I Don’t Believe in Jesus Christ II

 

I’m about to tell you a secret that very few people in my life even know. I have kept this mostly to myself for nearly four years but I’ve decided to share it with you because I think it matters.

I’m not 100% sure that God exists.

For those of you that read I Do Not Believe in Jesus Christ, this probably comes as a bit of a shock. Back then, I was 100% sure; at least I thought I was.

Let me tell you a bit of my story…

Six years ago, I went to Kansas City for a six month internship where the only thing I did was pursue God. Even then I had it buried in the deepest part of my soul, like a dark seed–hibernating, waiting.Doubt seeds

I’m not sure when I first buried it, but I had built an entire house of theology on top of it. I knew who God was, who I was, and how this whole Christianity thing worked. God exists, Jesus solved the whole separation from God thing, and if I gave up every distraction and surrendered fully to Him, the separation I felt in my soul would melt away. I was on my way to this internship to experience God “face to face, as a man speaks to a friend.”

I got a tremendous amount out of my time in this internship, but at the end of it God still hadn’t given me a face to face encounter. That seed I had hidden away began to stir, and every day that God didn’t give me what I was looking for, it came closer to breaking through the floorboards.

***

Two years later I was sitting at a coffee shop, and I overheard a couple guys debating with an evangelical Christian about the existence of God. The Evangelical was using all the same tired arguments I’ve heard 1,000 times, and I was embarrassed on behalf of evangelicals everywhere. When he got up to use the restroom, I leaned over to their table.

“Listen guys, not every Christian uses those arguments for why they believe. I pretty much disagree with 95% of what he’s telling you and I’m a devoted Christian.”

They invited me to join their group at their next meeting, and I unwittingly began nurturing that buried seed until finally it broke free. It was undeniable. This seed was now a sapling, rapidly growing right in my soul’s living room.

doubt sprout

***

I’m talking about the seed of Doubt.

That pesky little thing in the back of your mind that says “but how do I know God exists? But what about ____? What if I’m wasting my time with all this? How do I know for sure?

As Christians, we are trained to “just believe,” and for those of us that are taught to ask questions, it’s usually an “ask questions, but get your answers from sources that will lead you back to the ‘right’ conclusions.” We read Case for a Creator, but avoid The God Delusion. We read C.S. Lewis, but won’t touch Christopher Hitchens. Or worse…

What if we doubt, learn something new, and end up embracing those “wrong conclusions?”

This was exactly what happened to me. I read an incredible book recommended to me by new Atheist friends called You Are Now Less Dumb, which explained to me all the shortcuts the brain takes that lead us to false conclusions, and helped me to critically think through everything I held so dear to me until most of it fell apart.

That sapling of doubt became a tree that broke my carefully constructed house to pieces, and left me homeless.

Still, I saw the beauty in this tree, and I kept all the broken pieces of the house too. I just couldn’t figure out how to reconcile the two.

This is when I went silent.

I stopped writing, and I wandered instead. Carrying within me my growing Tree of Doubt, my Broken House, and the Divine Breath that I no longer had a home for.

I felt alone.

I felt confused.

I didn’t belong anymore.

***

November 23rd, 2016. That night, something changed. That night I felt the distance between myself and God dissapear. I knew I could never go back to that old Ideological House and that I also needed the life I’d found in the Tree of Doubt. This is when I discovered a third option.

The Blueprint for Divine Tension 

Divine Tension, a Tension of Opposites. The way of Humility.

My whole life I believed that Truth was arriving at the right answer, and religion was following the right rules so you could get what you wanted. For me, much of this was wrapped up in Charismatic language about “surrendering” to get “relationship” with God, but it was the same religious bullshit; I just couldn’t see it.

November 23rd I repented for demanding that Jesus show himself to me on a certain level if I gave him enough devotion.

“I repented for demanding that God take away my doubt.”

I accepted and embraced my doubt as a part of my spiritual journey. Doubt isn’t in conflict with faith, it is what makes our faith real.

