to meet an unrealistic standard set, say, by one or both parents, then we can soon get the sense of being lost. Then, the closer we get to Yahweh, the more hopeless we can feel because of the throwback memory of never being able to measure up to our parents' standards. Before long, the child, who is now an adult believer struggling to get close to Yahweh and to feel acceptance by Him, will start going onto rebellious mode out of a sense of desperation that Elohim (God) will accept us because of our failure. Before long this imaginary Elohim (God), who in reality is made in the image of our parents and has nothing to do with the character of our Heavenöy Father, begins to be viewed as some monster. And before long, rejecting this projection becomes a matter of course. He may think he has rejected Yahweh-Elohim of the Bible when in reality is is just a false image of Him.
Intellectual Rationalisation for Negative Emotional Response
What begins as an emotional response to bad parenting will, in time, transfer to the intellectual. Our minds need a rationale for our feelings so that wholeness can be obtained for life. That is often how people end up with the subjective world views that they have.
Two Species of Doubt
Now I personally believe that there is one species of doubt which is healthy and another which is not. If you have a philosophical or scientific mind, then doubt is an integral part if. Scientists and philosophers ask questions as a matter of course because it's part of their discipline in unearthing emet (truth). Emunah (faith) for some people doesn't necessarily come easily. For others, it can be too easy - that's called gullibility. So what other species of doubt are there?
Rebellion and Arrogant Pride
Let's take a negative, unhealthy one. Some people, for whatever reason, are of the rebellious sort. Such often have an attitude problem, the "I'm not going to let somebody run my life or so my thinking" type. This can so often take the form of arrogant pride. Sometimes a young person just wants to blindly rebel against his parents, and one way they do that is to rebel against the Elohim (God) which the parents believe in.
The Story of My Friend
I had a friend like that in school. He hated his father so whatever his father believed, he believed the opposite. His father was a capitalist, so he became a communist. His father spoke German, so he learned Russian. His father wanted him to go to Oxford University, so he went to Cambridge. His entire self-definition and identification was simply 'ante' or against his Dad. Now admittedly his father was very arrogant and I really didn't like him because of that but he was a brilliant man and I respected him for what he know. So my friend became an atheist and died one...because his father was a Presbyterian, albeit it nominally. Sad but unfortunately not an uncommon behaviour.
Insane Responses are Not Real Options
Another kind of 'doubter' has doubts which stem from their disappointments with Yahweh. Typically they blame-shift and never assume that their choices might be a part of the problem. Yet there can be devoted believers who experience disappointment after disappointment. The story of Job is a fine example. Job could have turned away from Elohim (God) and become an atheist or a pagan but he refused, and because he stayed faithful, Yahweh eventually revealed His purpose and turned Job's life around for the better. Many of us experience heart-wrenching tragedies. Some of us here have lost spouses and chidren, sometimes under horrendous circumstances. We want to know why. We want explanations. I don't deny that I have had epic struggles with doubt over such experiences and whilst I still don't have all the answers, I know deep down that rebelllion and atheism are completely insane responses. With evidence for the resurrection being overwhelming, and given that other religions have no historical basis in terms of the supernatural acting in the physical world as Messiah did, turning to pale shadows which offer no hope is equally insane.
The Impact on Faith of Abuse by Religious Parents
Another kind of doubt comes from personal or family wounds. The worst is suffering physical and/or psychologial abuse from religious parents! We saw a movie recently, The Shack, about a man whose Dad, an Elder in his church, was a drunk and physically abused both his mother and himself. Is it any wonder that those who are abused by religious parents have a problem with Elohim (God)?! Others get deeply hurt when they're rejected and divorced by a spouse, others when their businesses fail, or their health disintegrates. A brother of ours commited suicide when his business and family life disintegrated - I still haven't got over that. And I have had terrible wrestles recently over my rapidly declining health - doubts have loomed so large as to nearly smother me at times. I admit it.
Brilliant Intellectuals Can Also Be Extremely Stupid
Then there are those who have intellectual doubts. It can be hard sometimes when more intelligent people who are atheists challenge your belief before you have acquired the intellectual tools to answer them. Intellectual brilliance does not always equate with wisdom, however. I can think of some quite brilliant scientists who are atheists whose reasoning acn at times be childishly stupid because what they're really wrestling with is, like I said, one of those other doubts caused by bad parenting, for instance. I had an agnostic father and a nominal believer of a mother so my problem was more one of indifference than outright hostility. The philosophy in our household was 'live and let live' which is good, of course, up to a point, so long as we don't try to be 'all things to all men' without actually having a coherent, consistent belief system of our own, an abuse of the King James Version of 1 Corinthians 9:22. Paul was not advocating liberalism.
