Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Despite Doubt: Belief

Despite Doubt:  Belief
            What is the relationship between Belief and Faith?  It may be seen  However this knowledge which is now a belief might come under attack because of disobedience and this leads to another kind of response of unbelief. If left unchecked at this time the belief is lost or doubt enters in again and the initial belief is modified. When beliefs are checked and rechecked what eventually happens with time is trust is built. And this trust is not a hunch based belief, but a knowledge based belief and eventually it is faith.
as a linear process between belief to knowledge to belief/faith. But with doubt and disobedience interjecting between these. Belief is an initial idea offered and thought about. .”I think so.” But the challenge is then doubted in two ways—intellectually- there is uncertainty and emotionally there is fear. But when this initial ‘I think so” has been checked and rechecked and then understood and accepted as knowledge, the initial idea becomes a justified true belief.
There are challenges in this path because we have doubts in many situations and often these are at the same time as when we question our unbelief. We wonder what it is that we really know and believe.
            But what do you believe? If you look outside and see a dark cloud you might say that I believe it will rain. But is this by interpretation or is this based on knowledge? Just what do you think? Based on black clouds forming in the sky and the winds which pick up, it will most likely rain. Because this is its usual pattern to do. But to believe it—is knowledge which is trustworthy.
            What about God? Hebrews 11:6  Anyone who comes to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  Mark 9:22-24. A father brings his son to Jesus to be healed. He put his fears and frustration directly to Jesus. If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us. Jesus responds: If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes. The father quickly corrected himself. “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”
            Our faith influences belief. And so we might find ourselves between these places—unbelief and faith. But it is how we respond to what occurs that enables us to grow.
            We need to doubt/ to question as a believer. Doubt is the stumbling pursuit of faith. We lurch between faith and unbelief all the time. By our troubled questions, it still shows that we still believe a lot.
            Martin Luther struggled with doubts about his salvation. He sought full purity before God often badgering his confessors with trivialities of sin. He doubted salvation could be bought and wrote against these ideas in order to open dialogue. This lead to the Reformation of the Church and to the truth that we are justified by grace alone.
            But if Luther had not struggled with doubts where would we be today? Doubt is not the enemy of faith because we may respond with hope and gratitude because of it.
REFLECT for a moment and respond:
If it is true that our choices and actions influence our beliefs, what have your choices, for better or worse, set you up to believe? Are you overwhelmed by doubt? Pretend for a moment that you don’t believe in God, Jesus or the Bible, What new doubts must you struggle with then? What steps can you take to maintain a thankful, hopeful attitude despite your doub?

Wonderful God, I believe in you and your unconditional love for me. Help me to grow in knowledge and faith and to see that through faith in you I may continue to grow closer to the One who died and rose for me. I believe O God, help my unbelief. Hear my prayer as speak to me in the silence of my heart. Amen.

Michael E Wittmer, Despite Doubt: Embracing a Confident Faith ch.8,9,10

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Despite Doubt: God and Jesus

Despite Doubt: God and Jesus

            What makes us to understand the God exists?  We simply know.
Paul writes, For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20. God’s existence is ‘plain’ to everyone. Many may plead ignorance but they do not have an excuse that God will accept. God knows they know better.
            But how can you know that you know God exists? Maybe one needs to look at the opposite . Are you able to persuade yourself that God does not exist. Try to think that no one created and redeemed you, no one was raised from the dead for you. Does your life have meaning?
            Maybe the question is better asked, do you know the right One? Romans 1:19-20 God is almighty and righteous but are we? No, we need grace and grace comes only from God and as Christians we believe that God does save us with this grace. Jesus was sent by God to die for our sin so that we might live with Him.
            Jesus’ story seems unbelievable yet He quenches the desperate yearnings of our souls. We could never dream Him up, yet we can’t imagine living without Him. Jesus deals with the problem of evil by dying and rising again. God dealt with evil through Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus rose to life leaving sin, death and Satan in the dust!
Does evil exist? Yes. But through Jesus we may have security success and sympathy which is what we need. We just need to believe.

REFLECT for a moment and respond:
How certain is your belief in God? What would it take to increase your belief in God? What might you say to someone who believes in God not Jesus? How would you explain evil in this world? Do you think that sincerity is enough to be saved as many religions today say? Where do you think Jesus fits in?

