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Help for Those Who Doubt

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You are an Evangelical Christian.

You put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

You’ve been baptized by immersion, and you are a member in good standing of a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church.

For years, everything was fine between you and God.

But now, suddenly, you have questions and doubts.

Maybe something happened in your life to cause you to question your faith.

Maybe you’re having trouble accepting some of the teachings of the Bible.

Maybe you’ve come to see that Christianity is not all it is cracked up to be.

Maybe you have read a book by an author such as Bart Ehrman and now you have questions.

So, now what?

Going to your pastor or a fellow church member won’t help you. They will tell you to pray, trust God, or resist the temptation of Satan. I suspect you have tried all these things, yet you still have doubts.

Christians are taught not to doubt. Just believe. Just have faith. Only in Evangelical Christianity is the natural human experience of doubt considered a bad thing.

Doubt means you have questions. Doubt means something doesn’t make sense to you. Doubt means that the answers of the past no longer answer the questions of the present.

First, it is okay to doubt. Anyone who tells you otherwise has something to hide or has an agenda. Your pastor wants to keep you as a church member, and he knows that the exit door of the church swings out on the hinges of doubt. This is why he tells you to trust God, pray, read your Bible, attend church more, and confess any sin in your life. You know these “solutions” will do nothing to assuage your doubt. Why can’t your pastor see this?

Second, the only way to find answers for your doubts is to be willing to read and study. You must be willing to work hard. If you really want to know, the answers can be found.

Third, be honest. I mean completely honest. Don’t lie to yourself.  Be willing to meet the truth in the middle of the road. Engage every bit of new information and weigh it carefully. Don’t move forward until you really understand the new information.

Fourth, you must be willing to follow the path wherever it leads. Are you willing to lose your faith if that is where the path leads? Are you willing to leave the church you are a part of if that is where the path leads?

Fifth, the only person you have to answer to is yourself. This journey of yours is singular. It is a lonely walk that you must take by yourself. No one can guide you, direct you, or tell you which way to go. You alone must chart your course. Remember, the journey is more important than the destination.

Sixth, don’t be in a hurry. Take your time. You have your whole life ahead of you.

Seventh, be careful to whom you share your doubts. Evangelical Christians are known to turn on those who don’t think as they do. They think their God demands conformity and obedience, and if they know you are a doubter, they will have “doubts” about you.

It doesn’t matter where your journey takes you. Maybe you will stay right where you are, but I doubt it. It is likely that your doubts are telling you something about where you are now. Staying where you are is not an option IF you are really serious about finding answers to your doubts.

Not all people can embrace their doubts. They fear losing their faith. They fear the judgment of God. They fear Hell. They fear disappointing their family and friends. Ask yourself: should fear be a motivator for doing anything?

Here is what I know from my own experiences: you will always have doubts. Having questions is how we mature and grow. As we seek answers to the doubts we have, we develop a better understanding of self and the world we live in. Pity the person who never doubts, who never seeks answers to questions. Ignorance is not bliss, and understanding self and the world we live in is key to living a happy, productive life.

I am here to help you, no strings attached, I don’t want your money, life, or soul. I have no desire to convert you to atheism. In fact, I am quite certain that most people will not end up where I am. It is not about you being like anyone else. It is your life, your journey, and I hope you will walk on in openness and honesty.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    So thankful you are back online, Bruce. Your writing and transparency regarding your journey from faith to doubt have been such an encouragement and education as I have walked the same path. With gratitude and warm wishes to you & yours as you meet the challenges of each day, moment by moment.

  2. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    We were on the way out of the church before our beliefs changed. Why? Well, my husband was a new minister…and our denomination is known for being mean to new ministers. Looking back all those years, I believe my husband would have been all right as an all around minister, but he was too sensitive to deal with the mean. The ministers that made it could let the criticism roll off their back. (Now, I’m not talking about deserved criticism over real problems, but the mean kind, picking over nits.

    After that, we moved and attended church still. Because we were converts and not raised in the church, we were badly disappointed and could never get over it. I noticed that those raised in the church could disagree with the church, even leave the church and then come back, all while feeling like they belonged. But we had expected better as converts.

    We attended a church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when living near there, and that was when I emotionally left. Church members were criticizing other Christians (charismatics, I believe) for raising their hands, and then said, “Oh, but they are probably still Christians. Huh? Seriously? I never went back to that church. And while I did attend church a little later, I believe that moment had emotionally divested from me the belief that my former denomination was the closest thing to God.

    Currently, I don’t believe I am a Christian (the Christian Left would disagree I think). Haven’t believed in biblical literacy since I said, “The gay people I know who love each other are doing all the things Christians are supposed to do in a marriage. How can this be wrong when it is so loving.?” Still a theist and a Universalist. My former minister husband is agnostic/atheist: he thinks the antics of Christians in the public (re: politics) is the death of politics and Christianity. My autistic son says he is a Christian, and my younger son says he is a pantheist. We all respect each other and our beliefs. 🙂

  3. Avatar

    Becky said,
    We all respect each other and our beliefs.

