Summary: Just because we doubt doesn't mean we don't have faith.
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29
Leslie Weatherhead, an outstanding British minister of the mid-twentieth century, addressed some of the key issues about questioning and doubt in his book, The Christian Agnostic. The term, according to Weatherhead, refers to “a person who is immensely attracted by Christ and who seeks to show his spirit, to meet the challenges, hardships, and sorrows of life in the light of that spirit, but who, though he is sure of many Christian truths, feels he cannot honestly and conscientiously sign on the dotted line that he believes certain theological ideas about which some branches of the church dogmatize, churches from which he feels excluded because he cannot ‘believe.’ His intellectual integrity makes him say about many things, ‘it may be so. I do not know.’” (1)
If we were truly honest, could we not all write God a letter about issues we had or have with Christianity? To have issues is not to say that we are not Christian, many in the faith have assured me. Some Bible passages are very complex or some cultural issues are hard to define. Sometimes we struggle with the very core of our faith. Others never seem to have anything close to a doubting faith. They seem to have a very sincere deep and abiding belief—a simple faith, by which I do not mean any less intellectual—and others are constantly on the search for an answer.
The person with simple faith will say, “It's right here in front of you.... Don’t you see it?” And the honest skeptic replies with, “No, I can't see it,” or “Yes, I can see how you might see it in that light, but my experience has been different.” I have been reading a book written by Lee Strobel called The Case for Faith. It is a book for a person who has struggles with some tough issues in the Christian faith, like reconciling an all-powerful and all-loving God with the evil and pain that exists.
In reading the introduction, I was introduced to a historical figure that I had never before read or even heard about. His name is Charles Templeton. Templeton is a contemporary of Billy Graham, and the two men used to be very close friends. Graham says that Templeton is one of the few men that he has loved in his life.
They were roommates and preached at revivals. Templeton founded a church that grew to 1,200 people. Many thought that he would overshadow Graham. He was a gifted orator and writer. But Charles Templeton left the ministry in the 1950s because of questions about God that he could not reconcile. One of those very issues was how a loving and powerful God could stand by and watch people suffer needlessly.
Graham also faced these doubts, but his faith somehow won out. He agreed with Templeton that there were questions that he could not answer, but Graham wrote that he was not going to place himself on the same level as God. He had unanswered questions, and he came to his knees and told God, “I can't answer all these questions, but I am going to place my faith in you, and believe that you have an answer.” And now, although aging and dealing with Parkinson's disease, Billy Graham still climbs the steps to the pulpit or walks over to the podium, and his message is always simple but true.
Templeton, on the other hand, lives in Toronto and is battling dementia, having written a book, Farewell to God. Both men still have enormous respect for each other, yet fifty years have shown that these men ended up on different sides of the page. Templeton was interviewed by Strobel, saying of Jesus, “I miss him.” Graham, however, has uttered the words of Jesus for who knows how many crusades over the past fifty years.
Templeton is what we would call an agnostic, and Graham, a believer in God. I think it is interesting that both men started out with similarities but diverged so greatly on such an important issue. (2) But let’s not give up on Templeton yet. He has a copy of Billy Graham's biography sitting on one of his coffee tables.