For most of my life, I begged God to take away my doubts about Christianity. The more I begged, the more I experienced silence, abandonment, and finally, nothingness. I felt the nonexistence of God.
I self-diagnosed myself with agnosticism after that encounter with nonexistence.
By “agnostic” I mean I had no idea what was or was not true about God, if he did exist. I quit seeking a relationship with God. I went to church only to save face and to save myself in case God happened to be real and ready to throw me in hell for abandoning him.
Unlike many Christian kids, I wasn’t agnostic because of hypocritical Christians, or because I experienced the problem of evil firsthand, or because I was angry with God. I just didn’t think Christianity made sense. I went to a conservative college, majored in Christian studies, sat under brilliant, devout minds (living and dead), and concluded that Christianity didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense within itself, within Scripture, or within reality. Agnosticism wasn’t a choice. It was a fact, a logical conclusion, an inevitability that I was left to sort out.
But I didn’t want to choose agnosticism. I wanted to choose Christianity. Why wouldn’t I? I was a Christian. But I couldn’t choose Christianity in good conscience. The Christianity I knew taught me not to trust the desires of my heart but instead to accept the truth. But what if the truth wasn’t Christianity?
It never occurred to anybody who heard about my confused spirituality that Christianity could be wrong. I must have purposefully weaponized my agnosticism and hammered at Christianity until something broke. “Look at God’s Word! Just believe!” they’d say.
Just believe? “Just believe” in spite of a stack of evidence to the contrary? I bet the Muslims and the Mormons said “Just believe” to their doubters too. “Just believe” never made another religion or a cult true. And if Christianity were true, I wanted to ask the just-believers, “Why not give me answers? Why attack me, just an innocent girl asking a simple question, like how do the Old Testament genocides line up with New Testament ethics?”
I wanted the truth, not circular arguments and shame. Jesus himself said, “I am the Truth” (see John 14:6). Few take his words literally. Or, rather, they take literally only one way—that anything “Christianity” teaches must be true. But after two millennia of heresies, reformations, and sinners, Christianity as an institution, as a people, often gets Jesus as Truth wrong. The systematic theologies reflect human brokenness.
I am a second-generation Christian who grew up in a fundamentalist church, which was a reaction to American liberalism, which was a response to the Puritanism of colonial religion, which was a splinter group of European Protestantism, which was a rebellion of the corruption of medieval Catholicism. I hope it’s not too pessimistic to say some truths—maybe even the Truth—got lost amid the wars, persecutions, counter-persecutions, and divisive arguments of my spiritual heritage.
I took “I am the Truth” the other way—that finding truth amounts to finding God. If that search led me away from Christianity, so be it. At least I would find God. I had a hunch, though, that if I opened myself up to considering Christianity’s falsehood, I would find not only theism but also Christ himself.
That’s why I risked agnosticism.
I said it out loud to see how it fit: “I’m agnostic.” It did. It fit. It was true—I was agnostic. I doubted everything regarding faith with no exceptions.
“You’re not a Christian,” someone told me. But those words felt untrue—untrue in the deepest way. Here I was, risking my eternal life on the wild goose chase of discovering Truth, which must, in the end, be a Person, and, hopefully, that Person would be Someone I met during my teenage evangelical high—only better. Christianity gave me that hope, crazy as it was.
I was a Christian. But I was agnostic. I was both—an agnostic Christian. God have mercy on my confused soul.
“You’re not an agnostic,” my best friend told me. “Just wait. You’ll figure it out.”
Her confidence startled me. But it made sense with her belief in the truthfulness of Christianity. Why panic if someone denies the existence of rocks? One’s bound to stub one’s toe on them sooner or later. Why shame the person who doubts the sun on a cloudy day? The next morning it will come out and put all doubt to rest. My confident friend felt no need to panic or hurl insults, because to her, questioning faith was akin to questioning any other reality. Truth proved itself in time.
In the face of such confidence, I was startled again to discover that I shared with her a similar belief. I questioned because I was confident that Truth would prove itself, that I would stub my toe on a rock and see the sun melt the clouds away if only I had the patience to keep looking in unlikely places. I was an agnostic because I was a Christian. I doubted because I had faith.
That’s why God never answered those prayers about giving me faith. I already had it. He had given me a faith strong enough, honest enough, and brave enough to seek him in the depths of doubt, even if that took me to agnosticism.