Home > Ascension, Eschatology, Pluralism, Scripture, Theology > Five Doubts I Struggle With

Five Doubts I Struggle With

I have a lot of issues in my faith that I am sorting through right now. Lots of things that I once took for granted don’t seem to line up anymore. I feel like I am standing atop a giant rock pounding it with a sledgehammer in order to find out what is permanent and what is merely dirt. This is, I think, a good place to be. I would hate to treat my faith delicately only to find that much of it washes away in the storm of life. I believe that Truth is solid, able to take any blow because of the simple fact that it is true. In an email correspondance on this subject with Harold Netland last fall, he counseled,

You need to rest confident that God can handle some scrutiny and his truth can withstand some pretty rigorous questioning. I doubt that you have qustions or issues that 2000 years of Christian intellectual history has not already dealt with in some form or another. So do not worry about raising the issues and wondering whether this will lead you down a path you don’t want to walk. Believe me, it would be much worse to have these nagging questions and just suppress them because you are afraid of where they might lead. If the Christian faith is not the truth, I for one do not want to believe it and keep teaching it (seems that is Paul’s point in 1 Cor 15).

Here is my list of hot topics:

  1. Non-Christians: Phonemonologically it seems that God interacts with people outside of the Christian tradition. How should we explain this theologically?
  2. Eternal damnation: Though rooted in the justice of God, this doctrine seems to totally subvert the logic of justice.
  3. Jesus’s Resurrection: The historical evidence is just not as strong as some would like to make it out to be. It’s not that I think the historical evidence is lacking, but it seems that I am searching for a different kind of evidence, perhaps theological.
  4. Jesus’ Return: Every time I think about the second coming I feel like I have embraced a total science fiction plot. God just doesn’t seem to work this way. It is the one part of my doctrine that feels more like Scientology than rationality.
  5. Scripture: I cannot find a theological mechanism that allows me to establish the Bible as God’s eternal Word to all humanity.  (See also my proposed solution.)

A lot of what I am doing on my blog is using it as a sounding board for thinking through these issues.  I always appreciate your comments.

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  1. P-Style
    June 20, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    RT, just linked here form your comments on jesuscreed.

    I’d like to just offer a quick thought on each of your 5 points.

    1. Yes this is the case – Abraham after all was just a random guys. I think the our euro-centric mindset has given us a superiority complex which isn’t reflected in “scripture”

    2. Aside from universalism, I think common concepts of Heaven adn Hell are misguided. I’ve read a good essay somewhere on the “mercy” of hell but cannot find it. But it deos go someway toward a more judaic comprehension of hell as seperation rather than a punishment in real fire and pain.

    3. Indeed a tricky one. As Paul notes, if there aint no resurrection we believe in vain. Strong words.

    4. Once again, the eternal life, return of Jesus seems plain rediculous to me. . . .

    5. I rejected inerracy a while back. I haven’t gone so far as to reject inspiration, but I think inerracey was a doctrinal mistake, the Bible is not God, and it seems to me that some folks have tried to make it just that.

  2. June 16, 2009 at 5:06 am

    RT JONES,

    1. God creates everybody so interacts with everybody. As God creates everybody He is generous to everybody, such as reveals truth and gives sustenance to everybody. But it is His will that His mercy is exclusive to those who discerned His truth after He has revealed His truth inclusively.

    2. Truth is discerned in revealed book, not by inspired books by fallible human beings. Prejudice clouded truth. Revealed books are the standard bearers of truth and they are the criteria of truth like Psalm, Torah, Gospel and the Koran. Except for the Koran, however, the rest are corrupted and no longer in original existence. Be honest read.

    3. The seeking and revelation of truth requires honesty and alas finding it is of God’s absolute discretion. God is exposed (revealed, known) but not as lamp post for He is not matter; and He is hidden but yet He is not spirit.

    4. Human mind, since it is limited and relative cannot claim or elect itself the master of truth. But it can fathoms truth. Let us see the limit of human mind as the master of truth.

    A question was thrust upon a theologian, who submitted to the supremacy of mind (intellect) over revealed books:

    Once upon a time there were three brothers. Two of them were adults and the third was a child. The first adult died a disbeliever, the other a believer and the child neither a believer nor a disbeliever. So the theologian was asked what happened to them.

