Dare to Doubt is written for the new Christian or the old Christian who wants to refresh their faith. After the enthusiasm of conversion and baptism fades, the new Christian enters a time of confidence feeling comfortable and excited by their new faith.
But life happens. It is easy to fall back into old habits, old attitudes, ways of acting, reacting and thinking about life. We soon learn not everyone has our confidence in this new faith. Books are available questioning our assumptions about Christianity. Social media and the Internet seem to be populated by those who would destroy Christianity. Friends and those with whom we discuss Christianity ask questions we cannot answer. Events occur challenging our faith. Gradually, Christianity stops being comfortable and exciting. Our feelings begin to change, and maybe, we think, it was a mistake to embrace Christianity so quickly.
This introspection leads to several reactions. A few will reject Christianity outright. Others become a CINO (Christian-In-Name-Only) going through the minimum motions of being a Christian, but not enjoying the benefits of being one. These nominal Christians often behave as if their lives had not been changed. Greed, pride, dishonesty and lust seem to exist in the nominal Christian to the same extent as non-Christians. CINOs are the ones who give Christianity a bad name because their behaviors don’t reflect the differences, if any, Christ has made in their lives. Sadly, they authentically accepted Christ at one time but have fallen away. They say they are Christians, but their lives suggest otherwise.
A similar group stops thinking about Christianity all together. Frankly, there are some aspects of Christianity that are difficult to understand and even harder to follow. Even the committed Christian finds it difficult to be totally committed to the spirit of some commandments such as loving others as you love yourself including those who don’t love you. Compounding the problem is intra-denominational squabbling over theology, faith and Christian practices. To avoid uncomfortable discussions, many Christians refuse to talk about religion. But the questions remain, they are just not addressed.
A third group of Christians recognize these difficulties but choose neither to reject Christianity nor to avoid it. They decide growth in the faith is more important. They choose to address these questions and work to grow into Christian maturity. They understand that just as newborn babies must be nurtured and developed, the newborn Christian must be nurtured and developed. This book is about assisting the Christians who might struggle with their faith, but sincerely desire to understand it and mature in it. Growth and development can be helped by providing some basic tools.
The foundation for maturing in the faith can be viewed as a three-legged stool. Each leg contributes to the stool’s stability. Remove one leg and the stool collapses. Likewise, each leg of the foundation contributes to the stability of the Christian’s growth toward maturity. The first leg in this growth toward maturity is finding and participating in a community of other like-minded Christians who are on a similar journey. Learning is extremely difficult by yourself. We learn best as part of a group.
The second leg of the growth stool comes when you study the Word of God. You grow only to the extent you are willing to learn what God’s Word says. You must experience God’s truth for yourself.
These are two legs on the foundation for growth. But questions still arise. How you handle these questions depends on the third leg of the stool.
Faith-killing questions are easier to handle if you have a set of basic beliefs held so strongly, that you would rather die than deny them. This set of basic beliefs is the third leg of the foundation stool. These basic beliefs are those about which there is no question in your mind. They are common among all groups proclaiming to be Christian. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to an Evangelical or a Liberal Christian, or someone somewhere in between. They could be Catholic or Protestant, Church of God or Episcopalian, Baptist or United Methodist. These numerous “brands” of Christians have their specific views of the Christian message, but they all maintain certain basic beliefs. The maturing Christian must be firm in those basic beliefs.
So, maturing in faith rests on three legs: community, study of the Word, and a set of strongly held basic beliefs.
I venture with some trepidation into a discussion of basic Christian beliefs. There will be some who, in Christian love, argue, “Why is this a basic belief, and that is not, when the Bible clearly says so and so?” Others will say, “New Christians can learn all they need to know by reading the Bible with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” I suspect some will criticize my presuming to declare a specific set of beliefs.
Some will comment that these beliefs are so simple they are obvious and don’t need to be stated. They will say, “There is so much more to being a Christian.” They will ask why we did not mention the role of free will in the downfall of mankind, or mention the joy that comes with living with Jesus by your side, or mention the confidence we have in the presence of God in our lives. I expect mature Christians will ask why I don’t expand the scope of the book to include these aspects of being a Christian.
Frankly, those topics are important, but they are beyond the scope of this book. This book is for those young Christians who are still struggling to make sense of their new-found faith. It is meant to help them form a strong foundation from which they can explore the blessings and joys that come from being a mature Christian.
So, we press on, fully convinced new Christians need to grow and the concept of internalizing and strengthening basic Christian beliefs is a valuable tool in that growth.
I pray you will find the book useful in your growth toward Christian maturity.