Shaky: When Doubt Comes from a Misunderstanding of Belief

Doubt can come from many sources. Some people doubt Christianity because their beliefs are not based on knowledge to begin with. They have a fundamental misunderstanding of what Christianity really is. Others doubt or reject Christianity because they have trouble dealing with what it would really mean for their lives if it is true. They don’t want it to be true.

Some people, however, doubt Christianity when their understanding of belief itself breaks down. People embrace one of what my friend Mark Mittelberg describes as different “faith paths.” There are six such paths:

  • The “relativistic faith path” says that truth is what you make it.
  • The “traditional faith path” says that truth is what you’ve always been taught.
  • The “authoritarian faith path” says that truth is what you’ve been told to believe.
  • The “intuitive faith path” says that truth is what you feel in your heart.
  • The “mystical faith path” says that truth is what you think God told you personally.
  • The “evidential faith path” says that truth is what logic and evidence point to. 1

Of these six, Mittelberg says, only the last one accurately represents the biblical idea of a believing faith. His intent in focusing on logic and evidence is not to diminish the work of the Holy Spirit in securing salvation (Eph. 1:13) but rather to point out that other paths have the most potential for distorting belief by making it a matter of personal preference, tradition, or feeling. People who walk along one of the other faith paths are more likely to question Christianity’s uniqueness to the point of changing their convictions.

If you find yourself objecting to the idea that only one of these paths is legitimate, you’re not alone. Most people think of faith as believing in something without good reasons.2 However, this ought not to be the case.

The Bible does not discourage knowing things as a foundation of belief. In fact, it encourages it. Isaiah 43:10–11 says, “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.’” John 20:30–31 says, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Clearly the Bible itself encourages us to believe based on the presence of knowledge and evidence rather than its absence.

Christian faith, therefore, is not opposed to knowledge; rather, it consists of acting—indeed, trusting—in accordance with what we know.

Footnotes

See Mark Mittelberg, “Faith Path: Helping Friends Find Their Way to Christ,” Christian Research Journal 33, no. 3, 2010, www.equip.org/articles/faith-path/.
For example, Steven Pinker, “Less Faith, More Reason,” The Harvard Crimson, October 27, 2006, www.thecrimson.com /article/2006/10/27/less-faith-more-reason-there-is/.

This excerpt originally appeared at summit.org and is from Understanding the Faith: A Survey of Christian Apologetics by Jeff Myers published by David C. Cook, 2015. Used with permission.

About the Author

Dr. Jeff Myers is president of Summit Ministries. As an educator and entrepreneur, Dr. Myers has become one of America’s most respected authorities on youth leadership development. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson referred to him as “a very gifted and inspirational leader.” Evangelist Josh McDowell called him “a man who is 100% sold out to preparing the next generation to reflect the character of Christ in the culture.” Through his speaking engagements and media appearances Dr. Myers has become a fresh voice offering humor and insight from a Christian worldview. He is the author of 14 books, including Understanding the Faith, Understanding the Times, and Understanding the Culture textbooks which are studied by tens of thousands of students. Dr. Myers holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Denver. He continues to engage college students and adult learners by serving as a trustee of Colorado Christian University and through a Signature Leadership Course offered by the Pearson Education, which serves the training needs of many Fortune 100 companies. Jeff and his wife Stephanie and their family live in Colorado.

Jeff Myers, Ph.D. (President, Summit Ministries)

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