Holy God I believe that you exist but somehow cannot fully understand what this really means. I see the actions of people who are doing evil against other people and wonder why?  Our world evolves around change and technology yet as people we don’t seem to change. We just want more- power, wealth and prestige. Help me to understand what evil is and how love can conquer it. Show me how Jesus overcame evil through his death and resurrection and enable me to experience his good. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Michael E Wittmer, Despite Doubt: Embracing a Confident Faith ch.6-7

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Despite Doubt: Leap of Faith and Knowledge

Despite Doubt: Leap of Faith and Knowledge

Do we need to doubt to believe? Thomas was told by Jesus,
“Because you have seen me, you have believed (John 20:29). When Christ returns will he find faithful people?
Knowledge actually strengthens faith, for it reduces the hesitancy that comes from uncertainty. Faith means to give ourselves wholeheartedly to the promises of God. This includes a measure of uncertainty because we have not yet received all that God has promised.
People talk of a leap of faith but it is really a double edged metaphor for our trust in God. On the one hand it captures the risk that inevitably accompanies every act of faith. And on the other belief requires our full commitment. A leap of faith really is a risk that accompanies faith not the essence of faith.
A blind leap of faith is not biblical for we are to rely on what we know.  An example of this is when the Israelites saw the great power of God displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him. (Ex. 14:31). John’s purpose in writing his gospel John 20:30-31—Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
True faith contains three elements- we know the facts about God; we acknowledge that these facts are true and it bursts into bloom when we wholeheartedly trust what we known- know, acknowledge and trust. Faith means to trust,  commit or put all of weight on someone or something. Because faith requires us to go all in  the smart money always trusts what it knows, not what it does not..
REFLECT for a moment and respond:
How would you describe the relationship between faith and doubt? Is doubt necessary for faith, is doubt the opposite of faith, or is there a third option? Would you find it easier to love and obey God if you heard His voice thundering from heaven? Why or why not?

Faithful God I believe. Help me to trust in you, acknowledge who you are and to know you more. Show me again what it means to live for you each day. Amen.

Michael E Wittmer, Despite Doubt: Embracing a Confident Faith ch.4-5

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Despite Doubt: Pluralism

Despite Doubt: Pluralism

Why do you believe what you believe? Or maybe you are unsure if/ whether you believe in a God at all. Maybe you are in the group of individuals who are “spiritual but not religious” – a larger demographic which is growing because they just do not get the need for a community. Yet what does this really mean? Are we too slow to see God? Or are we actually free to see the concept of God with whatever content we like?
Philosophy and the concept of God often oppose each other but arguments by David Hume and Immanuel Kant question the evidence for God’s existence.  Hume concluded that “the evidence for God is mixed and since modern people believe only what they can prove, they have no choice but to give up belief in God”(p.24)
Kant agreed that there “wasn’t enough evidence to prove God’s existence, but he knew he had to find a way to believe in God, otherwise life would lose all meaning.“ This idea of separating faith and knowledge is attractive to many people today. There is a security of believing in God but also in a strange way it makes their belief secure. This might lead to pluralism which in today’s understanding shows that there are many paths to God. And this idea calls us all to be open to the religious views of others.
If we separate faith and knowledge we are seen to create our own religion and the “spiritual but not religious” believe in God but are not enabling any religion to tell them what they must believe. These individuals are cobbling together a God they can believe in. But is there danger in this? Won’t everyone’s God become nothing more than a  larger version of their best self?
This separation of faith and knowledge is logically impossible. How can you believe in a God who is unknowable? How would you even know that He is unknowable? Just what God do you believe in and who is the God you know?

REFLECT for a moment and respond:
Why is it important to put your faith in what you know? How would you respond to someone who says you can’t know anything about God? Which is worse, to say there is no God or there is a God, but we can’t know Him?

Holy God, help us to know you, understand you and to see what we are called to do as we live this earthly life. Enable us to grow in faith and knowledge through what you have created and what you call us to say and do and be. For we too are your creation and as we wonder about you we pray. Fill our hearts with your love as we reach out to others in your name. Amen.

Michael E Wittmer, Despite Doubt: Embracing a Confident Faith ch.3