Because of doubt I choose to believe

Because of doubt I choose to believe

Today I received a parking infringement notice. I was not happy!

I was sure the sign indicated four-hour free parking. In fact, I had checked the sign after I had parked to assure myself that this was so. Then, on returning to the car a couple of hours later, when there was a ticket under my windscreen wiper, I couldn’t believe it.

I went and checked the sign again and discovered that somehow the word “ticket” had appeared. “There must have been a conspiracy; someone changed the signs when I was at the meeting.”

Of course that was not true. For whatever reason, my brain just did not register what the sign said — maybe because I was running late or maybe I had just got it into my head that this was not metered parking.

If the evidence had not been before my eyes I would have been convinced that the parking officer had made a mistake and I believe I would have been willing to swear in court that I had parked in a free parking zone limited to four hours.

A little thing like this can give my confidence a knock.

Doubt in myself begins to knock at the door. Do I fail to read the signs of life accurately?

I have many experiences that I attribute to the presence of God in my life but maybe, as the atheists claim, I simply see what I want to see; I have an imaginary friend, I read the signs as I want to see them but fail to see the truth.

Recently Paula and I attended an event at United Theological College in which Scott Stephens (editor of ABC Religion Online) engaged in conversation with the eminent European theologian Professor Tomás Halik. Professor Halik was secretly ordained and served as a priest in the underground church during the communist era in Czechoslovakia.

The discussion was around faith, doubt and atheism in today’s world.

What Professor Halik had to say struck a chord with me. He reminded me that doubt is essential in coming to faith and, furthermore, it is not strong proofs, well-constructed arguments or apologetics that will help us engage in any meaningful way with atheists but rather by getting in touch with the atheist within ourselves.

In my imagination I could see that atheist thought as the old jacket I can’t quite bring myself to throw out hanging hidden in the closet.

Ultimately we proclaim “I believe” not based on conclusive concrete evidence but because the alternative is no more, maybe less, credible or satisfying than the atheist’s alternative. The choice for or against God, whatever it may be, is a matter of faith.

At the moment I am reading a book by Peter Hitchens, the brother of Christopher Hitchens the well known atheist activist and writer. The subtitle of the book is “How atheism led me to God”.

For all of us our doubts, our atheism, tattooed in a secret place of our souls, has the capacity to lead us to God.

This is part of our humanity. Even the one we know as the Christ, the Son of God, Messiah, even he, Jesus, cried out on the cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” This cry means that if God has forsaken him, if God is not there for Jesus, then there is no God.

In the ultimate moment of dereliction, a moment of doubt, could Jesus really believe that this God that he knew so intimately, “Abba” father — could this God really abandon him?

Jesus exclamation of doubt, quoting the first verse of Psalm 22, points to the declaration of faith that ends the psalm even in a place where God appears to be absent. That is faith! In the face of doubt we choose God.

Doubt is not reserved for believers in God; it is also the case that atheists have doubts, and having identified with their atheism and having acknowledged what they say has some credibility, it may be that we are able to stir the sleeping or hidden believer hanging in their closet.

Yes, I misread the parking sign and it could be that I am misreading other “signs” but I do not think so.

I choose to believe and I experience God.

Niall Reid

 

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