According to Pew Research, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves Christian has dropped 15% in the last 15 years, while those who say they have “no religion” have grown by about the same amount. So, is the Church falling apart? The newest series of sermons at our church (on doubting and “deconstruction”) has been possibly one of the most important we have heard there so far. The pastor quoted Dr. John Marriott of Biola University: people who doubt their faith have experienced that “the stories in the Bible about miracles, witches, giants, demons, etc. began to feel as out of place as Santa.” This escalates for those whose parents pretended to believe in holiday fairy tale characters.
This kind of gap or “cognitive dissonance” between what we see in the Bible and what we experience in our daily life is something that most Christians wrestle with. As CS Lewis says, “it is all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before [our] eyes.” Wrestling is not unhealthy, though. It is wise to doubt and question and even to run away from the false teachings about God that are often taught. On the other side is a deeper, more mature faith. Just ask Descartes.
A bigger danger comes from feeling forbidden to ask honest questions without being cut off from God’s community. One ex-churchgoer put it this way, “I spent years pretending to believe because the fear of losing my social network was greater than really examining what I actually believed. In the end, it just made me resent people who did believe, and left me feeling more and more empty.”
Several of the disciples went through their own period of doubt, but Thomas’ story (John 20:24-29) illustrates how being honest and exploring doubt while still committed to fellowship opens the door to see Jesus meet us right where we are.