Beuing Too Busy and a Failure to Make Time for Contemplation
There are so many different factors that can enter into the equation of doubt. I am speaking very generally here. People can be strong believers at a certain phase of their life and then something can knock them off kilter. Their emunah (faith) can then get hit for a metaphorical 'six'. Just being too busy can cause emunah (faith) to gradually die - there isn't enough time to reflect, study or pray. Emunah (faith) very definitely needs time for contemplation! You have got to set aside quality time with Yahweh. In the case of an ex-wife, she arrived at the conclusion that it wasn't necessary to pray because she felt she was praying subconsciously all the time. In the end she communion with Yahweh, made very bad choices, and lost her emunah (faith).
The Sin and Danger of Comparing Others' Faith
Another way you can start doubting is by making comparsions with the emunah (faith) of others. Please don't do that! Just because another believer is experiencing this or that doesn't mean that you necessarily have to there and then...or even at all (depending on what it is). I've know people who were so on fire for Yah'shua (Jesus) that they eventually burned themselves out. Others envied them, wanting to be as empassioned as they were. One comparsion I have fatally made with others sometimes is to doubt the quality of my salvation because I don't have the same kind of bubbly simcha (joy) all the time - you know, like the Dan Mohler's, Francis Chan's and John Piper's. It can be challening when others seem to get their prayers answered and you don't. Then you begin to wonder why Yahweh isn't, as you wrongly suppose, taking care of you as He is Brother 'A' or Sister 'B'. So be very, very careful - don't fall for the sin of comparison! People are at different places and have different giftings. Those same people you may admire and feel shown up by may be feeling exactly the same thing as you do about themselves in some other area where you are strong! We're all different.
A Glimpse into Normal Faith
So how can we get a realistic perspective in all of this? How can we know what the proper balance is? I recommend the Psalms because that's what 'normal' emunah (faith) looks like! Did you know that 60 per cent of the Psalms are 'laments'? Just open the Psalms up randomly at a few places and see. Here's one:
Respectful Complaining is Allowed
"My Elohim (God), my Elohim (God), why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my Elohim (God), I cry day by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but find no rest" (Ps.22:1-2, NRSV).
We tend to prefer the up-beat 40 per cent. Yet this is the point: normal emunah (faith) is allowed to beat on Yahweh's chest and complain. You're not so abnormal if you complain a lot to Yahweh. He can deal with that, He's not nearly as offended as hyper-purists, who are as sinful as the next man, would have you believe.
Post-Modernist Narcissism and Commitment-Keeping
OK, one more kind of doubt which I think is more a fruit of the today's post-modernist culture but which was fairly rare before. The fear to make committments definitely affects a persdon's willingness to have emunah (faith) in Yahweh. And that requires a new kind of approach which wasn't necessary, say, 30 or 40 years ago when I was first ministering. Today we face rampant narcissism or self-absorption, a sign of a society's imminent collapse. People demand the freedom to get their own way and keep their opinions about funamental truths open. People are afraid to get married because they don't want a lifetime's commitment. Well, someone with that attitude is going to find it hard to make a commitment to Elohim (God) and to other believers as well. That's why churches and assemblies are in serious decline in the West. Most modern believers would prefer to confine their spiritual lives to their laptops or iPhones. This doubting generation's greatest fear is to be told that Yahweh expects them to serve a life with no Plan B's. This is a huge contributing factor to people's fear of commiting themselves to Messiah, to His Torah lifestyle and to congregational life. They'd rather have more 'freedom', as they suppose, and any suggestion to the contrary fills them with doubt.
The Lie of Prosperity Teaching and Its Ill Eefects on Faith
Our misconceptions about biblical emunah (faith) can open the door to doubts because they create false expectations and/or misunderstandings about the true nature of Elohim (God). Here's the problem: there are those who have been wrongly taught that Yahweh has promised to heal all sick believers or make all impoverished believers financially wealthy (the 'Prosperity Gospel') provided they have enough 'faith'. But what kind of 'faith' is this that these false ministers demand of their followers? I have met so many people plagued by doubts about their faith or salvation because their are continue to be unwell or poor long after conversion. Genuine believers get ill and go bankrupt!
Faith and Feelings are Not the Same
One of the biggest challenges that 21st century ministers face is showing believers that 'faith' and 'feelings' aren't the same. Your emunah (faith) isn't 'weak' just because you're not constantly on a spiritual 'high'. Emunah (faith) doesn't work like that. Job maintained his emunah (faith) when he was as miserable and spiritually low as one can get. Yah'shua's (Jesus') agonising struggle in Gethesemane, when He begged Yahweh to remove the Cup of Atonement from Him if at all possible, didn't mean that His emunah (faith) was 'weak'. 'Spiritual highs' wear off. Accept that, get used to it. Spirituality isn't surfing an emotionally high wave 24/7.
