The Hideous Rigors of Christian Salvation Doubt
But going by the bravado which apologists present in their debate performances and the tone of unflinching certainty they never fail to project in their writings, one might never suspect that, in the private corners of their minds, they are in fact shivering frenetically in a chilly, endless winter of persisting doubt. The tough exterior of certitude and sureness might in fact be nothing more than a tenuously thin shell concealing a frightened hollowness that is all that is left behind once the Christian devotional program has done its task in getting the believer to reject himself, surrender his virtue, and eviscerate his own character.
Outwardly, the believer likes to posture himself as a pious soldier fighting the good fight of good vs. evil (in spite of teachings which make his god ultimately responsible for evil and even on morally cozy terms with evil), while inwardly the believer’s mind is a battlefield in which an endless war is waged, a war between salvation assurance and salvation doubt. Here the believer is trapped in an endless tug-of-war between doubt-free assurance in the gospel and personal salvation on the one hand, and the terrifying possibility, entirely real in the believer’s mind, that he may in fact not be saved, but in fact chief among those who have been damned for all eternity, a possibility which no believer can reliably rule out completely. Given its psychologically mutilating effects, this never-ending tug-of-war continually rips the believer into splinters that are barely recognizable as belonging to a real human.
Christian doubt is very much like Christian depression: the believer wrestles with it throughout the duration of his commitment to Christianity, but he tends to hide it from the world with a façade of pious calm that gives airs of steadfast spiritual security, like a thought-criminal who has devised effective ways of concealing his private thoughts from the prying eyes of the Thought Police, who could be anyone in the fold. If anyone finds out, they might be outed as an imposter, a closet “unbeliever,” a counterfeit who actually “hates God.”
Christian elders who minister to their flocks on the topic of doubt will predictably instruct them in clever ways of using the doubt that enthralls them to “draw closer to God.” And if any discussion about why one is experiencing doubts, the mere presence of doubt is very often taken as a sign that “sin” is still active in the believer’s life, thus ebbing against and undermining his sense of spiritual security.
This is to say, a believer is never to allow himself to consider the possibility that he suffers from persisting doubts because none of what he’s trying so desperately to believe is at all true. And herein, ironic as it may be, the perpetual teeter-tottering between salvation assurance and salvation doubt is itself assured.
And even though there have been throughout the history of religion many stories of famous pious doubters, I’ve never encountered any comparable concerns involving doubt when it comes to Objectivism. In fact, since I adopted Objectivism in the early 1990s, I’ve never experienced anything remotely resembling the incapacitating doubt struggles that believers routinely report and wrestle with. Nor do Objectivists need to meet every Sunday to try to convince themselves that there is a reality, that the objects of our conscious activity exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity, that wishing doesn’t make it so, that reason is the proper epistemological standard of knowledge, that values are inherently selfish in nature, that the proper social structure for human beings is one predicated on the concept of individual rights, that each individual has a right to exist for his own sake, and so on.
There are many reasons for this. For one, Objectivism’s truths are in fact true, and they are accessible by means of reason, a faculty which all normal adults possess and can exercise if they choose. Also, Objectivists do not pretend that truth is dispensed to human beings from a supernatural source by an invisible magic being whose wishes control reality, nor do Objectivists fear that evil spirits are trying to rob them of anything or deceive them. Moreover, Objectivism does not hold man’s mind hostage to that which is merely imaginary – Objectivism has no use for hostages to begin with! Lastly, Objectivism is all about the individual, not the group, and all about living this life that we know we have, not about getting to some fantasized alternative to life.
With full confidence Objectivists observe and recognize facts intellectually and govern their lives accordingly, while Christians wrangle with their “worldview presuppositions” interminably, even hopelessly.