    The theologian answered:

    The disbeliever goes to hell, the believer goes to heaven, whereas the child neither to hell nor to heaven – the child is in a place between two places (rationality).

    Further question was thrust unto the theologian:

    What happened if the child asks God: ‘Why don’t you let me grow into an adult as my second brother so that I can become a believer and so enters heaven?

    The theologian answered:

    Surely you will become like your elder brother a disbeliever and goes to hell. So God makes you die young.

    The theologian was again asked;

    What if the disbeliever brother asked God, ” O Lord! Why don’t you make me die young as my child brother so that I don’t have to suffer in hell!

    The theologian was silence.

    Another story:

    A theologian of the same school came upon a scholar breed in revealed books who believed that fate (for that matter good and evil) absolutely lie in the hand of God.

    So the theologian saluted the scholar, “Praise be to God who does nothing but only good (insinuating the scholar who believed that God does both good and evil).

    The scholar answered, “Praise be to God for nothing happens in heaven except by His will.”

    The theologian rebukes, “If God does not guide me and put me to hell, is God doing justice to me?”

    The scholar answered, “If God forbid you to enter His garden, He will do whatever He wishes with His intruder.”

    So the limit of human mind.

    That answers your 1 and 2.

    As for 3, Judaism and Christianity brought to light jumble of assumption. See ‘Resurrection’ by Geza Vermes. Jesus ministry did not elaborate on that.

    As for 4, Bibles, Old Testament tempered, inspired writers fallible.

    Thanks.

    Alhaj

  3. June 17, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    RT JONES’

    Further, Adam existed and committed the fatal sin in prehistoric time. We know of his existence only through scriptures.

    Jesus came in time when history was recorded and can be recorded authentically and when scholars can winnowed whether anecdotes written in history were facts or fiction.

    If Christ so loved mankind, Why did he take so long a time and only in that very period of time to be crucified so that man can be salved, bearing in mind that salvation through the crucifixion is only effective if one is a Christian?

    Couldn’t he come immediately after Adam committed the sin?
    Did God hesitated, bearing in mind that God is Most Wise?

    Alhaj

  4. October 30, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Al Haj,

    I wrote this post originally in 2007. The questions I posed when I wrote are not as pressing to me as they were then. So I am writing from a different perspective than I was then. Not dramatically different, but I would approach these questions differently.

    There are three difficulties I have had with understanding your comments. In addition to my other time commitments, these three difficulties have made it more challenging to respond. This is why I have waited so long.

    First is the language barrier. Your English is not always precise. For instance, sometimes you write with a present tense when you mean past tense. Or you may forget to include the indefinite article (the word “a”), which can give a different sense in English than a word without any article. Usually I can interpret what you mean, but sometimes I am not sure. There is really nothing we can do about this one, except that I need to read more carefully and think about the possible language difficulties.

    Second, it seems to me that sometimes you imply a logical connection between what you are writing and what I have written. But if you don’t make the connection explicit, I do not know which of your points are intended to respond to which of my points.

    For instance, your first comment says, “So the limit of the human mind… This answers your 1 and 2.” I have no idea how your essay answers 1 and 2. I don’t mean that I disagree; I mean that I don’t see the logical connection, making it impossible for me either to agree or disagree. It would be very helpful if you could summarize your point at the end and then make it very explicit how you believe your point answers my point.

    In your example of the theologian and the scholar, I’m not sure which of the two I am meant to identify with, or what the implication is. Are you concluding that neither the theologian nor the scholar understand the ways of God? Or are you concluding that both understand aspects of the ways of God? Or are you concluding that one or the other is correct? I am sorry, but this example is confusing to me.

    Third, I’m not even sure what you are seeking to answer in my questions. The five doubts I was struggling with are in the context of the Christian faith. But you are (I think) answering them in terms of an Islamic view. The logic of hell may make more sense withing the overall context of Islamic theology, in which, as I understand it, God is not bound by the principle of Justice. (Forgive me if I am wrong, but this is my understanding.)

    So if you are saying that these five questions can be answered by Islam, please tell me first what Islam teaches about these questions. My contact with Muslims has been minimal. I have read bits of the Quran, a few Muslim tracts, some overviews from a Christian perspective, and had some discussion with you on this blog. When it comes to finely nuanced theological questions like the ones I was asking, I do not always know what the standard Muslim view is.

    Thank you for your comments. I look forward to your reply. Peace.

    Ryan

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