3 Apologists Address Doubt

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“The doubleness or indecisive tornness of doubt can be described from the outside with high-noon clarity. But from the inside it is foggy, grey, and disorienting. The world of doubting feels like a world with no landmarks and no bearings.”  ~ Os Guiness

 

 

If you have doubts about the Christian faith, you are not alone. A Christian audience was polled about their doubts with this result:

15% doubt that there is a God.

5% doubt that God is good.

5% doubt that the Bible is true.

7% doubt that Jesus is the son of God.

68% doubt that they are God’s child.

 

I’m going to summarize the thoughts of 3 apologists who have done considerable work in dealing with doubt.

Michael Wittner, Apologist and Professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary:

Doubt is uncertainty. You’re not sure. Doubt can be objective (Is there a God?) or subjective (Is my faith genuine?). If doubts really trouble you, it is a good sign that you truly care. Those who have rejected God do not struggle with their doubts in this way.  Faith is like horseradish, a little goes a long way. The most important thing about faith is not how much you have, but how well-placed it is. Doubt is really a question. The answer should be sought out. Honest doubt will obey God if it is answered. Dishonest doubt won’t respond to God even if knowledge comes. Jesus doubted on the cross when he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But afterwards he committed his spirit into God’s hands. Commit to what you do know, not to what you don’t know. Knowledge is not enough for faith (the demons know), but it is necessary. Seek knowledge, ask God for it, and then commit yourself to God as he gives you answers.

Allister McGrath, Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education at King’s College London:

“Doubt is not unbelief. But it can become unbelief…Doubt is natural within faith. It comes about because of our human weakness and frailty. We lack the confidence to trust fully in God and long for certainty in all matters of faith.” “Doubt is like an attention-seeking child.” We shouldn’t give it too much attention, or it will lock you into a vicious cycle of uncertainty. Rather we should seek answers without overplaying our doubt, since doubt arises in the context of faith. Doubt is faith wanting certainty. Avoid a morbid preoccupation with doubt, or it can cause you to turn inward, instead of outward. “Reinforce faith with understanding, in much the same way as you would reinforce concrete with steel. Together, they can withstand far greater stress than they could ever withstand on their own.” Doubt can only turn into unbelief if you let it. Don’t let it. Don’t be ashamed of your doubts, but seek understanding through the help of other older and wiser Christians.

Os Guiness, Author, Senior Fellow with the Trinity Forum:

We can be too easy on doubt, allowing uncertainty and ambiguity, or we can be too hard on doubt, leaving doubters feeling afraid to even admit that they have doubts, even to themselves. Doubt is very serious, but it is not terminal. “A bold Christian affirmation is that because faith in Christ is true and fears no question or challenge, doubt can be a stepping stone to a tougher, deeper faith.” To believe is to be of one mind in accepting something as true; to disbelieve is to be on one mind in rejecting something as true. Doubt is being of 2 minds – between faith and disbelief – but doubt is not the same as disbelief. It is more like the Chinese idea of having one foot in one boat, and the other foot in another boat. You can leave double-mindedness if you will not allow the confusion of doubt to overtake you, but fly as a pilot would in the fog with “a solid grasp of the instruments (God’s truth and promises) and a canny realism about the storm and stress of doubt.” Common confusions need to be cleared away, such as that doubt equals unbelief, and that you believe in uncertainty, rather than according to knowledge. The pain and confusion of doubting can be relieved by understanding the type of doubt, as most doubt falls into one of several common categories, though each doubt strikes each person uniquely. Doubt can actually be constructive when it is understood and resolved, leading to an even stronger faith than before the doubting.

Key thoughts:

All 3 apologists agree that doubt is common among believers and arises out of faith.

All 3 apologists agree that doubt is not unbelief.

All 3 apologists agree that the believer who doubts ought to seek out the answers to their doubts, with the help of wise Christian friends, so that the doubt does not become terminal fogginess, which is unbelief.

 

~ Betsy McPeak

 

 

 

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