A Reason for Doubt: Why Do Some Experience God But Not Others?

Jason Micheli —  October 1, 2013 — 2 Comments

Skeptical BelieverThis weekend we’re kicking off a new sermon series, The Skeptical Believer: Making Peace with Your Inner Atheist.

Last week I solicited best-shot arguments for why we should NOT believe.

I’ll give a free copy of Daniel Taylor’s The Skeptical Believer to what I think is the best argument for doubt/disbelief…there’s still time. Lemme know.

I have received a lot of responses so far, some predictable, some ancient and intractable and others truly, profoundly (dare I say…Christianly?) moral.

Here’s an argument that echoes an experience I had in my first theology class at UVA. It was a small class and our TA had been slicing and dicing Thomas Aquinas’ proof for the existence of God on the chalkboard when a classmate spoke up, like he was talking to himself:

“That all makes sense, logically, but why is it that some people have an actual experience of God but I never have?”

A reader of the blog put a similar point this way:

“I’ve never had an experience that’s even remotely close to anything described by other believers….no miracles, no healings, no “encounters with the risen Christ,” etc. All I’ve had is the vague sense of rightness in the world (this world screams “I love you”) while walking through the woods while the sun is going down. Stuff like that.

Without an experience of God of any kind, how can I believe on the same level that others do?

And why would I be expected to? And why would the God who created the human brain reward me for essentially silencing it?”

It’s a good rebuttal, if not of God then definitely how religious people so often speak of God. If there is a God, then why is it that so many haven’t experienced God’s presence or reality? And why have others?

Does the fact that so many people never experience God for themselves ‘personally’ call those people into question? Or God?

Is it more likely that religious people who claim to have experienced God are actually deluding themselves? Attaching the ‘G’ word to their own psychological experience?

Or does God simply keep his people, actively or passively, from experiencing him?

And thus keep people from believing in him?

And if so, even if God is real is such a God worth believing worshipping?

I suppose you could say its’ their fault, that such people have allowed their doubt or cynicism or rationalism or apathy to close them off to the possibility or presence of God (and I’m sure in some cases that’s exactly the problem).

But then isn’t that not a little like blaming the victim? Is big enough to take the blame?

Jason Micheli


2 responses to A Reason for Doubt: Why Do Some Experience God But Not Others?

  1. Bob Oelschlager October 1, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    When I find myself in the worst throes of doubt, a great antidote has always been Pascal’s Wager. It’s just enough to get me over the hump to pray, to volunteer, to go to church, to try to open my heart to the Holy Spirit.

  2. I’ve found that Pascal’s Wager is like sugar: a catalyst, but the wrong kind of catalyst. It just gets my brain driving in the cul de sac of insanity again:
    1. If there is an afterlife, how does one experience the positive aspect?
    2. By accepting Jesus as their personal savior….
    3. What does that mean?
    4. Taking him as Lord of your life…..
    5. How do I do that?
    6. Say this prayer? Tell him? Reiterate something you’ve done millions of times?
    7. And while I’m thinking about this, what about that stuff in Matthew 25 about judgment by works? Is it possible that Pascal’s wager is predicated on a foundationally flawed theological system that is as far away from 1st Century views of the afterlife as the east is from the west?
    8. And if the church is full of people who have come to faith based on a flawed theological system….is the church really full of Christians at all? Is anything really happening there besides cultural norms and sheep-like conformity?
    9. And if learned people with PhDs are propagating that flawed theological system, that means that even the educated and intelligent are conforming sheep-like to something they value based on upbringing and cultural acceptance….
    10. And if the people who question this flawed system are labeled as dangerous heretics by a majority of leaders in within that system, what chance does change have?
    11. So even if there is a “1st Century Church” of authenticity out there to be had, the odds of us actually acheiving anything close in the 21st century are astronomically small and resisted on every front….
    12. So what’s the damn point of even worrying about this stuff? If there is a heaven and a hell, everything’s too goddamned confusing to even decipher which is which and how one ends up there. And if it’s that confusing to a reasonably intelligent person like myself, then it has to be confusing to people who are more educated and intelligent than me. And if the most intelligent being in the universe has created a system that rewards idiocy and punishes the most basic use of the evolving human brain….we’re right back at the basic question: Why believe in a God who tries so hard to hide from you?

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