I suppose, if I may be able to project a bit here (and, having been a Christian myself, I have some firsthand experience on this to draw from), if my worldview were causing me to wrestle perpetually with fundamental issues that were so elusive to my ability to achieve certainty that I was racked with painful, endlessly reverberating doubts, I might very well become very envious, even resentful, of those whose understanding of the world did not cause them such internal psychological turmoil. Even worse, I might focus my burgeoning ire on them personally, allowing my resentment to distill into obsessive hate, which in turn may cause me, for example, to go to social gatherings and try to get into people’s faces (cf. Dustin Segers) or post an average of 13 blog entries per day stewing in negativity and sniping at “apostates” for all the defects I might imagine them having.
Against this, I’m happy to report, my worldview does not induce such divisionary resentment. I know on the one hand what it’s like to be a Christian, to be swallowed up by a cult, to writhe in pain from salvation doubt, to exist in a private, inescapable panic, and, on the other, what it’s like to have a rational understanding of the world, to marvel at discovery as such, to relish existence, to enjoy fully being me, to love my life as I have created it for myself. And I know that what I have achieved in my life since leaving Christianity far, far behind, and the non-contradictory joy that I have enjoyed since, are not possible on Christianity’s terms.
And this enjoyment of my life that I have earned for myself is not something that has been given to me by means of some “divine revelation” from a god which I can only imagine. It’s something that I’ve earned, and through my adult years I have learned that something that I have earned has value unlike anything that is “freely given” to an individual. A lunch that I buy for myself is in fact more enjoyable than any that I might get “for free” at a soup kitchen. The same is the case with all values that I enjoy.
But the believer is to suckle his soul on the unearned, to pretend that he can spiritually nourish himself at the imaginary teat of a supernatural wet nurse, even if it requires utter self-deception. Consider the example of John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of Methodism. In a journal entry dating from March 1738 when he was wrestling with severe doubts, Wesley, himself an advocate of Arminianism, wrote:
Immediately it struck into my mind, “Leave off preaching. How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?” I asked Bohler whether he thought I should leave it off or not. He answered, “By no means.” I asked, “But what can I preach?” He said, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”
Note how a self-deception that would instantaneously be identified as illegitimate in any other setting was freely accepted by these otherwise highly intelligent and decent men. How beleaguered one’s thought processes must be to do such a thing!
In a video titled Factual Doubt, Christian apologist Gary Habermas defines “religious doubt” as (11:45-11:56):
uncertainty regarding God, or our relationship to Him.
I don’t know any malady that is more common among Christians than doubt. You know why? Because everybody asks questions at some time.
What’s noteworthy in all this is his effort to discuss a gravely important issue while simultaneously trying to downplay its importance: on the one hand, salvation doubt will reverberate violently throughout the believer’s entire psychology, and yet it’s simply the result of a bunch of harmless questions.
Habermas states openly that he went through a period of ten years (“consecutively”) of doubt, and suffered doubt on occasions after this. Ten years straight! And for what? But how can this be? How can any Christian doubt even for one second, let alone years on end, if their “truths” are “revealed” to them by the creator of the entire universe? Christians routinely tell us that everyone knows that the Christian god is real, and they cite Romans 1 to support this, which, they say, cannot fail to be true. They claim to have it straight from their god’s proverbial mouth, that the truths they espouse have been “revealed to in such a way that they can be certain,” and they claim that these same truths have also been revealed to those who are outside the Christian faith – such as evil atheists like me (indeed, I’m out plotting all kinds of misdeeds as I write this – like brushing my teeth, not forgetting my lunch, getting to work on time, and other exploits of indulgent self-interest).
But in fact, as we explore this topic deeper, a hidden truth – a truth which believers themselves would prefer to remain concealed – comes to the surface. Doubt among Christians really isn’t all that rare. In fact, it’s a huge problem! We can even say, it comes with the territory.
Speaking of doubt and how it generally affects believers, Habermas states (4:12 – 4:38):
There is possibly no subject in Christianity, or very few anyway, where there’s more twists and turns in a labyrinth, and it’s not likely that you’re gonna get out unless it’s just by God’s grace. If you try to work your way through this deal, because I can’t think of a subject where most of common information is incorrect.
Habermas divides doubt into three “species,” presumably denoting what gives rise to the doubt or its nature given what motivates it. They are factual doubt, emotional doubt, and volitional doubt. He argues that doubt usually begins with a question about some factual point, thus giving rise to “factual doubt,” but since this naturally has emotional ramifications, an “emotional doubt” thus arises, and at the stage of “volitional doubt,” the believer essentially says, “God, you stay in your half of the universe, and I’ll stay in mine.”
Curiously, Habermas says little about what specifically it is that the believer who suffers persistent doubt, is actually doubting. Believers might pretend not to know what a Christian could possibly doubt, but it’s not hard to figure out.
As we have already seen, the worst kind of doubt that a believer can suffer is not the existence of the Christian god, but the assurance of his own salvation. A person who believes that the jealous, wrathful and vindictive god of Christianity is real and yet has any doubt that he has been spiritually redeemed, will be a psychological wreck, petrified by fear and paralyzed by psychological immobility.
The central importance of doubt in the believer’s mental life should not be under-estimated. The experience of salvation doubt in the mind of the believer necessarily plays out in the context of the holy terror which the biblical narrative necessarily inculcates in the believer’s mind. Salvation doubt coupled with fear of the supernatural is a terrifying combination! But this terrifying combination is vital to Christianity’s hold on the believer’s mind.
In his famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), a Calvinist himself, described a horrific picture of terror that could only make a believer’s salvation doubts all the more bitter and unendurable:
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet 'tis nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment; 'tis to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was [sic] suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep: and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up; there is no other reason to be given why you han't [sic] gone to hell since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship: yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you don't this very moment drop down into hell.
Raging behind all this soul-searing fear-mongering and its cause for deep-seated doubt, is the premise of unearned guilt which all believers are to accept as their spiritual starting point. This holy trinity of the Christian devotional program – fear, guilt, and doubt – each unquenchable in its own right and immersed in biblically induced imagination, works to turn the screws on the believer’s psychology ever tighter as he seeks in desperation for a way out of the labyrinth of horrors that is bible-authentic devotion. The guilt is what tells the believer why he should fear, and the doubt seals both in placed, giving them a fixity that his faith will never have. The labyrinth in which he finds himself trapped is an end in itself.
To understand how biblical teaching manipulates and exploits the believer’s psychological vulnerabilities that fantastical fear and unearned guilt create in his mind, it is important to observe the jumble of mixed messages that serve to keep the believer off-balance and in a state of perpetual doubt. The biblical marinade of mixed messages is key to Christianity’s staying power. These mixed messages can be found both in the bible as well as in the preaching of today’s ministerial elites. Their purpose is to keep the believer straddling the no-man’s land between salvation assurance and salvation doubt, making on the one hand salvation seem as easy as accepting a “free gift,” and on the other so elusive as to never be possessed with full assurance. And the reason for this is simple: so long as the believer suspects that his salvation is in question (no matter what assurance he projects to the world around him), he will find it necessary to redouble his focus on devotion.
Consider for example, Romans 10:9-10 offers the following formula for salvation – a sort of incantation invoking the resurrection:
if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
In Mt. 7:21-23, for instance, straight from the Sermon on the Mount, the following words are put into Jesus’ mouth:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
The biblical worldview abhors any whiff smacking of human pride and continually presents impenetrable obstacles to any sense of fulfillment resulting from personal accomplishment. It is not a worldview which celebrates human achievement, but rather delights in cutting man’s spirit down to barely a stump. The underlying yet deafening message that “you’re still not good enough” is loud and clear and naggingly pokes the believer into remembering that he still has yet to make it through the Pearly Gates, and nothing else really matters. This is no accident, for “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mk. 4:19), and the believer is to “lay not up for [himself] treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal,” but instead to lay them up “in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”(Mt. 6:19-21). It is surely not possible for a man to ignore “the cares of this world,” nor is it rational to forego long-term planning and strategize one’s abilities to maximize his wealth-creating potential, but the Christian worldview teaches that these “cares of the world” and any focus on “treasures” will serve as impediments to his salvation. In just this way, the bible teases the believer with the haunting, soul-disfiguring discord trapping him between salvation assurance and salvation doubt.
