by C Michael PattonOctober 23rd, 2012 24 Comments
I just talked to my wife on the phone about forty-five minutes ago. Everything seemed fine. She was a little distracted and wanted to get off the phone for some reason at the end. She did not tell me why. It was an abrupt ending.
As many of you know, my marriage to Kristie has not been the “ideal” marriage by any means. For the last fifteen years, we have had many more downs than ups. We both believe we could be happier, we just have never figured out the formula to make this happen. I suppose we have as many scars as just about any couple I have ever known that has made it this long. Some people who are close to us wonder how it is we are still together. I often wonder the same. Let’s put it this way: Dennis Rainey is not going to call us to host a Family Life Conference anytime soon (which, by the way, are wonderful!)
Human nature, being as it is, yearns for self-indulgence. We default to making ourselves happy. We always choose according to the greatest desire of the moment and if we have not been primed for battle prior to encountering certain moments, the greatest desires can lead to the greatest destruction. Whether it is the drug we need to pick ourselves up, the stroking we need to feed our ego, or the sex we need to feel loved, these greatest desires leave lives in ruins.
Someone may ask me, “Michael, do you think your wife is having an affair?” For fifteen years my answer is the exact same. With full and certain confidence, I say “Absolutely not!” “But how can you be so sure?” someone responds. ”As you said, you know human nature. You know our tendencies and needs. You know how sinful we are. Your marriage, according to your own admission, could be much better. Besides that, you are out of town and you just talked to your wife and she said that she had to go without explanation. Maybe she is with another guy. You need to quit being so naive. Many people have been surprised by an affair. You don’t want to let this sneak up on you. My point is that your ‘certain confidence’ needs to turn to doubt and you need to adjust your thoughts and faith in your wife accordingly. I am just being the one who thinks deeply. You are being naive and blind to the reality that your wife might be having an affair.”
No, my wife is not having an affair. I live according to this confidence. Yes, we may have our problems, and yes, we are sinners. But I say again with certain confidence that my wife is not having an affair. You see, while we have our issues and wounds aplenty, we do love each other deeply and we would not do that to each other.
Okay, push my back against a wall and bring up what could happen. Force me into an epistemological game and I will admit that I am not absolutely certain she is not having an affair. I am not all-knowing and never will be. I can make mistakes and be naive. I can also read all kinds of things into my marriage and Kristie’s comings and goings that could further evidence that something fishy is going on. She could do the same to me. And you know what? You could do the same with your spouse and vice versa. We could all live according to unwarranted suggestion. We could all live according to our doubts. I could begin to check the mileage on her car. Call her wherever she goes. Track her iPhone every time I call her to see if there is consistency in where she says she is and where she actually is. I could check her Facebook every day. I could monitor her email, phone calls, voice mail, and smile as she encounters other fellows. I could probably even hire a private detective to follow her around. I could adjust my entire life and thoughts and redirect them according to what could be.
But do you know what this would amount to? Insanity. You think my marriage is hard now, just wait until I started living according to my uncertainty. No. I will not. There is no sane reason, there is no warranted cause, there is no suggestion that my wife is cheating on me. Therefore, I say with qualified certainty that my wife is, has always been, and will always be a faithful wife. I refuse to live according to my doubts, even though, when my back is pushed against a wall, I could be wrong.
I could be wrong about Christianity. I could be wrong about the way I interpret the historical evidence for the resurrection. I could be wrong about God’s involvement with and love for mankind. I could be wrong about the inspiration of Scripture. I could be wrong about just about everything I believe. Does this mean I have doubts about my faith? Yes…so long as we qualify this “yes” a great deal. You see, I don’t let the doubt which says “I could be wrong” paralyze my faith or my marriage. Why? Because in both cases it is unwarranted.
Today, many atheists are not unlike the person who whispers over the shoulder of a husband all the “what ifs” about his marriage. No matter how secure you think you are in any area of life, there are always “what ifs.”. There are always qualified doubts and uncertainties. But this does not make our beliefs unwarranted or even unmandated. The atheists say, yeah, but what if they stole the body? What if the disciples were delusional? What if Jesus never existed? Then they push Christians to live according to these “uncertainties.” Of course we could be wrong about our beliefs, but there is no rational reason to live this life according to the “what ifs.”
Many of you are paralyzed by doubt in your Christian faith. The ”what ifs” are terrifying you. Atheists often make is sound as if doubts are more reasonable to live by than those beliefs for which you have justified reason to hold. More than that, they call it “free thinking!” Finally, you are free to live according to unwarranted doubts that we will supply! This is more like a prison. You are left checking the odometer of your faith every night, your GPS is positioned on God, and you question God’s actions at every turn. Your live according to your doubts in the evidence rather than the evidence itself. And some would call this rational. I think it is insanity. But somehow it works. Somehow unwarranted doubts are able to paralyzes believers’ marriage to God and cause them to accuse him of infidelity at every turn.
I love my wife and will continue to believe in her. I love my God and will continue to believe in him. In both cases, I am making the most rational and “free thinking” decision I can make. A closed mind is one that lives according to doubts while ignoring the obvious.
- Misinterpreting God? An Example of the Often Confusing Voice of Experience
- All the Right Beliefs for all the Wrong Reasons
- Learning to Live with Your Doubts
- Mike Licona on Christian Doubt
- The Problem with Apologetics