    That sounds like atheism hand in hand with belief, I’d say, and probably quite normal and human in a loving family. Tis a shame that you don’t tithe though. I am certified as a preacher, ordained as a minister of The Church of the Latter Day Dude, and would be pleased to accept your offerings for my ministry. One hundred percent of what you send goes into my holy-service pocket and not one percent is wasted, believe me, believe you me!
    Now, you reach down deep and wait for the holy spirit to move you. I haven’t had breakfast or lunch today at all but don’t let that worry you. God tests the mettle of believers and boy oh boy, I’m feeling the pangs. BTW, wait now, I’m hearing the Spirit… I have just received a message that one of your family members who has recently had a problem is being healed! It was something to do with the stomach area, something that was very worrisome and Becky Wiren, that is all over now! Praise be! (Golly, it is an awful thing to be hungry, isn’t it? ;-))

    • Avatar
      Becky Wiren

      LOL Brian! Boy, I have fibromyalgia, can I get healed of that, please? Now, if you, Brian, really were hungry and needing help I’d help you if possible. 🙂 But the day we stopped tithing was just fine, and I remember wishing we could have all the money we did tithe. It would sure be useful for us now! Oh well, spilt milk.

      I do have to say, Bob insists that if Trump is impeached he will go to a church and shout, “Hallelujah!” Probably one of those fundy churches where they just LOOOOOOVE Donald.

  4. Avatar
    dale m

    About the dangers of “coming out” to friends and family: Think of it in these terms …. you R in a loving family that wants 2 C U follow in their foot path but have dedicated their lives to the good and pure “image” of Joseph Stalin. Your community is saturated with “Cheka secret police” recording your every word. U have found, through no fault of your own that, the “real” Stalin does not match up with the carefully crafted “image” of Stalin written in the propaganda literature of Pravda = Truth.

    What do U do? Everyone loves the image and believes that anyone questioning that image needs to be brought back under that image. I would recommend U do the following to get the gist of where U R. Do THIS FIRST :

    Read George Orwell’s “1984” because that is where U
    presently R located in the world of belief.
    Use Google 2 search for a “Humanist group” nearest U
    In order 2 have someone who will break bread and
    commune with U about your doubts. This group will B
    some sort of “Meet-up” group.
    Listen 2 their stories. They will have recommendations
    of their own. U will share experiences. Think of it as an
    exciting underground meet-up of like minded people,
    away from the prying eyes of the “Cheka secret police”
    Your family and friends R NOT 2 B trusted in such
    matters. They would most likely B hurt. Your
    relationships would change irrevocably and not in a
    good way. So preserve BOTH SIDES of your world.
    Try not sacrificing one 4 the other until U R good and
    ready 2 do so. Remember! Once U start on this path,
    there is NO TURNING BACK. U can no longer live a
    lie …..
    The struggle that U find yourself in, IS NOT the
    struggle that your family is in. It is yours and yours
    alone. Take the added pleasure that U R the 1st of
    your family and friends 2 have found FREEDOM !!!
    Like slaves, they must WANT to escape first, B4 they
    seek that underground railway to freedom.

    • Avatar
      Karen the rock whisperer

      Dale, I apologize, but I am old and find it a challenge to read your writing when you use capital letters to represent words. I have to sound out the letter to figure out what the word is. I know this custom began to make texting using stupidphones easier, but smartphones exist and I text using full words, often suggested by the app that figures them out from context.

      I have no business telling you how to communicate, I know. But I did want to share that I struggle to find a reason to slog through this kind of writing, and that probably means I’m missing your ideas. Unfortunately, I might not be the only one.

        • Avatar
          Karen the rock whisperer

          I think “third grader” is a little harsh, actually. It’s just a variant of written English developed recently, like a written version of a dialect. I know our language is an ever-evolving thing. I wish I could adapt better, but my head is not in a good space for that right now.

          • Avatar
            Bruce Gerencser

            I find that style of writing hard to read. Same with writers who never capitalize words or use punctuation. Each to their own, but readability should be our goal.

    • Avatar
      Southern Lady

      Dale M, I so liked the part where you said, “the struggle that U find yourself in, IS NOT the struggle that your family is in.” Exactly! I think that is such a good thing to point out. If you’re doubting, you might think your family, friends, etc. would be understanding, curious about your thought process, etc. But, being human and part of a group, they are more likely to feel rejected by you, insulted by you, threatened. It would be hard for them to see your dilemma objectively, because they’re an insider. A therapist would be a more objective listener and has no skin in the game.

      As far as no turning back, I think if you study and learn stuff that you didn’t know before, you won’t be able to just forget that you now know that stuff. But, that doesn’t mean you have to discuss it with the group. And even staying in the group would not necesarily be living a lie. Think of all the people who attend church weekly who probably have doubts of their own, and they may just keep those doubts to themselves. They might continue going because they don’t want to hurt their mother, or they don’t want to upset their friends, whatever. I don’t think someone in that situation should lie if asked a direct question, but neither are they obligated to upend their life and relationships over a lack of faith.

  5. Avatar

    Doubts were scary when your belief system warns of eternal punishment for coming to the unapproved conclusion. Doubts are scary when your belief system warns that your own capacity to reason is not to be trusted because it is corrupt or depraved or inferior. Doubts are scary when everyone you know and trust tells you there’s something wrong with YOU for having doubts in the first place, or that a scary, evil supernatural force is causing you to have doubts.

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