***Sandra and Maureen are taking a week off from blogging fun. They’ll be back to their usual schedule next week. In the meantime, please enjoy this guest post by RTB’s Ministry Advancement Director Hannah Palpant.***
I had never felt this depth of despair. It seemed impossible to reconcile what the Bible presented with the religious and cultural injustices going on in the world around me. The questions and challenges that brought me to this severe crisis of faith were paralyzing, and I could no longer proclaim the faith with a clear conscience—not without answers.
My husband and I were drawn to the ministry of Reasons To Believe after attending a lecture by Dr. Hugh Ross at Azusa Pacific University, where my husband was working at the time. We were ecstatic to find an organization that welcomed questions—we had many—and addressed challenges without fear. This approach provided a solid foundation to begin rebuilding a shattered faith.
I began working for RTB in 2003, and I soon became confident of the answers to my science questions, which helped me feel free to pursue answers to more questions. Meanwhile, my husband had discarded his faith. I felt so alone. And I found it increasingly difficult to encourage him, knowing he needed to find answers for himself as I did.
A great mentor of mine once told me, “Sometimes one has to become an agnostic to relearn who God really is.” We needed time to deconstruct the cultural faith we knew and relearn who God is. After a period of focused study abroad and sharing daily life with an international community of Christian truth-seekers, I knew I wanted to be back at Reasons To Believe, a ministry whose work not only points to the evidence of God’s work in the world but also invites others to wrestle with questions for themselves. (For example, Dr. Hugh Ross’ book Why the Universe Is the Way It Is explores some of life’s “big questions” about the universe and humanity’s place in it.)
During my crisis of doubt and despair, I feared sharing my fragile faith. But now I love to engage with people who are currently on that journey through uncertainty. I also enjoy celebrating with those who found freedom when they were able to connect their faith with science and the world around them. It’s a joy to come alongside others in sharing this freedom and hope.
I also discovered that many other Christians and non-Christians similarly seek answers to difficult questions. In fact, my cousin Andrea Palpant Dilley, who just wrote a book on her own journey, Faith and Other Flat Tires, had struggled, just as I had, with issues of the church and the problem of evil. Sharing with her and reading her story reminded me that we all have a story to tell and a journey that allows us to engage with others on similar treks.
Questions still come up, but I’m confident in the vast amount of evidence that surrounds my faith. Most difficult faith questions cannot be answered in a simple, concise manner. It takes time for people with questions to process their thoughts and feelings and engage in authentic dialogue in a safe place. It’s no small matter to seek and to understand the God who created our universe and how He works in our own lives. Creating safe spaces for people to ponder difficult questions can help bring them to Christ and strengthen their wavering faith.
My husband and I continue to dialog with friends we met overseas as well as friends and family here at home about new questions and realities that face us. A safe environment allows us to have these conversations. I have found RTB to be that place, too.
Communication of those reasons with gentleness, respect, and a clear conscience (1 Peter 3:15b)—because people observe attitude and demeanor as much as they listen to words.
As you think about the exciting evidences for God as Creator and Savior, remember the foundation on which evangelism begins is genuine care about those we’re engaging.