40 Days of Doubt: Devotions for the Skeptic

40 Days of Doubt: Devotions for the Skeptic

by Eric Huffman

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Overview

“Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.” —Martin Luther

Do you ever wonder whether you’re really a Christian and cling to what’s left of your faith when you feel like an outsider — even among other believers.

Have you ever doubted your faith? Have you ever, deep down in your heart, doubted that God was really present in your life? Or wondered whether everything you believed in as a Christian was false?

Call it existential doubt. Call it “the dark night of the soul,” as one Christian saint famously did. Whatever you call it, it’s real. It is personal, it is painful, it is distressing, and it can last for years? maybe even a lifetime. But you are not alone.

40 Days of Doubt: Devotions for the Skeptic is for all those sports-talk listening, eye-rolling, Game-of-Thrones-loving, abnormal believers out there. If you’ve ever felt that your mind and soul were fighting, you’ll find solace in these awe and wonder-filled reflections by pastor and author Eric Huffman. This devotional helps us understand how we can cope with our questions, and provides insightful answers during our times of doubt.

Product Features:


  • Shares 40 devotionals on life and faith.
  • Explores questions readers may be asking about their faith.
  • Offers guidance for those wanting candid insight about Christianity.

Weekly Study Guides available at www.EricHuffman.org/books.

“Real. Bible. Wisdom. Eric Huffman’s 40 days (with a bonus 41st day!) of meditations on life’s problems, opportunities and meanings is real, honest, biblically sound and wise. His sometimes edgy and direct testimony is inspirational and connects with our best and worst experiences. Buy it, then read it.”

Scott Jones, co-author of Ask, Faith Questions in a Skeptical Age

40 Days of Doubt is a cleverly constructed book that gives doubters space to (re)consider the fundamental claims of God over their lives. Well written with a very readable style Eric charts a path to a well-considered faith.”

Alan and Debra Hirsch, Missional Leaders, Authors and Speakers.

“As a recovering pastor, I confess I went through my own season of eye-rolling cynicism about church, religion and Christians. 40 Days of Doubt provides space to consider real questions for agnostics, skeptics, and just burned-out Christians who are tired of trite answers.”

Tim Stevens, Author of Marked By Love: A Dare To Walk Away from Judgment and Hypocrisy

Reading 40 Days of Doubt feels like I am having a frank and straightforward conversation about all the things that stand in the way of giving one’s whole heart and life to following Jesus. With each issue Huffman addresses, he chooses not to pull any punches about how the culture of “me” is often the real impediment to faith, and how the obstacles are often not the message, but the way the church fails to live it out. You may agree with him or disagree with him, but he will make you think as he peels back the layers of rhetoric and gets at the heart of the issue. If you are someone who wants to believe but can’t quite get there, 40 Days of Doubt may be just the ticket.

Tom Pace, Senior Pastor, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Houston

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501869136
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 12/04/2018
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 744,683
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Eric Huffman is the founder and lead pastor of The Story Houston and host of the "Maybe God with Eric Huffman" podcast. He graduated from Centenary College in 2001, received his M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology in 2006, and was ordained as an elder by the Missouri Conference in 2011. Eric is passionate about leading new generations to know God’s transforming love through Jesus Christ. He lives in Houston, Texas. Find him online at EricHuffman.org.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Is Existence Reason Enough to Believe in God?

Atheism makes sense. I may be a Christian now, but I still think people have some very good reasons for rejecting supernatural beliefs and embracing atheism. Just think about all the innocent people in the world who are suffering right now. By the time you finish this sentence, hundreds of children will have died in places like Afghanistan and Somalia — and even in more developed nations where cancer centers treat children who are battling that vicious, indiscriminate disease.

Atheism is not irrational, especially when you consider the hackneyed arguments some Christians make to support their faith in God. Arguments like, "The universe exists, so God is obviously real," which is a lot like saying, "Coffee exists, so Juan Valdez is obviously real." Yes, coffee obviously exists, and yes, it may seem that coffee didn't just appear for no reason. But

1. raw coffee beans are the result of natural selection;

2. coffee farming, harvesting, and roasting processes are the results of many generations of trial and error and scientific experimentation;

3. it would be ignorant to assume that one man, Juan Valdez, is solely responsible for all the coffee just because he's the one coffee grower you know by name.

