Faith Crisis in Public
When a Christian talk show host goes public
with his doubts, it can get people thinking.
Last summer Drew Marshall, a major Christian talk show host in Toronto, announced he wasn’t sure God existed. He initially blurted out his doubts in a radio
interview with apologetics expert Ravi Zacharias, and then
last fall invited various Christians, including Paul Young,
Bruxy Cavey, Tony Campolo, Norman Geisler and me to
engage him on his struggles.
(Young is author of The Shack, Cavey a Toronto pastor,
Campolo an evangelical sociologist, and Geisler an evangelical philosopher.)
Marshall wrote on his blog: “All I can say is at this point
is that I still consider myself a Christian, but before I reinvest
another 30 years in Jesus, I’d just like to know that God is
real. I hope there is a God. I’m looking for Him.”
Marshall’s doubts arise from what he calls the absence of
the “tangible” and “interactive” presence of God. He uses the
analogy of a soldier at war trying to connect with a father
back home. “Each week he would write at least one letter
to his father back home. Each week he would expectantly
wait for the one who supposedly loves him uncondition-
ally to write him back or phone or possibly even come for a
visit. Any kind of personal interaction would do. He’s heard
through his friends and other soldiers just how much his
father loves him, but those rumours of glory aren’t enough
to sustain his faith in his father anymore.”
Thankfully most Christians have reacted kindly, com-
plimenting Marshall on his honesty and praying for him.
I do know him well enough to know his doubts are real.
This is not a stunt to promote ratings or get attention. It’s a
genuine crisis of faith. Telling his two adult children about
all this was one of the hardest things he’s ever done. Mar-
shall is still doing his radio show and still waiting for God
to reach out to him.
My main reply to Drew Marshall, publicly and privately,
is that God has already reached out to him and everyone
else in Jesus Christ. God has moved beyond general revelation as our Creator to special revelation in history. The
character, teaching and works of Jesus are overwhelming
signs of God’s love.
Let’s take a fresh look at why trusting Jesus makes sense
– logically and for other reasons.
First: Is he real? Unlike Hindu avatars such as Krishna,
Jesus is historical. Very few respected thinkers argue Jesus
never existed. For historical evidence about Jesus consult
works by Gary Habermas, N. T. Wright and John Warwick
Second: Are the reports about Him, including His resurrection and the claim that He is alive today, credible? Unlike
the Book of Mormon, the New Testament documents are from
contemporary and honest witnesses who knew Jesus and had
no reason (such as money, sex or fame) to make up the stories.
Third: Are Jesus’ life and teachings morally admirable,
and therefore worth following, unlike those of Sun Myung
Moon (founder of the Unification Church) and Anton LaV-ey (founder of the Church of Satan)? The consensus on this
question, from a whole range of religions and philosophies,
is that Jesus is without peer.
It’s this kind of step-by-step rationale which drew popular
author C. S. Lewis from atheism to faith in Jesus. He converted
at age 32, supported by friendships with intelligent Christians
such as J. R. R. Tolkien, and later helped many others by presenting these steps in his 1952 book Mere Christianity.
In Marshall’s case he says he has certainly not lost his
appreciation for the greatness of Jesus. This recognition of
greatness leads by necessity to belief in the integrity of Jesus
and His message of the reality of God. All of us should take
comfort from it, even in the absence of touchy/feely spiritual
moments in our daily lives.
When we doubt, we can also consider more deeply
the credible testimony of other Christians to the tangible
presence of God. My son Derek had his bicycle stolen in
Montreal during a tough time in his life several years ago.
After it was stolen he had a deep sense God wanted him
to have it back – deep enough that he said to himself, “I
guess I better go get it.” Driving his car downtown, he was
waiting at a red light when a street kid approached him and
said: “Heard you lost your bike, man.” Derek had never
seen the guy before, but he directed Derek down several
streets to his bike.
Roy Matheson, a Canadian expert on spiritual warfare,
gives numerous examples in his teachings of God’s power
over demonic spirits. It’s fascinating when encounters with
evil drive people to God. Jeff Brooks, former evangelist with
the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches, tells of learning during prayer that God wanted him to go see his lawyer
though there was no obvious need to do so. The lawyer
knew why Jeff showed up at his office and confessed major
sin in his life.
Such stories abound, and I hope Drew Marshall draws
more solace from them and from the living God as he continues to fight the good fight of faith. FT
JaMEs a. bEvERLEY is professor of Christian thought
and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto.