No Faith Without Struggle

A friend once said to me that modern evangelicalism basically consists of people intoning to themselves that “Jesus is my hamster“. It seems that Bavinck knew better; he knew the deep reality of struggle and doubt in the Christian life:

A Christian believes, not because everything in life reveals the love of God, but rather despite everything that raises doubt. In Scripture too there is much that raises doubt. All believers know from experience that this is true. Those who engage in biblical criticism frequently talk as if the simple church people know nothing about the objections that are advanced against Scripture and are insensitive to the difficult of continuing to believe in Scripture. But that is a false picture. Certainly, simple Christians do not know all the obstacles that science raises to belief in Scripture. But they do to a greater or lesser degree know the hard struggle fought both in head and heart against Scripture. There is not a single Christian who has not in his or her own way learned to know the antithesis between the “wisdom of the world” and “the foolishness of God.” It is one and the same battle, an ever-continuing battle, which has to be waged by all Christians, learned or unlearned, to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

Here on earth no one ever rises above that battle. Throughout the whole domain of faith, there remain “crosses” (cruces) that have to be overcome. There is no faith without struggle. To believe is to struggle, to struggle against the appearance of things. As long as people still believe in anything, their belief is challenged from all directions. No modern believer is spared from this either. Concessions weaken believers but do not liberate them. Thus for those who in childlike faith subject themselves to Scripture, there still remain more than enough objections. These need not be disguised. (Reformed Dogmatics, 1:441-442)

A recent study suggests that, after all, it is people who admit to this reality and work their way through it that remain Christian; conversely, then, people who ignore it presumably do not survive. Go figure.