Cohen asks appositely (Op. cit., p. 20):
If salvation is not available to all, is salvation doubt a necessary consequence of deep Bible knowledge, such as Edwards and Wesley possessed? What does the Bible have to say about indicators of salvation? It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the Bible gives only this, for a working definition, as a criterion observable or distinguishable by the believer: “…he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” [Mt. 24:13] The point that a true saint of the church can be known only when the entire span of his life is known is made numerous times in the New Testament.* Apparently one cannot measure a saint until he is dead. Examples in the early church of individuals who wanted to be Christians, but turned out in the long run to lack the right stuff, include Judas, Ananias, Sapphira and Simon the Sorcerer; in the later church period, whole ostensible churches, or even the majority of them, outwardly professed the faith but were condemned.**
(** Cohen cite these passages: Mt. 7:21-23; 8:11-12; Lk. 22:3 ff. (Judas); Acts 5:1-11 (Ananias and Sapphira); 8:9-24 (Simon the Sorcerer); 2 Cor. 11:13-15, 26; Phil. 1:15, 17-18; 1 John 2:19, and Rev., chaps. 2 and 3, generally.)
I’m reminded of the peculiar case of Michael Sudduth. Sudduth, who is a highly credentialed academe (D.Phil. from Oxford University), was a beloved darling on James Anderson’s long defunct Van Til List (where his signature was “Sudduth of Windsor”), a celebrated authority on presuppositionalism, even serving as a consultant for an early version of Anderson’s paper If Knowledge Then God. But in spite of Jesus’ unrivaled good shepherding and loving care for his flock, the Lord allowed Sudduth to wander off the reservation as he renounced his Christian faith and embraced Gaudiya Vaishnavism (for some background, see here).
How could this be? How could someone so knowledgeable of Christianity, so revered for his faith, so adored for his pious valor, suddenly depart from the faith that made him great in preference for what Christians have for millennia considered a backwater form of pagan idolatry? What are the chances that Sudduth will return to the faith, have his salvation restored (supposing he was ever saved in the first place!), and redeemed in the sight of the Lord? Indeed, doesn’t Mt. 24:13 very strongly suggest that salvation – as something not fully assured until one has endured until the end – reduces essentially to a probabilistic affair?
The believer is told that the “first commandment” is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mk. 12:30). But what’s missing here? What’s missing is any sense of measurability: there’s no way for the believer to determine whether or not he truly does “love the Lord” with all his heart, with all his soul, wit all his mind, for he has no way to measure these things. And without being able to measure these thingw, the “greatest commandment” simultaneously becomes empty of meaning while hanging over the believer like a dark scourge: “Am I truly loving the Lord with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, all my strength?” It would be very easy for any human being to fall short of the totality of devotion demanded here, and impossible to determine reliably that it has been fully met. The believer can claim it, but he can also be pretending to himself, just as Wesley determined to pretend to himself.
When you bake a cake, you follow a recipe. The recipe tells you how much flour you’ll need, how much sugar, how many eggs, how much water and milk, etc. Without these measurements, your cake might turn out to be an inedible brick or a gooey splotch. But if you have these measurements and prepare your cake accordingly, you’ll bake a delicious cake. Your efforts will be successful. Measurement is necessary for success. But the bible’s own salvation formula doesn’t even have what cake recipes the world over have by default. Christianity delivers a formula for failure if there ever were one!
The lack of anything other than “enduring to the end” as something approaching even a semblance of an objective measure of one’s salvation, plays havoc on a mind steeped in the unbearable panic of holy terror grounded in unearned guilt. When he was first lured into Christian devotion, the believer was told that salvation was a “free gift,” that he didn’t need to do anything to earn it (since it cannot be earned – he is to accept the unearned), that the “yoke is easy” and the “burden is light” (Mt. 11:30). This is what is told to him to get him into the door of the labyrinth. But as he crawls further in, he finds himself sliding into a bottomless chasm of darkness, much like the aspiring puppeteer Craig Schwartz is flushed down a moistened tube and dumped into John Malkovich’s mind.