God isn’t the Wizard of Oz relying on smoke and mirrors to keep His form, and he doesn’t need the nice box of theology we have put Him inside to stay God. I can actually bring my doubts to Him, invite Him into my process of doubting, and pull back as many curtains as I want. Because Truth is still going to be True, regardless of what I believe.

God doesn’t live in your box, and He doesn’t fear your doubt.

Embracing our doubt frees us to be honest. Jesus says if we seek truth, we will find it (Mat 7:7) Our doubt is part of who we are, driving us to seek truth. It may destroy our beliefs, but relationship with God is not based on theology or answers; it is based on our connection to Truth Himself.

Today, I’m not 100% sure God exists. My intellect still wrestles with questions of faith. Yet, even as I embrace my doubt, I also embrace what I know. I enjoy and live within what I know in my heart, and I participate in the relationship I have with God on a moment by moment level. My Doubt Tree and my Belief House have been integrated. Now, I live in a Doubt-Faith Tree-house. This is what it means to be Christian.

integrated doubt

When I wrote I Do Not Believe in Jesus Christ I thought we went from belief to 100% assurance. Now, I see a richer picture.

In our pursuit of and connection to Truth, we do go from ignorance, to belief, to knowledge; but sometimes our pursuit leads us away from our nicely configured answers. Sometimes it breaks our carefully constructed “houses” of belief.

We don’t lose our knowledge (our experiential connection to Truth), but Doubting teaches us that Truth is bigger than our personal beliefs. It even shows us that sometimes opposing perspectives both hold the same “knowledge” of Truth at their core.

Doubting what we believe in any area allows us to discover the “foreigner” perspective.

Doubt lets us understand those different than us, and hold our connection to Truth as real without dogmatically imposing our beliefs on everyone who believes differently.

Doubt helps us separate Truth (the real and absolute reality we have a living connection to) from belief (the things we passionately believe in that are limited by our own perspectives). 

Doubt is part of our nature, and when it creeps up from under the floorboards we are invited to embrace it. It will create tension within us at times, and it will break our belief systems. We may find ourselves holding beliefs that we once found completely false. This isn’t because we were “wrong” before and have the “right” answers now.

It’s because Truth is a person named Jesus. He is connected to you, and leading you into discovery of things beyond your current self that you never knew existed. He is constantly romancing you into deeper compassion, love, understanding, and oneness with Him and with one another (John 17).

Every step in the spiritual Journey of being Human is a step within this narrative, and even when your wholehearted doubt leads you away from your answers, or even from the structure of what you thought was religious faith, Jesus is still in every step, bringing you ever closer to Truth that fully satisfies.

I’m curious. Can you relate to these doubts? How has doubt defined your spiritual journey? How do you deal with your doubt? Let me know in the comments section below.

*****

To find hope in your doubt, click here.


15 thoughts on “I Don’t Believe in Jesus Christ II

    1. Arkenaten,
      I’m so sorry it took me so long to reply to you. I love this question, although it’s a pretty challenging one. I would say the point of being a Christian is to become the fullest expression of a human life possible. When you discover Jesus not just as a theory or a religion, but as a real and tangible friend, you enter into a state of being that it is impossible to even know existed until you encountered him.

      The best thing I can probably say to you is that only Jesus can really answer your question the way it deserves to be answered. So ask Him directly, and invite Him to show you the answer. He’s a living Person who happens to be God. He probably won’t show you the way you might have expectations for Him to, but if you ask honestly, I guarantee He’ll respond.

      Feel free to shoot me a comment using my Contact form and we will be sure to stay in touch. Thanks for asking!

      Karsten

  1. This is beautifully written! What an honest portrayal of the true nature of faith! In some of the darkest times of my life, this question of the place of doubt haunted my soul. I eventually came to see that doubt is part of worshipping the Invisible God-it’s why Jesus said that those who choose to believe and who do not see are blessed. Those who deny doubt are not being honest with themselves and leave room for a weak faith that conveniently goes away whenever it becomes opportune; when you fail to acknowledge that you cannot know if God is real, you ironically dismiss Him during moments of weakness. Great post, sir!