Faith and Temprement
Now let's be clear. Feelings are connected with some dimensions of emunah (faith) but a lot of that had to do with people's temprements. Some people are very vivacious, others aren't wired to feel very much, even if they may have deeply strong values and convicions. Just because you're emotionally up and down doesn't mean your emunah (faith) is following suit. So be careful in using your feelings as a barometer of emunah (faith). The measure of your ahavah (love) is not directly proportional to how you feel inside. I think of my mother-in-law looking after her ill husband who is herself worn out, ill, and sometimes grumpy. But she doesn't abandon him, and never would. That's ahavah (love). And emunah (faith) is like that too. It's stronger than our fickle feelings.
The Faith to Throw Mountains in the Sea
Emunah (faith) is not a complete absence of doubt. Now it's true that some kinds of emunah (faith) require an absence of doubt, but this is case-specific, as for example in this account:
There aren't that many people throwing mountains about today but it could happen if we could eliminate all doubt.
"Yah'shua (Jesus) replied, "I tell you the emet (truth), if you have emunah (faith) and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree (when Yah'shua cursed it and it whithered away), but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done!" (Matt.21:21, NIV).
Not Perfect, But Sufficent Faith
Take another example where emunah (faith) is not so perfect yet is enough. Do you remember the father of the crazed demon-possessed son? He said:
Faith and Doubt Can Co-exist
"'...if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.' 'If you can'?" said Yah'shua (Jesus). 'Everything is possible for him who believes.' Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:22-24, NIV).
Now there's mixed emunah (faith) and doubt for you! You see, emunah (faith) and doubt can co-exist provided we recongise our doubt and have the emunah (faith) to ask Yah'shua (Jesus) to help us to deal with that doubt! I'd say that's fairly normal for most, if not all, of us talmidim (believers). The man believed...but clearly had doubts too. I believe I can be healed....but I have my doubts because of my progressive decline over many decades.
Dealing With the Corrosive Kind of Doubt
Obviosly there must be a line which, if you cross it, you end up in what Lee Strobel calls a "corrosive, eroding, negative doubt" . Emunah (faith) isn't always about having positive emotional feelings toward Elohim (God) or life but obviously we want our emunah (faith) to grow and for our doubts to diminish. That's something we have to work on as we mature in the Besorah (Gospel).
So I am deeply suspicious of those who claim they have no doubts of any kind, and I am as suspicious of believers who think they know it all and are unreceptive to anything that might challenge aspects of the belief structure. There are many 'prosperity gospel' teachers and their followers who can lose their emunah (faith) when, say, a loved one who is seriously ill, does not respond to prayer, and dies. Their belief structure was wrong. Yahweh takes home whom He will, when He will. Therefore our emunah (faith) must be realistic to preclude our being flooded by unnecessary and potentiallty destructive doubts. Doctrine is important and that's why we have to study theology carefully. That's why we have such an exhaustive website which I hope will continue to grow as long as I am alive and hopefully afterward I have gone too.
Faith, Adversity and Growth
From all of this I would like to make an observation - to be exact, Lynn Anderson's observation, and this is what he said:
Legitimate Doubts vs. Smokescreens
"A faith that's challenged by adversity or tough questions or contemplation is often a stronger faith in the end" .
So doubt can be used for a positive purpose but it can also be very deceiving to take all doubts at face value because scepticism can be used as a shield to keep people away from deeper motivations. People must be allowed to ask honest questions, particularly concerning their doubts about Elohim (God), but sometimes doubts are simply excuses to raise a smokescreen. People can claim to have intellectual doubts when in reality there's a completely different source. I think it would even be true to say that ultimately all unbelief or doubt has some other underlying reason to the ones we claim.
Lifestyle Choices Rather Than Legitimate Doubts
You see, sometimes people won't believe - it's a conscious choice. And although they claim there's another issue (like theological questions) it's often lifestyle choices that lie at the heart of their issue. One famous evolutionist once said he could not believe because it would mean abandoning his promiscuous lifestyle. In reality he knew Elohim (God) existed but he wanted to live a life of immorality, and random evolution provided a convenient scapegoat or 'way out', as he supposed. That man was at least honest. Others are not so truthful either with others or themselves. As I have remarked before, both Josef Stalin and Karl Marx knew that Elohim (God) existed but chose instead to consciously deny Him to justify their choice to rebell. That is not a legimate doubt. That's outright rebellion with a ticket to hell nailed to it.
So not all intellectial objections are actually intellectual - they're just smoke-screens. Such a person doesn't have doubts - he's just dishonest. I knew one man who pretended to have all kinds of excuses for not accepting the Besorah (Gospel) - the truth was he didn't want to give up his drinking and womanising. I made a lifestyle choice over the Emet (Truth) about reality.