Once inside, the believer finds that salvation is not so easy after all. On the contrary, he is confronted with verse after verse driving home the point that salvation is indeed a most elusive prize. Not only must he “endure to the end,” faith requires tireless mental effort, psychic energy, concentration, determination, “longsuffering,” even persecution (which he may need to bring upon himself if “the world” is not offering it up voluntarily). In contrast to those verses which promise him that he’s being looked after by the creator of the universe, he sometimes gets the impression that he’s at it all by himself. For example, he is told to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) – hardly encouraging words for someone who’s been told that his salvation was sealed before the beginning of creation itself (cf. Rom. 8:29).
Consider the following verses – note carefully the use of terms denoting work, love and peace:
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. (Gal. 5:6)
Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thess. 5:5-9)
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father(I Thess. 1:3)
Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thess. 1:11-12)
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen. (Eph. 6:23-24)
Even though we are not told what it is, besides steeping himself in the Word, that the believer is supposed to do, we are duly notified that it is something effortful, labored, difficult and adverse… Apparently “faith” entails a constant outpouring of energy, and whatever “peace” and “joy” there are to it do not necessarily bring respite from the drudgery of it. Obsessive conscious concentration, resembling nothing so much as insomnia, is lauded, and mental relaxation, flight of fantasy, and anything at all resembling ecstasy are devalued and negatively characterized. The prescribed preoccupations for consciousness are deemed “light” and all else, benighted debauchery. Let our guard down, and that may be just the moment when Christ returns like a “thief in the night,” to whisk you away to Hell!
Even the most empty-sounding verses can be “expounded” in ways to tease with the believer’s restless doubts. Consider for example Romans 1:17:
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
In explaining what this verse is supposed to mean in terms of salvation assurance, Christian Tim Conway tells a small gathering the following (0:07 – 2:48):
The righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, the just shall live by faith. In other words, it is… This is key. From faith to faith means, contrary to what many are saying today, if you do not continue believing in acceptance with God based on a righteousness not your own, you must believe this gospel, you must believe in this righteousness of God, not just once. It’s… a lot of people have this idea, ‘Oh, I believed, I did… I believed, I did that, I believed in Christ, I took care of that.’ But that’s not what the Scripture says. The Scripture says we live on this gospel from day to day. In other words, if you’ve already been saved on this gospel, you need to live today and tomorrow on it as well. You know one of the problems we’ve been having with these people that have all of sudden been doubting their salvation, wondering whether they’re in, whether they’re out, it’s because they’re not feeding on this truth day by day. As much as it’s a reality that regeneration produces a transformed life, and it is, and we need to emphasize those texts, because there needs to be transformation. But I’ll tell you this, if the person who has trusted in Christ suddenly gets bogged back down by the law, and by their performance, they’re gonna suddenly find themselves in all sorts of trouble. We have to live on the gospel day by day. You could go to the book of First John, and you could look at all it says about the realities of true Christianity, and a myriad of other places. You can go to Romans 6, and you can go to Romans 7 and Romans 8, you can go to Matthew 7. You look at all these characteristics over and over and over and over again that are set forth as to what true Christianity is. But I’ll tell you this, as you go and look at them, you need to not be drifting away from the cross. We need to feed on the reality of an imputed righteousness from faith to faith. You need to live on it today and tomorrow, that’s why we need to go back to the cross, again and again, to the life of Christ, to the perfect righteousness earned by Christ.
Notice also that Conway does what the apostle Paul did in his letters (cf. II Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-7), and that is to drive a division between what he (Conway) is preaching and what other, unnamed evangelists are preaching, thus bringing back to his audience’s conscious mind that there are wrong paths to take here. This not only acknowledges that there are different interpretations of the issues involved in the present matter, but that one interpretation (Conway’s) is authoritative while the others are deceptive or worse.
But the broader point which Conway says is “key” here, is that the believing that warrants biblical approval is not a one-time acceptance of the Christian message. Rather, it requires constant re-affirmation, re-dedication, re-invigorating, so much so that it must consume one’s life as an obsessive pre-occupation. Because, if you don’t do it enough, it won’t be enough, and you may be in danger of everlasting hellfire. In Christianity, you've entered the ultimate Roach Motel of worldviews.