Juan Valdez is a fictional character, but even if he were real, there have been a million other coffee growers over many generations. So why can't we just say, "Coffee comes from natural processes, is fine-tuned by science, and we don't need to know why. More important, coffee is amazing, so let's just relax and enjoy our time with coffee."

Now, replace coffee with the universe and you'll see why atheism makes sense to so many people: "The universe comes from natural processes, is fine-tuned by science, and we don't need to know why. More important, the universe is amazing, so let's just relax and enjoy our time with the universe."

Sometimes I'm still tempted to think like an atheist, but deeper reflection leads to deeper truth. Coffee must come from somewhere, right? The grounds come from beans, the beans from plants, the plants from soil, the soil from earth, the earth from primordial gas, ice, and dust, collected and partitioned 4.5 billion years ago by gravity, and gravity from ... OK, we have no idea where gravity comes from. We used to think it was simply a magnetic pull, until Albert Einstein showed gravity to be a curvature in the space-time continuum. Gravity actually causes space and time to bend.

Try and wrap your mind around that one for a minute, and if during that minute you happen to drift into space, near a black hole where gravity is much stronger, those sixty seconds will equal one thousand years here on Earth. And if the books and movies I've consumed are correct, you'll return to find a planet in ruins, being harvested by alien robots, while what's left of the human race subsists underground. But you'll only be sixty seconds older than you were when you left, and you'll tell them all the stories about the way things used to be. They'll make you their commander, and you'll lead the great human uprising of 3018.

But let's get back to the coffee. We all know we have more than just nature and science to thank for this gift: coffee comes from primeval components, manipulated by gravity, fine-tuned by innumerable, impossibly perfect conditions over 4.5 billion years, nourished by nature, enhanced by science, and cultivated with care by human beings.

Now replace the word coffee with my life, and you'll begin to see why belief in God makes sense.

Today's Scripture

"What may be known about God is plain to [human beings], because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made." (Romans 1:19-20a)

Today's Prayer

Creator God, when doubts fill my mind, renew my hope and joy.

(from Psalm 94:19)

CHAPTER 2

If God Exists, What Is He Like?

If you happen to be a Christian, you were almost certainly born into a Christian family and/or a majority-Christian nation. You probably wouldn't be a Christian if you were born in Pakistan. If you were born in ancient Greece you wouldn't have believed in one God, but a pantheon of gods and goddesses. It would seem that your beliefs, whatever they are, are socially conditioned; therefore, it follows that your beliefs can't be trusted as reliable indicators of objective Truth.

If that is the case, then all beliefs are relative, and if all beliefs are relative, then no god is truly God, and no truth is universally True. But there is a major flaw in this logic. If every belief system is the artificial product of social conditioning and can't be trusted, then so is the belief that all belief systems are artificial products of social conditioning and can't be trusted. The relative truth argument is a house of cards.

The credibility of any belief system — including Christianity — should be considered based on the veracity of its arguments. People who are most reluctant to consider the Christian God often have more problems with Christians than they do with God. Such is the case of atheist author Sam Harris, who famously wrote, "Even if we accepted that our universe simply had to be designed by a designer, this would not suggest that this designer is the biblical God, or that He approves of Christianity." Harris and other atheist leaders often make this logical leap: God is not real, and even if He is real, He's not the Christian God.

It's understandable why some people hate Christians and want nothing more than to discredit Christianity; many have been hurt or offended by judgmental believers. In the same book, Harris also wrote, "Christians have abused, oppressed, enslaved, insulted, tormented, tortured, and killed people in the name of God for centuries, on the basis of a theologically defensible reading of the Bible." I may not agree with Harris's assessment of history but I can at least understand why some people project their negative opinions about Christians onto the question of God's existence.

But there exists in Harris's (and others') reasoning a glaring weakness, as pointed out by the very witty G. K. Chesterton in 1908:

The modern [intellectuals] speak ... about authority in religion not only as if there were no reason in it, but as if there had never been any reason for it. Apart from seeing its philosophical basis, they cannot even see its historical cause. Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to attack the police; nay, [in times of great oppression] it is glorious. But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars.

