Thursday, 28 February 2013

"I want to believe in Christianity, but I just *can't* - what should I do?"



Just say, when asked or when appropriate: "I want to believe in Christianity, but I just can't. I'm working on it, as best I can."

And then make sure you do not attack, subvert or damage Christianity; but instead support Christianity by thought (including prayer) and word and deed.


My understanding of things (based mostly on Pascal, but also many other authorities whom I trust) is that such a person will attain salvation even if he never (in this life) actually gets to the point that he can say that he is a Christian.

Indeed, I would go further: Anyone who truly and sincerely wants to be a Christian, is from that moment onwards in effect a Christian.

Again: anyone who wants to be a Christian (and lives in accordance with that desire) is a Christian - in the strong sense that he can know for sure that he will become a Christian, in the fullness of time.


"Seek and ye shall find" Matthew 7: 7.

Shall find.

It is a promise.



Adam G. said...

Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.

Vicent said...

This problem has worried me for a longtime because I am in this exact situation. Thank you.

I have additional problems. As a "Mere Christian" guy, I follow the Lewis' advice about sticking to the congregation I was raised in. In my case, it's Roman Catholicism and I feel better in this Church than in any other one. I love its art, its traditions and everything else (but faith is difficult for me).

Because of this, Eucharist presents quite a quandary for me. I am afraid to receiving it, because I think receiving it without faith can amount to sacrilege. But you can't be completely integrated in a Catholic community if you don't receive Eucharist (at least, from time to time).

Bruce Charlton said...

AG - If this refers to your situation, and was not simply a helpful quote, then you may be reassured.

@V - I think the basic answer is that a life of faith is a struggle, and the Churches today are (for most Western Christians) a particular trial.

But *worry* is a waste of time, energy and effort.

So my advice is to struggle, because we must and should; but not to worry!

Indeed, so long as we continue honestly to struggle, we need not worry.

Wm Jas said...

It all depends on what exactly the person means by "I want to believe it but I can't."

Does he mean that he really wishes Christianity were true, but that it unfortunately appears not to be? In that case, he can either sigh wistfully and move on, reflecting that things are not always as we might wish them to be; or he can doggedly keep returning to the arguments for and against Christianity, evaluating them and reevaluating them in the hope that, against all odds, he will see something he hadn't seen before and realize that Christianity probably is true after all. (This is more or less what I find myself doing these days.)

Or does he mean that Christianity appears not to be true, but that believing it nevertheless brings benefits of some kind (psychological, social, etc.), and that he therefore wishes he could somehow brainwash himself into believing what he knows ain't so? In that case, he needs to repent.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - I would say 'neither of the above' so your two suggestions apparently don't exhaust the possibilities!

ajb said...

I second Wm Jas's question about what the phrase "I want to believe in Christianity but can't" means.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - Those to whom this post is addressed, know what it means.

Davidstanley said...

This is one of your shortest blog posts but also one of the most powerful in a way. I feel I need to make a decision for Christ every day,a struggle against the constant temptation to backslide.Churches certainly can be a trial,even if they are reasonably sound there are bound to be elements of worship that are banal or infantile.

MC said...

"Faith" goes beyond mere belief- it means "trust". And in a way, you can put your trust in something without believing it. A man who wants to believe in Christianity but does not can still put his "faith" in Christ by living by Christ's words and hoping, a la Pascal's Wager, that his trust is rewarded.

If a man thinks and lives in this way, is there any scriptural reason to believe that salvation would be withheld?

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

You should not be afraid to receive the Eucharist because of doubt. Doubt is a temptation, not a sin, and Eucharist is the best remedy against it. If you are not in a state of mortal sin, you only have to say for yourself an act of faith and go to Communion. Note that to go to Mass is in itself most of the time an act of faith.

B. Shelley said...

This is a great, postive message, Mr. Charlton.

Vicent said...

Thank you, Sylvie. Your comment has been very useful. I will do as you say.