Consider the reaction that one might elicit from a group of conservative Christians if he were to say, “Okay, I believe it all. I know now that I am saved. I’ll go about my business now.” As he scoots away, the Christians in his midst would be outraged. No one is to be allowed to have such faith, for he has not yet endured to the end.
But later in his little speech, Conway gives the impression, contrary to having to continually “go back to the cross” – i.e., back to where payment for sin was made in order to continually kindle its redemptive effect, that the work done on the cross was in fact a one-time deal. He states (6:08 – 6:50):
Look, if Christ once pays for all your sin… Away with this Catholic mentality that only my past sins have been forgiven! Now I’ve somehow gotta get the future ones paid as I’m committing them. That’s garbage. That’s Catholic heresy. Christ atones on that cross. He said it’s finished. It means all my sin, once and forever, I’m justified. That means I am declared righteous. I am an ungodly person declared righteous. Not… not based on my performance. I am declared righteous. And the reality is, on my worst day, I’m still declared righteous.
Believers desperately want the psychological liberation of salvation assurance promised in the bible, but end up going through their days in a mind-numbing haze of salvation doubt which the bible actually delivers right on schedule. (Perhaps this is why Sye Ten Bruggencate doesn’t want to do his “bible study” with non-believers – is he afraid that they’ll learn something he doesn’t want them to know?)
It is instructive to keep all the foregoing points in mind when considering a common presuppositionalist assertion stemming from their use of Romans 1, which, according to their interpretation, teaches that all men automatically know the Christian god. And yet, the dirty little secret is that gung-ho Christians themselves are so racked with cringing doubt that their minds are turning in flame-broiled knots over the fear that they very well might be found among those whom Jesus “never knew” in spite of their deliriously strenuous efforts to fulfill their devotional quota (cf. Mt. 7:21-23).
Thus it is most ironic when Greg Bahnsen, who devoted his master’s thesis to a study of “self-deception,” writes (Always Ready, p. 38):
Although he outwardly and vehemently denies the truth of God, no unbeliever is inwardly and sincerely devoid of a knowledge of God.
And notice something else here. Typically, when interacting with non-believers, Christian apologists do not come out and admit their private doubts before non-believers. This would only undermine the tough exterior of rock-hard confidence that they want to erect in the minds of non-believers. This is all a deliberately deceptive façade camouflaging an inner picture of mental housekeeping that is, to put it mildly, not quite so rosy after all. By contrast, amongst themselves, believers often begin to discuss the problem of salvation doubt because their internal social hierarchy provides a natural opportunity for such things to be openly discussed. A pastor will often get questions from members of his flock who are suffering from persisting doubts. Usually the doubts have been festering for months if not longer before finally, as a last resort, they bring the matter to leadership for counsel. The believer – ironically doubting what he’s expected to believe – is compelled by holy terror to ensure that he really does believe something he’ll never really believe. This is why they have to continually go to church and participate in religious services on a regular basis, in order to reinforce something they doubt and yet, at the same time, claim that all men already automatically know. How often have believers been instructed in a manner similar to the advice given to Edwards, that they should pray until they believe, and then pray because they believe?
Contrast all this with the sober approach of rational philosophy. If you discover a fact and validate it as a fact, you subsume it into the context of your knowledge and integrate it with any relevant judgments, decisions and actions which might be affected by it. Rational philosophy does not require that one become obsessive in re-affirming it, as some kind of totemic object of worship. A chemist, for example, learns that the atomic number of carbon is six, and he utilizes this information when and where it applies; he does not need to continue re-affirming it into his mind until it finally “sinks in,” which never fully happens in the case of Christianity’s articles of faith. But that’s because genuine truths are in fact not articles of faith, but facts that have been identified and integrated in a rational manner.
If you’re not a Christian, be glad these aren’t your problems. If you are a Christian, it’s time to come to come out of the labyrinth.
by Dawson Bethrick