Whether we like it or not, doubt is a universal part of the Christian faith. Here are the three doubts that have bothered me most, and how I’ve made peace with them:
The Problem of Evil and Suffering
Sometimes referred to as the rock of atheism, people have wondered for millennia how a God who is supposed to be good, omniscient, and omnipotent could allow such pain in our world.
As Christians, though, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask this question, because God wants us to–indeed, the entire biblical narrative is centered around it. From the Garden of Eden, where evil, pain, and death enter into the world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, to the book of Job, where Job and his friends bicker fruitlessly about the reason for his pain, all the way to Revelation, where the apostle John envisions a future world without pain and suffering.
All of this brings us face to face with the question asked by the psalmist in Psalm 10:1 (NIV), “Why, O Lord, do you stand for off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
God ultimately answers this question not by a philosophical argument, but by the cross and the empty tomb. On the cross, God shows precisely where He is in the midst of suffering: suffering alongside us, and in our place. With the empty tomb, God gives us a promise of our own future resurrection, into a world where pain and suffering are nothing but a distant memory.
The Hiddenness of God
It would be so nice if once, just once, God would answer my prayers with an audible response. In seasons of doubt, especially, it’s hard not to mistake God’s silence for His absence and wonder why He doesn’t make it easier for us to believe in Him.
Jesus performed many miracles for the sick and needy throughout His time on earth, but when the religious leaders tried to test Him by asking Him to perform a miracle, He refused. “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah,” He responds cryptically in Matthew 16:4 (NIV).
Jesus spoke continually in mysterious parables that confused those who sought to test Him but gave wisdom and life to those who sought to learn from Him. From the very beginning, then, Jesus has made Himself known to the people who needed Him most, but on His own terms and with His own timing.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:12 (NIV).
The hiddenness of God will someday come to an end, and our relationship with God will be restored like all of the other broken relationships in our world. In the meantime, we already have an opportunity to commune with God through prayer, confession, the reading of Scripture, and the Lord’s supper. If we want God to draw nearer to us, we can begin by drawing nearer to Him.
The “Difficult” Passages of Scripture
I love the Bible. I love how passages written hundreds of years apart by people from all walks of life weave together into a single coherent story of redemption. More than anything, I love the Bible because it is what introduced me to the person of Jesus.
But to be completely honest, there are parts of the Bible that I don’t love: Old Testament laws that make no sense to me, punishments that seem far too harsh at times, the slaughter of the Canaanites, and so on. I’m not a historian or a Bible scholar, and maybe if I were I would have better explanations for these difficult passages.
For me, these passages simply leave me thirsty for more grace. In Jesus, that grace is found.
In a time when the religious leaders were inventing new laws to explain the old laws, Jesus reminded His listeners that all the laws really boil down to just two commandments: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV).
Brought before a woman sentenced to death for adultery, Jesus called whoever was without sin to cast the first stone (John 8:1-11, NIV). And when Jesus’ followers began to lead a violent uprising to save Him from imprisonment and death, Jesus chose the path of healing, and peace: “All who draw the sword will die by the sword,” He says in Matthew 26:52 (NIV).
God’s patience and grace can be seen throughout the Scriptures, in the Old Testament as well as the New. But in Jesus, we see the very image of God Himself, a God of love, peace, mercy, and wisdom.
The Bible may be confusing, complex, and downright frustrating at times, but when we lift our gaze from the window of Scripture and instead look through it to the One to whom it is ultimately pointing, those frustrations invariably fade before the brilliant light of Truth incarnate.
Tom Rudelius completed his undergraduate work at Cornell, earned a doctorate in physics at Harvard, and has conducted postdoctoral research at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Currently a postdoctoral researcher in theoretical physics at the University of California, Berkeley, Tom will begin a faculty position at Durham University in the fall of 2023. His research focuses on string theory, quantum field theory, and early universe cosmology. A man of faith and an avid sports fan, he is frequently requested to speak on topics related to science and faith. He is also on the board of the Mamelodi Initiative, a tutoring organization based in Mamelodi, South Africa. Tom’s newest book, Chasing Proof, Finding Faith, will release on August 8, 2023 from Tyndale.