Faith is the Will to Follow Yahweh and Not Quit
So, are we clear, that to have emunah (faith) doesn't mean we are necessarily doubt-free but that we are making freedom of doubt our goal? Take Abraham. What's he called in Scripture? He's called the father of emunah (faith) (Rom.4:12,16). Did Abraham ever have doubts in his life as a beleever? Certainly he did! But whatever his faults were, he never gave up on his will to follow Yahweh. His declaration of emunah (faith) was that He was going to trust Him. A good definition of emunah(faith) is THE WILL TO FOLLOW YAHWEH because of our belief that He will always see us right. Strobel sums it up nicely:
It All Boils Down to a Simple Choice
"Emunah (faith) is the decision to follow the best light you have about Elohim (God) and not quit" .
We have the choice at all times to believe or not to believe, as Joshua adminished Israel:
Finding Out Comes After Faith
"...choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve..." (Josh 24:15, NKJV).
It's a matter of will, not of feeling. And in so choosing, we will eventually come to a knowledge of the emet (truth) - that's a biblical promise made by the Saviour:
The Refusal to Believe Leads to the Inability to Believe
"If anyone chooses to do Elohim's (God's) will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from Elohim (God) or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17-18, NIV).
That's pretty important. If we choose to do Yahweh's will, we will find out soon enought whether Yah'shua (Jesus) is who He says He is. But if we choose not to do Yahweh's will, there will be another outcome:
And then, a couple of verses on:
"Even after Yah'shua (Jesus) had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him" (John 12:37, NIV).
Deadly Consequences of Refusal
"For this reason they could not believe" (John 12:39, NIV).
Do you see the pattern? We always have the will to choose to believe or not, but once we refuse to believe, then we cannot believe any longer. Why?
"For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
'He has blinded their eyes (John 12:39-40, NIV).
and deadened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn - and I would heal them'"
This is so important to understand. Everyone can believe the Besorah (Gospel) - everyone is able BUT, once having refused, they cannot believe because they are blinded UNLESS they choose to backtrack and choose to believe, without further revelation, because they already know the emet (truth).
Protecting a False Belief System and Lifestyle
Why wouldn't those early Judahites believe? Because they didn't want to have their Talmudic belief system demolished. Therefore they made the decision not to believe - and rather doubt - and this in turn dismantled their capacity or ability to believe.
An Excellent Definition of Faith
Therefore - and this is so important that we understand - Strobel says:
Adequate Faith Does Not Include Complete Knowledge
"At its core, faith is a decision of the will that we keep on making, but we're given that option by Elohim's (God's) grace. We're empowered to keep making it by His Ruach (Spirit)" .
Moreover - and this is why it's called ' emunah (faith)' - it's a choice we must make without having all the complete information we'd like to have, otherwise what we would have is knowledge, and not emunah (faith, trusting). What emunah (faith) is not - and unfortunately many people have this false belief - is 'knowing' something is true beyond any shadow of a doubt whatsoever. It's all about trusting. Yahweh, for His own reasons, has not subjected Himself to the kind of absolute proof that many atheists demand but He absolutely gives adequate proof that both enables us to believe, and in so believing, enables us to develop godly character. And adequate proof is always vindicated after faith has been exercised.
Many Unknowns on the Way
We will continue with this subject next week as it's so important. As we enter into a new pharse of earth's history in which many new unknowns will be suddenly unleashed by Satan and his minions, it is important that we remember always the basis of true emunah (faith).
We in this assembly, for example, have seen UFO's many, many times, and we have a pretty good idea what they are. But most believers do not. So when the world suddenly gets flooded with them and their occupants claim they are our creators from millions of years past, showing mankind fantastic technology and doubtless eradicating much disease, so many believers will be unprepared. The Catholics, whose religion is essentially pagan, have already indicated their willingness to embrace these false 'saviours' in advance.
Dealing With UFO Occupants Firsthand
So far we have only had to deal with them at a distance, in the sky. But what if they land publically (as they will), and their occupants confront us? Will you know how to deal with them? Your emunah (faith) must be strengthened which means you must continue to believe "the emunah (faith) which was once for all delivered to the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones)" (Jude 3, NKJV) and not the modfied one shared by so-called 'aliens'.
May you be strengthened in your emunah (faith) and overcome your doubts as you are confronted with them, so that you may be strong and effective in your witness is my prayer in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
Continued in Part 2
 See Update #5 of A Visitor By Night: UFOs Visit Us in Arvika
 Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith (Freedom From Religion Foundation, Madison, Wis.:1992), pp.106,109
 Lynn Anderson, If I Really Believe, Why Do I Have These Doubts? (Bethany House, Minneapolis: 1992), 2nd edition, p.60
 Paul C.Vitz, The Psychology of Atheism in Truth: An International Interdisciplinary Journal of Christian Thought 1 (1958), p.29
 Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 2000), p.233
 ibid., p.234
 ibid., p.236
 ibid., p.237