As I started off the new academic year, I introduced one of my classes to a great book by Bethel University’s Daniel Taylor entitled The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment. While the book is over a decade old, Taylor introduces students the challenge of belief when one is filled with doubts.
In the introductory chapter, Taylor outlines 16 questions and asks the reader how many of these they have ever encountered:
- Are you, even after years of being a Christian, ever struck by the unlikelihood of the whole thing? Does one minute it seem perfectly natural and unquestionable that God exists and cares for the world, and the next moment uncommonly naive?
- Do you ever think, “Those close to me would be shocked if they knew some of the doubts I have about my faith?” Do you ever scare even yourself with your doubts?
- Have you sometimes felt like walking out of a church service because it seemed contrived and empty?
- Have you ever felt intellectually embarrassed to admit that you were a Christian?
- Do you ever feel somewhat schizophrenic about the relationship of your faith to the rest of your life? Do you find yourself compartmentalizing different aspects so that tensions between them are minimized?
- If given a choice between sharing an island with Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly on the one hand, or Phil Donahue and Bella Abzug on the other, does one upset your stomach less than the other? [an aside: I had to tell my students - many of whom were *born* in 1994 - who these people were...]
- How often do you find yourself at odds with your surroundings – intellectually, socially, spiritually? Is there part of you which feels out of place no matter where you are?
- On a controversial issue are you most likely to agree totally with one side, find all sides partially persuasive and attractive, or find yourself saying, “ A plague on all your houses”?
- Someone at work says, “Christians check their brains at the door of the church every Sunday, and most of them don’t even bother to pick them up on the way out.” Do you find yourself objecting or agreeing?
- Someone at church says, “The humanists are destroying our country. We have got to elect Christian politicians and get this country back to God like it used to be.” Are you more likely to say “Amen” or “Baloney”-or to grunt and change the subject?
- How important is it for you to be certain about some- thing before you act on it? Would you only invest money if there were no possibility for failure? Would you say “I love you” to someone before they had said it to you?
- Do you consider yourself reasonable? Are you willing to take risks? Do you think of the two as contradictory?
- Do you personally find a high degree of paradox in matters of faith, or does it seem primarily reasonable and logical?
- How confident are you that you know God’s desires regarding the specific political, social, and moral issues which face our society?
- Would it bother you more to be thought a hypocrite or a cynic? Why?
- Is it more immoral to act incorrectly in a significant situation or not to act at all?
- churches seem overprotective- teens and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow- churches come across as antagonistic to science- young Christians’ church experience related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental- they wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity- The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt