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The Prerequisite to All Apostasy

There’s a common denominator to all Christian apostasy. Coincidentally (or not), it is also the first step toward a liberal or progressive view of Christianity.

I was reminded of that connection  recently while reading From Intelligent Design to Atheism.  One of the architects of intelligent design, Michael Behe, wrote the controversial, but important book, Darwin’s Black Box. Behe is a Roman Catholic. Well, Behe made news again when his son, Leo, became an atheist. How did this happen? In Leo’s own words:

The journey from very devout Catholic to outspoken atheist took about six months total. Once my trust in the Bible was shaken, I still believed strongly in a theistic god, but I realized that I hadn’t sufficiently examined my beliefs. Over the next several months, my certainty of a sentient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity faded steadily. I believe that the loss of a specific creed was the tipping point for me. (emphasis mine)

The prerequisite to Leo’s journey “from very devout Catholic to outspoken atheist” was the erosion of his “trust in the Bible.”  This is often the first step in Christian apostasy — “the loss of a specific creed.” Coincidentally (or not), this is also the first step toward a liberal or postmodern view of Christ and Christianity.

(This is why I have such a hard time with Christian Progressives — their path is really a slippery slope. It’s also why their basis for faith is often more emotive, than objective, factual, or concrete. Nothing is keeping them from going over the rails of orthodoxy… because there are no rails. The postmodern Christian is free to decide her own “creed.”)


The first step toward the deconstruction of Christianity must always be the deconstruction of Scripture. For once “the foundations are destroyed” (Ps. 11:3), you are free to construct another worldview, preferably one to your own liking.

However, this creates a problem. If we can’t question and debate the  authenticity, authority, and limits of Scripture, how do we know we can trust it? Unquestioned belief in the Bible is just as wrong as unequivocal rejection of it.

Which is why I have this quote on my sidebar:

The doubts of some are more indicative of a love for truth than the belief of others. — John Ker

Many conservative Christians are worse than atheists in that they don’t love Truth enough to question God’s Word. Doubting Scripture, asking hard questions of it, is part of the process of spiritual growth and arriving at Truth. But it is also the first step in the path of apostasy.

So that’s my dilemma. How would you suggest I resolve it?

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{ 58 comments… add one }
  • Tony March 2, 2012, 7:07 AM

    The problem is when someone begins to question God’s word, and doesn’t cling tightly enough to their faith. You’ve got to be stubborn about it. You’ve got to be willing to look at all the facts, but also willing to accept what you don’t yet know. You have to have faith and logic in equal measure.

    But hey, I’m just rambling out some thoughts. Interesting topic, though.

  • Kat Heckenbach March 2, 2012, 7:38 AM

    I didn’t know Michael Behe’s son became an atheist! I read Darwin’s Black Box. Actually, it is sitting on a shelf in my living room among a whole slew of other similar books on Intelligent Design and Creation Science. They are there because I was questioning my faith.

    I grew up Christian, went through several years of living not-at-all-Christian even though I still “believed” and then ended up at college as a biology major surrounded by atheist professors. Oddly, that experience anchored my faith because I saw how deftly the professors skirted issues and glossed over things and talked in circles. It was like dealing with slick car salesmen trying to convince me the Yugo in front of me was a Lamborghini.

    After college, life went on and I never actually used my biology degree (except to teach math) and I started wrestling with doubts again. I “coincidentally” stumbled on Lee Strobel’s The Case for a Creator, which led me to Behe and several others, and the book-laden shelf I mentioned. To me it is the concrete scientific evidence I see all around me that keeps my faith. I do understand going by “feeling” too–I experienced that when I went through cancer treatment (facing death like that often has a funny way of stripping away non-essentials and making you rely on what’s deepest within you, your faith)–but when I had to turn back to living everyday life (yes, I’m cured) the science became my faith’s support once again–because I do question. A lot.

    And this may ruffle a few feathers, but I wonder if when Leo says he lost his “faith in the Bible” there is the unspoken (and maybe unrealized to him) added “as the Catholic Church presented it.” I’m NOT bashing Catholics–I know many, many Catholics with deep faith and an understanding of the Bible. But I also know from experience with friends and my husband and his family that many Catholic churches put a wall between the church members and the Bible. My husband and I, after years of not going to church at all, started attending a Baptist church (the denomination I was raised) and for the *first time* despite growing up in the Catholic church my husband opened a Bible and saw for himself what it says. He was mind-blown. He had *thought* for so long he *knew* about the Bible, but after seeing for himself he was constantly wow-ing and saying things like, “They never told us that!”

    I think questioning is good. I think God has woven the answers into everything around us as well as putting them in the Bible. I also want to recommend a book for anyone looking for a logical connection between science and the Christianity: “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek. It’s very well laid out and in layman’s terms, and I believe was a huge contributor to my husband finally “getting it” and accepting Christ as more than just a church story.

  • sally apokedak March 2, 2012, 8:05 AM

    If God’s word is truth, why should we question it? Do you mean we should question the veracity of the Bible?

    • Mike Duran March 2, 2012, 8:15 AM

      Sally, the only way we can know God’s Word is Truth IS by questioning it.

      • sally apokedak March 2, 2012, 9:04 AM

        hmmm. I don’t think I agree.

        I think one person may question it all over the place and never know it’s true and another person may not question at all and may have faith that is rock solid. We live by faith, not by sight. We don’t need proof. We don’t have to stick our hands into the wounds in the Bible’s side, so to speak. We either believe it’s true or we don’t. And I think the only way to believe is if the Spirit has given us faith.

        I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t struggle with hard things that the scripture contains. If that’s what you’re talking about, I agree. I have no problem saying, “How do man’s responsibility and Your sovereignty work together without violating one another?” Or, “How is Hell possible if we have a loving God?”

        But I go to scripture with faith, believing that it is true and that I’m finite and seeing through a glass darkly, so the hard places I can’t understand are not God’s fault, but my own, because I’m not mature enough to get the truth.

        I go that way because the Holy Spirit has made me believe the Bible is true. He made me believe it before I had read very much of it, and as I read it, he continued to make me believe–he strengthened my belief.

        The Bible defends itself. I’ve found I believe it most when I’m reading it most and I doubt it most (I live in sin, acting as if the Bible isn’t true) when I’m filling my life with entertainment.

        • Mike Duran March 2, 2012, 9:35 AM

          “But I go to Scripture in faith, believing that it is true…”

          So on what grounds do you believe it is true? And how is that faith any different from the faith of the person who believes the Koran or the Book of Mormon is God’s Word? Believing in the Bible because it says it’s true is circular. Why not believe the Urantia book because it say it’s true? All that to say, we can’t really struggle with the Bible’s content until we resolve its validity.

          • sally apokedak March 2, 2012, 10:05 AM

            I believe it’s true because the Holy Spirit has made me believe. He has given me faith. We are saved by grace through faith, Ephesians 2 says. Faith is being convinced of things that are not seen, Hebrews 11 tells us.

            How do you prove the validity of scripture? Have you proven to yourself that the Bible is true?

            • Mike Duran March 2, 2012, 11:02 AM

              Sally, saying we believe because the Holy Spirit makes us believe is, I think, a flawed apologetic for two reasons: 1.) It removes personal responsibility (“I don’t believe because the Holy Spirit didn’t make me believe”) and 2.) It makes the locus of belief subjective, not objective (no different than the Mormon’s burning in the bosom). There’s somewhat standard evidences for the authenticity and reliability of Scripture: Manuscript evidence, archeological / historical corroboration, the N.T. written by eyewitnesses, prophetic accuracy, and others. Without these objective evidences, we’ve really nothing to rest our faith on… except on faith itself. Which is why the Bible and key biblical events (see Flood of Noah, Adam and Eve, etc.) are constantly under assault.

              • Rebecca LuElla Miller March 2, 2012, 12:43 PM

                Mike, I agree with all the evidences, and I think it’s important that we have them, important that we make them known. I don’t believe faith exists in contradiction to reason but in conjunction with it. At the same time, I’ve had online discussions with various atheists who look at the same facts I do and think it’s a bunch of hooey. They cannot see because spiritual things are discerned spiritually.

                My take on this subject is to question whether those who question the Bible actually have read it. I think reading it does raise a lot of questions, including the issue of the Bible’s veracity, but I think it also answers those question.

                For example I think there’s lots of internal evidence for the veracity of the Bible. Scripture presents God as omnipotent, and it says the Bible was inspired by God. So the question is, do I believe God is capable of telling us about Himself and that He actually did so.

                But that brings me right back to the fact that the evidence the Bible presents is available for all people to see, but some reject it without investigation, and others investigate and still reject it. Why? They have fleshly eyes that can’t see the spiritual truth right in front of them. It’s like those two-color pictures that “hide” a word or image right in plain sight.


                • Mike Duran March 2, 2012, 1:30 PM

                  Becky, this conversation is slowly veering away from my point in this post. I agree — biblical faith is not purely a matter of evidence. Jesus performed miracles and some still doubted. Nevertheless, Jesus’ miracles are still considered a basis for our faith. Not sure how exactly God’s action to open our eyes intersects with (and preceeds) ours. But we are still called to believe (have faith), given good reasons to do so (look at the evidence), and cautioned if we don’t.

                  • Bizbird6 November 2, 2014, 8:19 PM

                    Jesus is NOT the only person to perform Miracles at all. I see Performers of Miracles in Virtually all faiths.

                    I read about a Hindu Miracle man who lives without food and water for unlimited amount of Time and also performed other Miracles. I read about “Healers” like Oral Roberts. I believe that there was also a Miracle man in Islam too.

                    How should we choose what to believe in if such Miracles were the only basis of Faith. I bet there were Miracles Galore in Ancient times too.

                    I heard that the “Fake Massiah” in the Jewish History around 134 AD that also performed miracles and, in fact, that was one of the significant proofs to the Jews that he was the “True Massiah”.. These 134 AD Miracles resulted in the Revolution against the Romans that resulted in the Disastrous consequences to the Jewish people being evicted from their own land and caused them to wander around the world for 2000 years.

                    Most of these Miracles were just Fakes that succeeded on deceived the common people. Most of these Miracles are NOT EVEN Substantial ENOUGH.

                    Why not make the Miracles so GIGANTIC a Scale that NO Charlatan can ever do it. , I can think of dozens that are almost IMPOSSIBLE for any Charlatan to perform. For example:

                    1. ELiMINATE Entirely the differences of Language in the World so that the whole World spoke only in one language.
                    2. Make the SUN FREEZE in the SKY for a WEEK without burning up the earth.
                    3. Make the World’s Population DISEASE FREE for one whole year.

                    I can think of dozens of IMPOSSIBLE Miracles that would Conclusively prove that a PERSON is INDEED the true Representative of heaven!!!

  • Mike Duran March 2, 2012, 8:12 AM

    Kat, you may be right about the “faith in the Bible… as taught by the Catholic Church”thing. I was raised a Catholic and found that many Catholics had an unquestioned faith in The Church and Scripture, in that order. Questioning the pope was akin to blasphemy. In all fairness, Protestants have the same tendency. It’s less anti-intellectualism than intellectual laziness. We’d rather be told what to believe than do the legwork.

    • Kat Heckenbach March 2, 2012, 8:31 AM

      Yes, true, Mike. I thought as I wrote that I should add the disclaimer that other denominations can be guilty as well. It’s less a wall between the people and the Bible, though, and more of a “blind faith” proclamation of, “It’s true because the Bible says so!” As though if you have even a moment of doubt, or look for “evidence” of any kind you’ll be struck dead on the spot. That’s something I ran into a lot as a Southern Baptist. I do admire certain people in my life who have/had pure faith (my grandmother, for one) and never delved into the scientific end of things, but they were people who live/d their faith to the fullest, drawing from personal experience and real-life application and *results*.

  • Kessie March 2, 2012, 8:42 AM

    Well, God himself says, “Come, let us reason together.” God likes logic. He built it into us. He also gave us a conscience that tells us we have sin. If we throw out God and the Bible, what do we do with sin? There’s no redemption anywhere else. We can try to rationalize sin as the brute reactions of the animal we evolved from, but even that sounds suspiciously like the whole “sin nature” and “carnal man” doctrine.

    I feel sorry for Leo. That’s a very sad journey to take. I wonder what would happen if he cracked a Bible for himself and started reading it and doing the research to see if it was valid? More than one person has accepted Christ that way.

  • Heather Day Gilbert March 2, 2012, 9:11 AM

    Wow, what a tricky question. Of course, wasn’t it the Bereans who “examined the Scripture daily to see whether these things were so.” BUT they also “received the Word with great EAGERNESS.” I think it’s all about the spirit in which the searching/questioning is done. If you’re questioning to prove the Bible is wrong, you’re probably not going to change your mind about it. But, as a believer, your faith is secure, whether you ask God these hard questions or not (look at Job! David! They certainly laid those cards on the table!).

    As a believer, though, you can accept that you may not know all those answers until you’re in heaven. I’m hoping God will give me a slide-show of how He created the earth! That would answer loads of questions! But I don’t doubt that HE DID IT.

    In the end, everything comes down to faith, no matter how much logic is applied.

    • sally apokedak March 2, 2012, 9:30 AM

      Heather, I think you hit on the key to why we have so much doubt in the church today. The Bereans searched the scriptures to see if the preacher (Paul) was speaking the truth.

      So many today look to humanistic doctors and therapists and reporters and actors and singers and find that what the Bible says isn’t true.

  • Kat Heckenbach March 2, 2012, 9:32 AM

    Heather said: “If you’re questioning to prove the Bible is wrong, you’re probably not going to change your mind about it.”

    I know a lot of atheists who became Christians by doing exactly that–searching for proof that God does *not* exist. But I do think you have a point about Christians who are on the verge of disbelief and want something to help push them over the edge.

    And I agree very much with your point about Christians balancing their examination of Scripture and receiving with eagerness. In my personal journey I was eager for proof of God’s existence, but my need for that proof could be taken as doubt. My experience, though, is that faith and doubt go hand in hand, but God always pulls me through because I go to HIM with my doubts.

    • Heather Day Gilbert March 2, 2012, 10:09 AM

      True, God can certainly change people’s minds through logically examining the Bible. That was supposedly what happened to Anne Rice, after she couldn’t explain how the Jews managed to survive throughout history. But now, she’s pretty publicly turned her back on Christianity (another Catholic experience gone bad?). I don’t think you can be a Christian and despise the body of Christ. However, only GOD knows the hearts of those who are searching for the truth. As the X-Files always said…”The truth is out there…” (people just don’t want to acknowledge it as truth).

  • Jason Brown March 2, 2012, 11:07 AM

    I’m not sure how accurate the anology will be, but I’ll use it:
    as a kid, I was told contradictive things by mother and father (both divorced before I could start remembering) about each other. It got to the point where I wasn’t sure who I could trust- my Bible-believing mother or my spiritually skeptic dad. I started to question both on everything, not always to their face, mostly on my own and on my own terms. From there, I started to find out who was telling the truth, my mother, who was raised on the Bible her whole life, was telling me the truth, and she wasn’t shocked when I told her, as a kid, I wasn’t sure if I could trust her, then decided she was being more honest and forthcoming than my secular dad (who loved sounding like he knew much yet really didn’t much at all).
    Oh, and Heather? Anne Rice declared she’s turned her back not exactly on the body of Christ, but rather on the church. She says Christianity as (as I’ve read it in between the lines) “Church Politics”- which means typical antihomosexuality, condemning abortion mills (rather than prayign for the souls of all who go and work in them), and everything else that Christians do that the world always look for to show us in bad light. She said that she’s still working for the glory of Jesus, but no longer the Church.
    As for Catholicism not teaching everything in the Bible, I’m good friends with a great Catholic family who live in Ohio and go to church in West Virginia (literally across the Ohio River). When I told the mother of the family (a truly devout Catholic) about the seraphim (not long after I read the Book of Ezekiel thourhg and through), she was confused and asked “What? What’s a seraphim?” I described to her how the Bible describes them and she was shocked, “I’ve never even heard of them! You say it’s in the Bible?” I told her where to look, so I can imagine the Catholic Church doesn’t reveal every unique mystery and Truth, but that doesn’t mean all Catholic Churches either. Besides, her Catholic daughter has a belief more along the lines of Protestantism than Catholicism (which helps explain why looke for a church of another denomination last I saw her).
    Now, last point: most Christians seem to expect all other Christians to take Scripture as infallible, inerrant, and perfect without questioning and define that style as having faith. I find it ratehr shallow to tell other people how to believe the Bible, and to believe what everyone says about God, especially “don’t listen to atheists, for they are heathens,” when, as Kat has mentioned, (and so has other people that were college students), it sometimes takes irony on God’s part (like working through a strict atheist, for example) to see God’s handiwork and His fingerprints in all of design. One’s ignorance can lead to another’s spiritual enlightenment. We should stop acting like we’re making God’s rules for Him and let Him do it the way HE wants to.

    • Heather Day Gilbert March 2, 2012, 11:23 AM

      Hmmm. I think if we follow the way Rice’s books are going, we’ll get a little more insight as to what she believes. Yes, you can be a Christian in isolation, but you’re not going to grow much or be challenged to use your gifts FOR the body. And I find nothing wrong with taking a stand against things the Bible takes a stand against, such as homosexuality and abortion. I expect the world to embrace those things and say they’re okay. My antennae just go up when those who say they’re believers do.

  • Jill March 2, 2012, 11:15 AM

    This is a tricky question, and one I’ve been struggling with for years. I question everything. I argue about certain things just for the perverseness of it (as you well know). But there are certain lines that I can’t allow myself to cross. One night, when I was troubled and upset by all my questions, which had me ultimately questioning my salvation, I had one of those loud, overriding voices in my head (the holy spirit, I believe) quiet all my arguments with this: “My sheep hear my voice.” That didn’t resolve the questions, but it made them seem meaningless. Through Jesus I’m saved. I belong to the shepherd because I hear his voice and respond to it. And even though my life philosophy tends to be “hold onto nothing,” as in, “hold on to no one specific argument,” I hold onto my salvation as tightly as possible. By extension, if I hear my shepherd’s voice, then I’m assured that even somebody who has turned down the path of the universal/liberal faith will also hear Christ’s voice if they are listening for it.

    • Rebecca LuElla Miller March 2, 2012, 12:55 PM

      Jill, I don’t know if this adds specifically to the discussion or not, but I find it interesting that what the Holy Spirit used was a line of Scripture. By chance? An accident? No, I think it’s part of the way He guides us into all truth.


      • Jill March 2, 2012, 2:04 PM

        It wasn’t an accident. And he does guide us to truth through his word. But how do you explain some of the more difficult passages of scripture, or give black and white answers to the subjects that Christians in-fight over, like single vs double predestination? Many people choose sides–others choose to remain open-minded and questioning–others choose to ignore subjects that they don’t like to address. What is the correct approach?

        • Rebecca LuElla Miller March 2, 2012, 2:47 PM

          I use the both/and position a lot. 😀 Seriously, when there is a subject that the Bible seems to contradict itself on, rather than “choosing a side” I figure God purposefully made both positions so strong it is possible to build a cogent argument for either, then He wants us to believe both. That they don’t seem to agree points to God’s transcendence. Belief that truly His thoughts and ways are higher than ours answers a lot of the questions, not in a simplistic way, but in an awe-inspiring way that confirms God’s greatness and the perfection of His plan and the consistency of His character.


          • Jill March 2, 2012, 3:20 PM

            Yes, I hope God transcends our cognitive dissonance and creates harmony with it somehow!! 🙂

  • Thea March 2, 2012, 12:19 PM

    The way I look at how we find truth is this:

    1) God is Truth, and that never changes
    2) The Bible, having come from God, is a reflection of God (it reveals him/truth)
    3) Human beings have imperfect understanding

    The truth of the Bible doesn’t change, because that truth is God and God doesn’t change. Our understanding of that truth can change, because we have an imperfect understanding of God. What we question, then, is not the truth, not God, but our own understanding of him. We study the Bible and talk with God not to question what truth is, but to question what we have believed is true. We question and challenge what we believe because we trust that God is truth and that he won’t change, no matter what we throw at him. What we’re trying to do is get our understanding of the truth to line up with the reality of the truth.

    • Mike Duran March 2, 2012, 2:52 PM

      Thea, if all we can ever manage is to reconfigure “our understanding of truth,” how in the world can we ever come to a knowledge of “the reality of the truth”? ANY understanding would just be OUR understanding.

      • Thea March 2, 2012, 4:15 PM

        Darn it, looks like I missed a point (this is what I get for commenting just before I have to leave to catch the bus).

        If we do everything only be our own strength, then we’ll never know when/if we reach an understanding of what’s real. That’s where a relationship with God comes in. He helps us to understand, and we rely on him to always be and tell the truth to us, whether directly or through the Bible, and the two would not contradict each other because one always reveals the truth of the other.

        Gah. I’ve never really tried to explain this before, and my explanations tend to run long when I’m giving them for the first time. I’m sorry, I really do want to better describe what I’m thinking so that we can discuss it properly, but I just don’t know how to do it yet.

    • TC Avey March 2, 2012, 4:08 PM

      “What we question, then, is not the truth, not God, but our own understanding of him. ” I really like that! Thanks for sharing.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller March 2, 2012, 1:26 PM

    Doubting Scripture, asking hard questions of it, is part of the process of spiritual growth and arriving at Truth. But it is also the first step in the path of apostasy.

    So that’s my dilemma. How would you suggest I resolve it?

    Not sure I actually addressed your dilemma, Mike. I guess I don’t ask hard questions of Scripture. I ask them of God. I think it’s an important distinction. I am convinced of God, know Him to be trustworthy. I can tell Him without reservation that I don’t understand things, ask Him to make stuff make sense, even tell Him I don’t get why certain books or passages are in the Bible. All of that has ended up increasing my faith, not undermining it. Why? Because I’ve seen God open up my understanding in a wide variety of ways. Pieces start falling into place, and the more pieces that fit, the easier the next pieces are to fit in after them.

    Of course, the natural question is, how did I become convinced of God? In part, I have to say, because I believe the Bible. But the entire answer is that my experience, my observations, other people’s testimony, my rational examination of facts fit with believing the Bible.

    The first time I remember using the Bible came when I was around 6 or 7. A Sunday school teacher must have told us that “all sin and come short of the glory of God.” I didn’t like that. I didn’t want to think of myself as a sinner. I knew I sometimes didn’t obey my parents, but I guess I thought I could get better … except I saw that my older siblings disobeyed sometimes too. So I thought, if I could just think of one person in the Bible (besides Jesus–being God, He didn’t count) who didn’t sin, then I had some hope that maybe I’d work my way out of this sin problem. I thought and thought. Moses, I decided. So I asked my mom if Moses had ever sinned. Well, if you count murder, then, yes, he sinned. I may have asked about one or two others, the best people I could think of. The bottom line, the Bible confirmed what I knew about myself and what I could see in others.

    Did I get that on my own? I don’t think so. I think God gave me spiritual eyes to see spiritual truth, but He used the Sunday school teacher, my own reasoning, my mom, and He used the Bible.

    If someone wants to know why the Bible and not the book of Mormon or the Koran or some other book, then I think the facts about origin and consistency with the way the world works show the Bible to be unique. But again, I suspect that is spiritually discerned and many will disagree.

    In the end, I’ve come to the conclusion we can’t reason someone into heaven or into believing the Bible. However, the Bible and the plan of salvation are completely reasonable. Let’s face it, faith has a part to play or the Bible wouldn’t put such emphasis on it. We can’t cut it out of the equation any more than we can cut out reason.


  • Rachelle Gardner March 2, 2012, 2:19 PM

    Having not read any of the other comments (they’re very long!) I just have one thing to say. You asked how we suggest you resolve your dilemma. I suggest you don’t try to resolve it at all, but rather, live in it.

    To live a life of Christian faith is always a dilemma. Being faithful is accepting that there will be mysteries we can’t solve. We must be willing to live in the midst of a paradox, not continually try to resolve the paradox.

    • TC Avey March 2, 2012, 4:04 PM

      I agree with Rachelle, the human mind isn’t able to understand all the mysteries of God. That is why faith is required.
      I also know from my own life that when I REST in God’s promises I am better off than when I resist them- when I try to reason my way through something. Trying to control things, to use logic to understand scripture is disobedience. Being disobedient, even if it is in the pursuit of knowledge, is sin. We must give up our control and our rights and simply trust. Again, it is faith.
      I also know God doesn’t want this to be difficult. Humans make salvation more difficult than it really is. I’ve found that when I ask for understanding, he either provides it or gives me the grace to let it go and to rest in him.

    • Mike Duran March 2, 2012, 6:57 PM

      Rachelle, have you resolved that we should live in paradox? If so, perhaps some paradoxes require resolution. Why not this one?

      • TC Avey March 3, 2012, 7:32 AM

        Because this one is higher than us- it’s Godly, therefore it requires faith. Faith in and of itself means you don’t understand everything, you chose to belief despite the questions.

      • Rachelle Gardner March 3, 2012, 8:22 AM

        I’m not sure if I’ve “resolved” it. It’s just that in my experience, scripture presents us with numerous paradoxes, which we must accept if we accept the whole of scripture as truthful. The Christian life itself presents us with numerous paradoxes or dilemmas like the one you’ve presented. Everyone deals with this differently; some people spend their entire life attempting to resolve and understand all the apparent paradoxes (these people are usually known as theologians, whether formally or not).

        However, many others don’t feel the need to resolve them; rather we accept them.

        Specifically, in the scenario you presented, for me the answer is to accept both premises (reduced to: Doubt is necessary. And doubt is dangerous.) If I am committed to my faith, then I am obligated to grapple with my doubts and questions. If my faith is indeed true, then it will stand up to anything I can throw at it. I may be risking apostasy if I keep going down that path, but I’d rather be honest in facing my doubts then try to pretend they don’t exist. I have to continually pray and trust God to show me the path of truth. The more I step out on that risky “doubt and confusion” precipice, the more I have the opportunity to actually TRUST God for the answers and trust Him to not allow me to fall over the edge, and this strengthens my faith and my relationship with Him.

        I don’t think this is a dilemma that can be “solved” since I believe both things are true: The most vibrant faith comes out of honestly grappling with doubts, and facing doubts is the first step on the road to apostasy. I have to live within that dilemma.

  • Bob Avey March 2, 2012, 3:08 PM

    I’ve always believed in God, and I’ve always considered myself a Christian. However, it was recently, within the last few years, that I’ve come to understand — at least I think I do — what that really means. I have to admit to just now beginning to read the Bible. However, it seems rather straight forward to me, and it puzzles me that so many people try to make Christianity a complicated thing. Jesus Christ died for our sins. You either believe that, or you don’t. If you don’t, or if you modify it to fit your own needs then you are not a Christian.

  • TC Avey March 2, 2012, 3:35 PM

    I highly recommend reading “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (thought to be honest I have not finished this book, however it is a book I don’t want to put down!).

    Bonhoeffer addresses these very questions and these very issues within the church community and in the family of believers.

    Bonhoeffer was a theologian who was outspoken against the Nazi regime. He warned the churches to stand against Hitler before it was too late- needless to say he died for his beliefs.

    Anyway, in this book, Bohoeffer addresses the difference between Costly Grace and Cheap Grace. Cheap grace is what had a firm hold in the German Churches before WWII and it is what has hold of many churches today. Many Christians don’t have a firm knowledge, faith or belief in God therefore they are easily mislead and don’t feel power in their walk with God. “Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system.”
    “Deceived and weakened, men felt that they were strong now that they were in possession of this cheap grace-whereas they had in fact lost the power to live the life of discipleship…The world of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works.”

    Bonhoeffer addresses the very real issue of faith and works- you really can’t divorce the two. “Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes”.
    “For faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.”
    He goes into great detail about the erosion of our faith and how to become a devoted follower of God, how to have the faith required. He addresses many questions men have regarding their walks in Christ and their doubts. He successfully helps argues the cause for Christ.

    • Heather Day Gilbert March 2, 2012, 8:17 PM

      Just started Metaxas’ book on Bonhoeffer. Loving it so far, but I know it’s gonna make me cry.

      • TC Avey March 3, 2012, 7:35 AM

        Yeah, it probably will. Metaxas’ book is inspiring and humbling. As I’m reading “The Cost of Discipleship” I keep thinking- this man lived his words! He died for what he believed! It makes his words all the more powerful.

        Add to all this, he started out with only a mental knowledge of God. It was through learning the Bible and fellow shipping with Christians that he finally let go of the mental knowledge and came to an intimate relations hip with Christ. Bonhoeffer knows what its like to NOT believe and then to finally understand what all those scriptures really mean. I think anyone searching for Truth in God’s word should read and study this man.

        congrats again Heather on your new blog and agent!

        • Heather Day Gilbert March 3, 2012, 9:38 AM

          Thanks, TC! And I’m totally enjoying this book. Sounds like his mom was really godly.

          • TC Avey March 3, 2012, 10:05 AM

            I’m still not sure if his father was a Christian. Let me know your thoughts on his dad when you get finished reading. Thanks.

            • Katherine Coble March 4, 2012, 1:08 PM

              Just please remember that Boenhoeffer is not God. There’s a huge Cult of Boenhoeffer growing in the church these days. I’ve had people quote Boenhoeffer to me to refute lines from the Bible. Really.

              He was a man with a lot of good insights and a strong faith. But he wasn’t infallable and just because he was martyred that doesn’t make him Jesus.

              • Heather Day Gilbert March 4, 2012, 4:30 PM

                That is shocking about a Bonhoeffer cult! Of course, we can never follow the PERSON over the BIBLE. However, I think we can learn a lot from people who had the courage to die for Christ, especially in this culture where you’re generally lambasted for taking a stand for ANYthing. Thanks for letting us know, Katherine!

              • TC Avey March 4, 2012, 5:47 PM

                I completely agree that he was just a person like you and me. No one should ever replace the Messiah with a man.
                I had not heard of a cult of followers, but it really doesn’t surprise me. People want something to believe in and unfortunately many churches today are not providing what they are seeking- a life changing experience.

                Thanks for telling me about the cult. I’m going to look into it.

                I like Bonhoeffer because he lived his faith-even his doubts. He also challenges me to go deeper in the scriptures and draw closer to God. I’m sorry to hear that anyone is following him instead of God.

  • R. L. Copple March 3, 2012, 12:10 AM

    This dilemma is created by having a faith in the Scriptures. Because they are interpreted, debated, and various groups have different understandings about what is important or taught in them. Because they rely upon human intellect to think about, grasp truth, and figure it out. Such things demand doubt.

    But when you have faith in a person, you base that upon getting to know them, their character, faithfulness, and love. I suggest the answer is not faith in the Scriptures, but faith in the one to whom the Scriptures point to. In essence, we put our trust, our faith, our obedience in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and trust that through the Church (i.e. body of Christ) and the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit’s guidance (who is said to guide the Church into all truth), that we can ask the hard questions without fretting about diving into apostasy.

    For when we fail to understand something, we may doubt the words we read. But if we have faith in God’s guidance, then we will not fall. If we don’t have faith in that, we will fall. Because trusting in Him is what gives Scripture any validity at all, since it is a testimony about Him.

    And, btw, faith in God means obeying Him. If you don’t obey Him, you don’t have faith. And if you have faith, then you’ll obey him. Because obedience is the essence of what it means to have faith in someone or something. You trust them to guide you. It isn’t some nebulous entity that God zaps us with. It is operating with the “nous” which is a Greek word often translated as “mind” but that is really inaccurate. It is more the “mind of the heart,” the intersection of the mind and heart that is restored when we “walk by the Spirit” instead of our own understanding. Or, as others would say, our spiritual sense that allows us to discern spiritual truths. A big part of what Adam lost.

    Yes, that faith is in part built upon intellectual knowledge. You have to have some knowledge to know what you are having faith in. Yet, as you know, intellectual knowledge about a person doesn’t establish faith in them. That only comes through relationship. The book is not the foundation of faith. The foundation is in who we trust, not in what argument or book we can deduce, induce, or reduce to get an answer. Answer the who question and doubt about the book will not be a factor one way or the other.

    • R. L. Copple March 3, 2012, 12:15 AM

      Or to put it another way:

      The Scriptures are an invitation to get to know God. And it gives us the basic knowledge in order to do that. But you don’t believe in the Bible because it is from God. You believe in it because through it you come to know God, and have faith in him. If it didn’t lead you into such a relationship, it would be proved false.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller March 3, 2012, 10:50 AM

    Mike, I think at some point a person needs to settle the questions, Is the Bible true, is it authoritative. Perhaps those questions will pop up again, but when I say “settle,” I mean, the default position is, Yes, the Bible is true and authoritative.

    From that point, I don’t think there are questions we can’t ask of God. We’re not revisiting over and over the issue that the Bible might not be true after all or that it might not actually be authoritative. Rather, the questions start, since the Bible is true, how can it be possible that … Or since the Bible is authoritative, why ….

    I think that’s a very different line of questioning than the one that leads to apostasy.


  • Jonathan March 4, 2012, 4:55 AM

    I have a friend I call an evangelical catholic who has been trying since 87 to get me (and everyone else) to leave our religions and just come back to Catholicism as it was the first. He wrote the first 5 chapters of what I call a Catholic Apologetic that was very deep and steeped in tradition. Mike mentioned that Catholics tend to believe Church and then Scripture, then someone else mentione Anne Rice who acted in that order. That is pointedly true.
    Anyway, this friend has just recently begun to go back to college and the conversation I had with him Thursday night was along this same line except that ours was a different delimma which stemmed from him heading toward this apostasy.
    When we left the conversation (to be resumed in a few days), I described a difference between scientists and religious types. Each tries to explain the other in their terms. Scientists try to explain and “prove” God, religious types try to just believe (or more often not believe) scientific endeavours. It is like translating a book from Greek to English. In this case science speaking one while religon speaks the other language. At some point there is a that exists in one language that doesn’t exist in the other and the translator has to take what I call poetic license with the word. Agape just means love and not the true depth of agape, etc. At this point, I consider the decision to use one word over another to be the point at which science and religion lose each other because religion requires us to simply say it is a matter of faith and science won’t allow it.
    Religion says it’s a paradox, live with it, and science says it can’t be proven so it’s false.

  • DD March 4, 2012, 12:50 PM

    Christianity tells us to “test everything.” No other religion does that. Why would a manmade religion throw that out there? It wouldn’t. The flipside to “testing everything” is being able to “give a reason.” It is that which Christians often fail miserably at. Too often it is the focus on the emotional part of faith and not the intellectual. We have divorced the two. In our world this is a very bad thing. Not everyone believes in God first.

    Questions are not the path the apostasy. Not providing answers is.

  • Katherine Coble March 4, 2012, 1:22 PM

    I’m coming to this discussion very late because my week last week was filled with the hobgoblins of reality. I don’t know that there is much of note for me to add other than the one little word I cling to.


    I know there are those who comment here who are more than unfond of Mysticism in Christianity, and there are certainly deeper conversations to have on the topic. But the essence of mystery is the acceptance of things you cannot know.

    I don’t know, Mike, if you have a dog. My dogs teach me daily about Scripture and life within the framework God has set for us on this earth; it helps to think of myself as the beloved pet and God as the master. When I put them in the crate to run errands I see myself as tucking them away safely and going about the things that need doing. I exist all the time and am most often getting a little something I don’t need just to bring them a treat because I love them. Then I come home, put the groceries away and let them out of the crate to run in the yard. When they come in I give them the new chew toys I bought on the trip.

    But the dogs only see me putting them in the crate. Then nothing. What I do away from the house is a complete mystery to them. It involves things like “money” and “debit cards” and gasoline and knowing the difference between the brake and accelator. Green means go. Red means stop. All of these are laws of the functioning in the universe that a human knows. They are as real as the rain is wet.

    To a dog they mean absolutely nothing. What does a dog know of money or traffic lights?

    What do I know of those vast reaches beyond my understanding where God operates to keep me safe, to keep things working as they should, to bring me small treats from time to time?

    I come back and the dogs sniff my clothes to try to figure out where I’ve been. The clothes have the scent of the world, but not the whole truth of it. They may get some ideas, but they can never know because their brains JUST DON’T HAVE THE CAPACITY. And I know they don’t stop loving me just because they sniff my clothes. They just have questions. Their questions don’t make me stop being. They don’t make my love for them any less true. I just know they’re trying to work stuff out in their minds.

    So God is like that, I guess: beyond the capacity of our minds. And our questions–important to us, compelling and insistent–might help us piece together where God is and what God has been doing. But they’ll never reveal the whole truth, and they’ll never get God to stop loving us.

  • Julian Walker March 4, 2012, 3:13 PM

    Ok Katherine Noble’s comment above was just mind blowing.

  • Ryft Braeloch March 10, 2012, 5:34 PM

    “Unquestioned belief in the Bible is just as wrong as unequivocal rejection of it,” Mike Duran said to my astonishment and incredulity; and both his statement and the point raised in his article intuitively brought to mind the Edenic narrative wherein Eve was led by temptation to second-guess God and his word, so it surprised me that neither Duran nor anyone in the comments area invoked the point illustrated in that narrative. Did not the apostle Paul state that, by second-guessing God and his word, Eve fell into the state of “transgression”? In our context here it is uncontroversial that rejecting God’s word is wrong, but exactly how is it “just as wrong” to accept God’s word without question?

    On the contrary, if the Edenic narrative taught us anything it’s that accepting and trusting God’s word as authoritative and embracing that attitude existentially is our only sure good! In his second letter to the Corinthian church the apostle Paul expressed the godly jealousy he had for them, such that he promised them as a pure virgin in marriage to Christ their one husband; and yet, he said, “I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3). Just as Peter encouraged the saints about defending the faith, our task begins from a foundation of setting apart Christ as Lord in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15), a foundation Paul echoes in his letter to the Colossians: “Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form, and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority” (Colossians 2:6-10; emphasis mine). It is on the foundation of accepting and trusting God’s word as authoritative and embracing that attitude existentially that our evangelical and apologetic weapons “are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; emphasis mine; cf. Romans 1:18-22 for “against the knowledge of God).

    On the one hand we have Eve who fell into the state of transgression by second-guessing God and his word; on the other hand we have Jesus Christ who, as the spotless Lamb, never once second-guessed God and his word, who at all times and in every moment trusted and did the will of the Father in all things. Do we follow the covenant-breaking pattern of our first parents and their posterity, or embrace the covenant-keeping pattern of the Son of God and his posterity? In this sense it raises a glaring red flag when I hear people suggesting that it may be proper to entertain the question apart from or beyond his word, like Eve did, “Has God really said…?” Unquestioned belief in the Bible is not wrong; as God’s own word, it is our only sure good.

    May we “question and debate the authenticity, authority, and limits of Scripture”? There is so much packed into this question that it is difficult to answer. What is meant by authenticity? And what is meant by authority? And what is meant by limits? Insofar as these are hermeneutic questions answered by historical and grammatical exegesis, we certainly may answer them from the scriptures. But if we are disassociating truth and knowledge from the triune God of scriptures, then what authoritative source are we standing upon to question God and his word? And is that not the very sin by which Eve fell into a state of transgression? This is God’s universe, we are his creation, and his saints are captivated only by such philosophy as that which is according to Christ, setting him apart as Lord in their hearts, who is the head over every authority and whom by grace in love their minds and hearts are obedient.

    “How do we know we can trust it?” I don’t think it is an epistemic question of knowing but an existential question of doing; namely, either we do or we don’t take God at his word as authoritative in all things. As for me, and my church family also, we do not conclude but rather presuppose the truth of the Bible’s content as our foundational starting point. To the extent that people seek to establish the authority of the Bible on some basis apart from the Bible they demonstrate that it is not their final authority; whatever is that extrabiblical basis, that is their final authority.

    • Mike Duran March 11, 2012, 7:50 AM

      Ryft, I think you’re missing the bigger point of this piece. By quite a bit. I summarized that point near the end in this statement: “Doubting Scripture, asking hard questions of it, is part of the process of spiritual growth and arriving at Truth. But it is also the first step in the path of apostasy.”

      Please notice I am saying that the first step on the path to apostasy is denying, questioning, and/or disavowing Scripture. I think we agree on this point, don’t we? Your comment, however, and subsequent post, conveniently leave out this part of my argument. I don’t think that’s very fair, especially when we’re discussing Scripture and Truth.

      To be clear, I’m quoting from my home church’s Statement of Faith regarding my belief about Scripture: “We believe the Bible is the authoritative record of God’s self-disclosure and is wholly trustworthy. All the books of the Old and New Testament are given by divine inspiration and are the written word of God, the only infallible rule of our faith and practice. ” I wholeheartedly agree with to this statement. However, I’m afraid your article, whether intentionally or unintentionally, insinuates that I am questioning these foundational beliefs.

      Not only am I NOT questioning the Truth of God’s Word, I’m suggesting that how we arrive at the belief that God’s Word is True is of utmost importance. Ryft, I want people to arrive at the Truth of God’s Word. So I think we have the same objective, yes?

      Where we differ, I think, is how that happens. I don’t think we can just say “The Bible is God’s Word, now trust it!” How is that any different from saying “The Koran is God’s Word, now trust it!” or “The Bhagavad Gita is Divine, trust it!”? How does a genuine seeker arrive at the conclusion that the Bible is superior to the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita? If it’s simply on the basis of faith, then why fault them for having faith in the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita? Or why not have faith in all three? I mean, if it all comes down to faith — apart from any external evidence — then we can rationalize just about any belief.

      I believe your final paragraph is the most telling about where we differ: “…either we do or we don’t take God at his word as authoritative in all things. As for me, and my church family also, we do not conclude but rather presuppose the truth of the Bible’s content as our foundational starting point..” This is entirely circular. It’s like saying, “The Bible is God’s Word because it says it’s God’s Word,” or “The Bible is our foundational starting point because the Bible says it’s our foundational starting point.” Presupposing that anything is True — including Scripture — is dangerous. Should I presuppose evolution is True? Why or why not? Should I presuppose the Humanist Manifesto is True? Why or why not? Should I presuppose that The Egyptian Book of the Dead is True? Why or why not? So why presuppose the Bible is True? Just because it says so? If so, why apply different presuppositions to the Bible?

      Once again, my belief is that if a person critically approaches the evidence for Scripture’s authenticity — the manuscript evidence, its prophetic accuracy, the eyewitness support, its historical coherence, its philosophical congruence, etc. — they will reach the conclusion we both desire. This doesn’t mean we don’t need faith, but that we also don’t need to fear facts. The Bible has withstood centuries of criticism, denunciation, dilution, and bad preaching. So why fear factual inquiry?

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller March 16, 2012, 1:13 PM

    Mike, I just read a post by Andrew Peterson that speaks to this issue, I think. It’s the last half of his most post at the Rabbit Room.


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