I wasn’t actually born in a church, but I just as well might have been. From the time I was born, our family attended Sunday School, Sunday morning church, Sunday evening church, and Wednesday Prayer meeting in the small, white church in the small town that I grew up in. My parents were active congregants, teaching Sunday School classes, volunteering, really, we were the model “church family.” So, speaking sociologically, it was highly likely that I would identify myself as a Christian in my adult years.
But, beginning in my teen years I started having doubts about the faith of my youth. I couldn’t, for example, harmonize the loving Father of Jesus with the God who callously gambles with Job’s life. Or I couldn’t put together the witness of general revelation (aka, “science”) with a literal understanding of a 6-day creation or a worldwide flood. And I couldn’t understand where there was all these incontrovertible miracles in the 1st century, but nothing like blind people receiving sight in our own.
Of course, there were answers given, and some were satisfactory, some were only a temporary stop-gap to my doubts and some just didn’t land with me at all. But, late at night talking with friends, or in my daily “devotions” or even in the midst of a chapel service, doubts would still float to the surface.
At 40, I still have lots of doubts. Some are theological like the efficacy of prayer, the historicity of the Bible and nearly everything in the Book of Revelation. And some of my doubts are more contemporary like almost everything about the modern church and narcissistic, individualistic typically-American expressions of Christianity. And I even have deep epistemological doubts – how do we know what we know? what can we actually know about God?
But, despite all my doubts I’m still a Christian. My 20-year old self, working on a Comprehensive Bible Major at a fundamentalist Christian college, would have scoffed at the idea that one could have deep theological doubts and still remain a Christian. But, 20 years later, I like this spot I’m in.
In short, I’m a Christian because without my belief in God’s redemptive work in history; without believing that somehow, some way, God will eventually make things right, will return his creation to its intended order; without a belief that following Jesus is simply a better way to live; without believing in human beings as the image bearers of God, nothing else makes sense.
And despite my doubts, without my growing sense that I know very little of God, this is enough for me. And I think it’s enough for Jesus.
In the sixth chapter of John’s gospel, the author tells us that Jesus nearly stopped doing miracles and instead taught hard things about what it meant to follow this new way Jesus was teaching. And so, predictably, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” And then Jesus turns to those closest to him and asks, “You do not want to leave too, do you?,” to which Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Some of you out there may be sure of what you believe with very little doubt. But, for the rest of you – those of you like me who don’t always have such confidence, maybe this – where else would I go? – seems to be enough for Jesus.
And these days, it’s enough for me.