Chesterton's point is that a culture faces great danger whenever its intellectual elites assume the role not only of social critics, but of supreme deconstructionists. He continues, "The human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next by all entering a monastery ... so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought."

Honest reflection about the nature of our existence is part of what makes us human. So what happens when you set your own negative experiences with religion aside and ask more basic questions, like:

If God were real, what would we expect Him to be like?

Would we expect the Creator to care about His creatures?

Would He crave relationships with the things He has made?

When it comes to questions like these, people of all religions and people of no religion tend to find some common ground. We all agree, for example, that to love people is better than to hate them. We all agree that taking care of vulnerable people — children, the elderly, the sick, and so on — is the right thing to do. We all agree when someone makes the ultimate sacrifice, giving their life for others, they are heroes worthy of honor and praise. Most of us agree that love is the highest moral good.

It stands to reason, therefore, that if an absolute, moral Creator exists, He would reflect the highest possible good. If His essence is not love, then He would be something less than God. A true God would care about His creation, and He would be especially concerned about His weakest, most vulnerable creatures. He would be willing to lay down His life for others, without demanding anything in return. His very essence should be love.

In other words, if God is real, we should expect God to be exactly like Jesus, who said God personally feeds and looks after the birds, adorns flowers with beautiful "clothing," and knows what we need before we even ask (see Matthew 6:26-32). With stories like the lost sheep and the prodigal son (both in Luke 15), Jesus insisted that God desperately desires a personal relationship with His children (that's us). And by His death on the cross, Jesus revealed to the world a God who is willing to die — joyfully — for the well-being of all humanity. Even those who reject Him.

When I finally realized that Jesus represents the truest form of God the world has ever known, everything began to change for me. If you're ready for a change, too, begin by drawing a line between the silly, spiteful things some Christians have said and done and the true, loving God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Today's Scripture

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you." (the voice of God, Jeremiah 31:3)

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

(1 John 4:8)

Today's Prayer

I confess I've judged You according to the words, attitudes, and actions of Your worshippers. Be patient with me, and help me to have the courage and the will to seek You for myself.

CHAPTER 3

Why Does God Need to Be Worshipped?

Let's face it: worship is weird. For many people it brings to mind all kinds of bizarre imagery, from ancient rituals like human sacrifice to people literally drinking the Kool-Aid (see Jonestown). As hard as we try to make modern worship less peculiar for people (unlimited coffee and glazed donuts, anyone?), it's still very strange human behavior.

Imagine visiting Earth from another planet on a Sunday morning. You walk into a church expecting to observe meaningful human interaction, and you see all the people sitting in rows, reciting the same words in monotone unison. These entranced humans enter, stand, sit, and exit in lockstep. Their leader clearly wields some creepy, invisible power over them because just by saying a few magic words, every head instantly drops and every eye closes until he says "amen" and they all wake up. Then he says it's time to eat some poor guy's flesh and drink His blood, so you head for the door. You snatch a donut on the way out, because not even a mortified alien can resist a platter of fresh donuts.

Why do people worship God?

Why does God need or require us to worship Him?

Wouldn't that make God, I don't know, the world's worst narcissist?

I once attended a major concert featuring a premier female singer-songwriter. I don't want to name-drop or anything, so let's just say she's gorgeous and it causes bad blood between my wife and me when I look at her. Her music fills a blank space in my heart beyond my wildest dreams and I became so entranced during her show that I had to shake it off and remember I'm a grown man and not twenty-two.

It was Taylor Swift, you guys! OK, stop judging me.

When she appeared on stage, engulfed in smoke and surrounded by dancers and fireworks, it was transcendent. Everyone knew all the words, so we sang every song together. We laughed, we cried. We raised our iPhones to the sky. We lifted our hands in praise. It was maybe the best worship service I've ever been to.

It was right up there with that NFL playoff game I attended where, in preparation for the contest, seventy thousand men sought the favor of the football gods by offering up countless cows, swine, and birds to the heavens. In the hours that followed, we all chanted, cheered, and wept tears of joy when the evil Raiders were vanquished at last by our hometown heroes.

