Before my wife and I were married, we asked each other what was the biggest fear we had about one another.
My fear was she would be too indecisive, and would not be satisfied with the choices she made throughout our life together.
Her largest fear about me was that I wasn’t Christian enough for her ideals of a husband and a family leader.
Through the years our fears played out in a spectacular fashion.
Facing the Doubt
Although my brother and I were raised as Christians, we were not raised in the church. We worshipped there with our father and briefly attended Sunday School for a portion of our lives. My father credited Jesus for surviving his stroke at the age of 35. We were taught to give gratitude to The Lord in all things. As with most Christians, I harbored doubt, but as most Christians would tell you, doubt is the among the worst traits to feed for it is the very antithesis of faith.
Throughout my youthful years, I consciously ignored my doubts and leaned not on my own understanding.
During my early 20’s, after one particularly rousing reading of the bible, I even thought the good book revealed to me the very purpose of life itself – that the purpose of this life is to choose how you would spend the rest of eternity. How everything else this life has to offer must pale in comparison to either the joy or pain that awaited us all. I would cry at night for all of the countless souls throughout eternity who were destined to make the wrong choice. I was a Christian.
I still had my doubts, but for most of my life – chalked it up to the feebleness of my limited human mind, until my wife and I started thinking about a family.
My future child would surely ask me about Jesus. And they would ask about Muhammed, and Buddha, and Vishnu, and Joseph Smith, and even David Koresh. How would I respond? How would I explain one person’s truth over another when I didn’t completely understand it myself? How would I look them in the eye and tell them what was true?
At that time, I told myself that many Christian men much smarter than I have certainly dealt with these issues and came to conclusions I could rest on. All I needed to do was face my doubts and do some research. In the age of the Internet, with knowledge ready at my fingertips, I set out on a journey which would change me in ways I had not even thought possible.
About a year into my research, I had printouts all over the office – articles, letters, emails, quotes, highlighted biblical verses, and more. I had books from C.S. Lewis and apologist William Lane Craig strewn about. I couldn’t get enough.
I also couldn’t get straight answers that satisfied my questions around divinity, predestination, life after death, and the condemnation of other world faiths. My wife watched and supported my new interest. She even picked out a book she believed would be of particular interest to me, Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus. That book introduced me to the term “intellectual honesty” and made me start seriously looking into the other side of the argument. If I was to understand the nonbeliever’s way of thinking, I had to read their words as they had written them, not as paraphrased by apologists.
That would be like listening to a Muslim state all the reasons why Christianity is a false religion without ever discussing it with a Christian. It’s just not intellectually honest.
This floodgate of new literature turned my world upside down. It challenged such strongly held beliefs so thoroughly that I could feel walls shattering around my psyche. My very sense of self was being challenged. I felt I didn’t know who I was and read voraciously more work. I vowed for every apologist book I had read, I would read its counter argument. It was terrifying.
That process lasted at least another year.
I reread the bible – this time in a whole new context.
You can’t unlearn things.