    1. Chris, I LOVE what you said about Jesus’ comment about those who are blessed for believing without seeing. You’re right. He is essentially saying we are blessed for believing even in the midst of our doubt. As you said, denying it isn’t righteous; it’s dishonest. Glad to have another Doubter. You are not alone my friend. 😉

    2. I love what you said here. Yeah, it’s interesting that the only way to “choose to believe” is to acknowledge that you have an alternative. Doubt almost has to exist in order to choose faith. They belong together. Keep joining the conversation my friend. I love your thoughts.

  2. I think most relate. Mine is just a very small seed, acknowledged but not much more than that, but there. I do a pretty good job of listening to both sides of a debate, and definitely understand where both ‘sides’ are coming from here too, which is why the seed exists. Most of me thinks if you have investigated both, perhaps your belief is more honest, maybe stronger maybe not, but at least more honest. I’ve seen a few Christians raised in faith fall away when those questions finally arise, so maybe it’s best to go through it and hopefully come out the other side stronger. I started on the other side, atheist, and grew into Christianity so my case was a little different. But I think asking questions is a good thing, but have noticed there are often two types of questioners. Some question to poke holes and try to disprove religion without any good intention, which I think is a waste of time and harmful. Asking questions to learn and seek truth though I think will generally lead to a firmer foundation, just need to be careful to ask the same question from many places and perspectives. I agree, there are many go to Christian answers to questions, and oftentimes I think that turns people away or gives the perception that Christians are dumb or blindly believe.

    PS, I think fellowship and asking tough questions and expressing any doubt to the right people helps me the most. That, and I think life is too miraculous for there to not be something more behind it. I believe in science, but I believe in the bible as well.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yeah, for those coming from atheism to faith there is definitely a different journey. Still, once in a religious system there are certain rules that you sort of just absorb by osmosis. I’ve found that in most religious communities one of those rules is there are a set of absolute truths that must not be doubted or questioned. If you doubt any of these absolutes, you don’t belong anymore.

      This is destructive, and it isn’t the nature of the God who told us to “seek and we will find.” Doubting and questioning is a form of seeking, and we are invited to do that in everything. Always doubting, always seeking, always growing.

      I think you bring up a REALLY good point when you talk about why we ask questions. If our heart is to rebel, then doubt just becomes a tool for rebellion. If our heart is to seek Truth, then our doubt becomes a tool for Truth.

  3. Can totally relate! Such dialogue will go a long way in not ostracizing “closet agnostics/atheist” , but rather reconciling their very real and rational doubts with a humble and earnest sense of faith. The us vs them mindset is imposed so easily and often times I think the ensuing judgement leads to doubtful people ( who are by no means lazy or non devout christians) fearing that they are “lukewarm christians” and will be “spat out” . Great article that really relates to many within the church community and will impress and help change the negative stigma between secular persons and evangelicals.

    1. I think we all have a closet agnostic hidden away somewhere within us. Whether it’s a militant Atheist, a die-hard Christian, or a Radical Muslim, we all have both believer and doubter inside of us. We just often work really hard to silence one or the other of those voices.

      I love what you’re saying about the Church too. It’s true. We think Doubt is a sinful form of “unbelief” when really it is an earnest desire to “seek truth with your whole heart.” Belief, faith, is a complex and living thing. It is often comprised of opposites. After all, how can you trust if you are already completely certain?

      Thank you for your comment Jake. I can’t wait for us to talk about my next post, which focuses in on how we can learn to doubt in community.

      Talk to you soon 🙂

      Karsten

  4. Awesome article mr kaczmar. I believe sharing this will help to not ostracize “closet agnostics or atheist” but comfort them and deter some from feeling like they are the “lukewarm” who will be “spat out” but rather are real people with real and rational doubts. I can relate forsure and starting a dialogue is beneficial more times then not. Much love .

  5. I entirely relate! Your experience of doubt and loss of what was and the discovery of a third way resonates deeply. Thank you so much for writing and gifting me with a “me too” moment.

    Grateful,
    Cassie

    1. It’s not an easy journey is it? I think a lot of us, maybe all of us, feel this struggle to a degree. Most of us have never even heard there is hope to resolve this conflict. Thank you for your comment!
      Hoping with you,
      Karsten

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