I'd like to have faith but I just can't.posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 5 comments
I tended to take 2 different tacks, and you can tell me what you think.
1) The assumption behind this question is that faith is a qualitatively different thing when talked about with regard to religion than it is in every day life. Having faith in your chair to hold you is different, in some way, to mustering up this moral quality "faith" within you to believe in God - that some people have that and some don't. In fact, the two are, if not exactly the same, then pretty similar. You examine the evidence for something, and you rely on it to help with your problem - whether that is not having somewhere to sit, or not knowing where you will spend eternity! This can then lead to an interesting discussion- because if you get into enough depth people can often see that they are relying on something to give them what the Gospel offers: "functional Saviours" as I have heard them called. The "front foot" nature of this reply is to say that "I'm just naturally cynical, and therefore could never accept this" won't wash as a reason. The real question is "Is there a reason to be lmore cynical about Jesus that whatever you are relying on at the moment?" The answer is, after some discussion, usually no!
2) This is slightly more offensive answer, but Jesus does say that people don't believe because they don't want to - they love the darkness. If we reject him it is not because the evidence is insufficient or unworthy of our trust but because we have an inbuilt predisposition not to want God telling us what to do. So this, "I can't have faith" can be a smokescreen for "I actually don't want to." A useful question here is "If I could prove 100% now that Jesus rose from the dead, would you admit that you whole life belongs to him and live that way from now on?" If the person says no, and you ask why then you have really unmasked the heart of the issue for them.
The latter approach I would take very gently and carefully, only after the person has themselves seemed to have some realisation that not being able to believe is not their only problem. At the end of the first conversation you just want to invite (firmly!) to look carefully at the evidence - both for Jesus and comparing what he says to their own experience of the world - and see if it is trustworthy.
Anyway, that's what I did, but I would love your thoughts!