I left that game sure of two things: first, nothing compares to Texas barbecue, and second, everybody worships something. The brilliant author David Foster Wallace (who was an atheist for much of his life) once offered the commencement address at Kenyon College in Ohio, and he had this to say about worship:

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the best reason for choosing a God to worship is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on. The insidious thing about these forms of worship is that they are unconscious. They are default settings.

A few years after delivering this address, Wallace took his own life, but he left us with the staggering notion that absolutely everyone worships absolutely, and if you worship anything but the Absolute, it will eat you alive.

We choose to worship God — specifically the God of the Bible, who revealed Himself to us as Jesus — because we want love to be our default setting.

Today's Scripture

"Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker." (Psalm 95:6 NKJV)

"Above all else put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly ... and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:14-17 ESV)

Today's Prayer

I've tried worshipping just about everything except You, God, and I still feel incomplete. Today I choose to worship You by putting You at the center of my life.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "40 Days of Doubt"
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Copyright © 2018 Abingdon Press.
Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface,
Week 1: Doubts About God,
Day 1: Is Existence Reason Enough to Believe in God?,
Day 2: If God Exists, What Is He Like?,
Day 3: Why Does God Need to Be Worshipped?,
Day 4: Why Have People Always Desired God?,
Day 5: Why Would God Care What I Have to Say?,
Week 2: Doubts About Jesus,
Day 6: Why Choose Christianity over All Other Religions?,
Day 7: Why Do Christians Believe Jesus Is the Only Way to God?,
Day 8: Why Is Jesus's Story So Similar to Other Ancient Myths?,
Day 9: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?,
Day 10: Do Christians Really Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead?,
Week 3: Doubts About the Bible,
Day 11: Why Should Anyone Trust the Bible?,
Day 12: What Makes the Bible Any Different from Other Sacred Texts?,
Day 13: Why Is the Old Testament God So Angry?,
Day 14: Why Is the Bible So Hard to Understand? (Part 1),
Day 15: Why Is the Bible So Hard to Understand? (Part 2),
Week 4: Doubts About the Human Condition,
Day 16: How Do You Explain Pain?,
Day 17: Will God Really Never Give You More Than You Can Handle?,
Day 18: What Good Does Prayer Do?,
Day 19: Why Does God Punish Sinners?,
Day 20: Is It a Sin to Have Doubts?,
Week 5: Doubts About Faith and Science,
Day 21: What if Thomas Jefferson Was Right?,
Day 22: Miracles? Really?,
Day 23: Isn't Christianity Anti-Intellectual?,
Day 24: Can God and Evolution Coexist?,
Day 25: Even if I Believed in God, How Could I Possibly Explain Myself?,
Week 6: Doubts About Quality of Life,
Day 26: Why Doesn't Belief in God Make Your Life Easier?,
Day 27: Why Aren't Christians Any Happier?,
Day 28: Why Are Christians No Fun?,
Day 29: Why Do Christians Treat Liberals like the Enemy?,
Day 30: Most Christians Are Hypocrites; Why Would I Want to Be One?,
Week 7: Doubts About Sex and Relationships,
Day 31: Why Would God Care Who I Sleep With?,
Day 32: LGGBDTTTIQQAAPP?,
Day 33: What Sex Is Bad Sex?,
Day 34: Why Are Single People Singled Out at Church?,
Day 35: Where Does God Fit into My Love Life?,
Week 8: Doubts About Religion,
Day 36: If Jesus Never Went to Church, Why Should I?,
Day 37: Why Can't We Just Be Good People Who Live and Let Live?,
Day 38: Why Don't Churches Do More Good?,
Day 39: Why Would Any Parents Force Religion onto Their Kids?,
Day 40: What Difference Does Jesus Make?,
Bonus: Day 41: Why Can't I Be a Private Christian?,
Notes,

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40 Days of Doubt: Devotions for the Skeptic 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a one of a kind book. I love how Eric isn't afraid to write about tough topics that I thought were silly to question. His writing is easy to understand and super relatable. Great book for any skeptic, aethiest, or christian.