“Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” is a 1956 film in which a novelist, with the assistance of his future father-in-law conspires to frame himself for a murder in an effort to end capital punishment. A remake of the movie was released in 2009 with the storyline of an ambitious reporter trying to bring down a corrupt district attorney.
There are numerous books with the title, “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” – perhaps the most intriguing being written by Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial
“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is used to instruct juries in common law countries as the standard of evidence required to render a guilty verdict in a criminal trial. There can still be a doubt, but only to the extent that it would not affect a reasonable person’s belief regarding whether or not the defendant is guilty.
Beyond a reasonable doubt does not eliminate doubt. As such, it is possible for belief and doubt to coexist. In other words, it is possible to believe something while still having doubt about the very thing believed. It is possible to want something to happen, believe something can happen, but doubt whether it will actually happen.
There was a guy whose son had been ill since he was very young. When the father heard about Jesus, his hopes that someone could do something for his son were reignited, but in the encounter with Jesus it becomes clear that doubt also remains.
This story was the focus of part 3 (Belief & Unbelief) of CCC’s Without a Doubt series. Check it out in Mark 9:14-29 and as a next step, consider the following questions about belief and unbelief happening at the same time.
- What is something you wanted to happen and believed could happen but wondered whether it would actually happen?
- Would you describe the uncertainty as doubt? Why or why not?
- What kind of challenging circumstances have you faced that you have wondered if they would ever change?
- Why do you think Jesus used “faithless people” in his response to the argument?
- What connection do you make to neither the Jewish religious leaders nor Jesus’ followers responding to his question?
- Why did the boy’s father answer Jesus’ question? How was the argument irrelevant to his circumstances?
- Why do you think the father addressed Jesus with the statement, “if you can”?
- What kind of pushback or tension do you have in response to Jesus saying “anything is possible”?
- How would you interpret the statement, “I do believe, help me overcome my belief”?
- What specific ways can you relate to this story?
- In what ways do you live with the tension of what you believe and doubt?
- What next steps will you take to move beyond circumstances to trust in Jesus?
It would have been easy for the father in the story to allow his doubt to overwhelm his belief. It would have been easy for the father in the story to fake his belief when Jesus challenged his “if you can” statement. Instead, the father in the story was honest about the tension between what he believed and whatever doubt with which he struggled.
It’s easier to have at least as much doubt as the father in the story than it is to have the amount of belief. But when what we believe is moved beyond the doubt of circumstances to the character and nature of who Jesus is, it changes everything. The requirement is trust and it’s far more effective to trust in a someone (Jesus) than a something (circumstances).
Today is Monday – make it a day you take a step to move beyond the doubt of circumstances into a relationship of trust with Jesus.