WAKING UP: a Helpful Metaphor for Understanding Christian Conversion
Dealing with DOUBT (Pt.2)

Dealing with DOUBT (Pt.1)

Unknown-4 Have you ever had doubts? Here's a thoughtful quote ...

“I think the trouble with me is lack of faith. I have no rational ground for going back on the arguments that convinced me of God’s existence: but the irrational deadweight of my old skeptical habits, and the spirit of this age, and the cares of the day, steal away all my lively feeling of the truth, and often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. Mind you I don’t think so – the whole of my reasonable mind is convinced: but I often feel so.”

Who said that? ... an honest man ... C.S. Lewis.

"'Lord, I believe, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)!' 

 We don’t know the name of the man who said those words to Jesus. Whoever he was, his words capture perfectly the anxieties of many Christians. They have discovered in Jesus Christ something far more wonderful than they had ever dared to hope. God often seems very close in the first days of faith. Yet nagging doubts sometimes remain. Can I really trust the Gospel? Does God really love me? Can I be of any use to God? Deep down, many Christians worry about questions like these, often feeling ashamed for doing so. And so they suppress them. They hope that they will go away. Sometimes they do – but often they don’t. 

We often call Thomas 'doubting Thomas' but all of the disciples believed only after they saw Jesus, and even then, some of them still doubted (see Matt.28:17). Doubt is normal! We are frail, sinful, finite and limited creatures. We can’t see the full picture. We are so small ...  and God is so much bigger than we think. The apostle Paul put it this way: “We see through a glass darkly.”  

It is surprising how many Christian prefers not to talk about doubt. Some even refuse to think about it. Somehow, admitting to doubt seems to amount to insulting God, calling his integrity into question … on the one hand, you may think that admitting doubt is a sign of spiritual or intellectual weakness; on the other, you may be reluctant to admit those doubts to your friends, in case you upset them, perhaps damaging their own faith. Many Christians suppress their doubts. They think that it is improper to own up to them or they are afraid they will look stupid if they do.

One of the reasons why so many Christians have difficulty coping with doubt is that they confuse it with two quite separate ideas, which at first seem similar but are actually rather different. In the first place, doubt is not the same as skepticism, which is the decision to doubt everything deliberately, as a matter of principle. Secondly, doubt is not the same as unbeliefwhich is the decision not to have faith in God. Unbelief is an act of the will, rather than a difficulty in understanding. 

Doubt often means asking questions or voicing uncertainties from the standpoint of faith. You believe – BUT you have difficulties with that faith, or are worried about it in some way. Faith and doubt aren’t mutually exclusive – but faith and unbelief are.

Doubt is something experience by ALL Christians, young and mature. It is probably a permanent feature of the Christian life. It’s like some kind of spiritual growing pain. Sometimes it recedes into the background; at other times it comes to the forefront, making its presence felt like a vengeance ...  Doubt is a symptom of our human frailty.

Alistair McGrath says, “Doubt is an invitation to grow in faith and understanding, rather than something we need to panic about or get preoccupied with.”

More tomorrow ...


[These thoughts on doubt have been gleaned from Alistair McGrath's excellent book Doubting]

 

Comments

Hi Mark, took a lot from your sermon at church but it mainly rekindled a prayer 'burden' I've had all these years for my eldest brother. He'd abandoned his Christian faith of his early years when he was in his late teens and it was in part due to the fact that he got no clear answers to some honest questions he had. My otherwise, well-meaning pastor at the time (and I recall this vividly) called him a 'doubting Thomas' and I really think that stung him at the time. Not sure if that was a catalyst in his straying but he remains 'open-minded', perhaps New Age in his thinking now some 25 years later. I've just dropped him an email sharing some of my thoughts with him drawing on your message. The opposite of faith is NOT doubt. Thanks.

Hi Mark,
It is incredibly refreshing to hear a highly credible Christian leader discuss this in days of hyper-faith and hyper-grace. I grew up in a Christian world all around me, but I've had several close friends walk away from God at different points in time. Such a series of events has often shaken me to the core of my own belief, wondering if I'm insane, wondering why these friends of mine who are all much smarter than I am can't reconcile their doubts, and yet I'm still here.

Love what you say about doubt and unbelief. Belief and unbelief are the two opposites, doubt is the middle ground, and we are ALL there! To claim absolute unbelief is to actually affirm that you possess absolute KNOWLEDGE so much as to absolutely assert that something doesn't exist/isn't true. Basically you'd have to be God to say so... similarly on the flip-side, only God can fully KNOW God; even the greatest believer is somewhere short of that.

I guess for myself the encouraging thing has been that in God I HAVE found answers, and His answers actually stack up better than anything else I've seen, something I think Christians (in general) are rather timid about. The ministry of Ravi Zacharias and co is so vital in this day and age.

Appreciate your openness to talk about such things and would love to see more apologetics weaved into church-life in general :) Thanks Mark!

Are there any more Mark's out there who want to comment? Almost feels like April 25th!!

i used doubts to investigate further, as a consequence i have moved from atheism to theistic evolution then to a bible believing Christian, i had many questions when i became born again ie other religions/evolution/evil in the world but through initally books by Lee Strobel and then www.creation.com my faith has never been stronger. thank God for the apologetic information out there, there is a lot of rubbish, but there is also some excellent material.

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