Christians and doubt

I’m trying to be a Christian realist. Will you hold it against me that I frequently weep during the evening news? To suggest at least indirectly that I am not aware of the depth of the problem of evil with your Rauser quote is… never mind.


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This is a wonderful talk I found from Derek Thomas on Job and suffering. For me he strikes the right tone. He speaks as a man who has long studied the Bible and can enter into the suffering of others.


I’m not saying what you are or are not doing. I’m saying everyone has some doubt because we don’t have actual hard evidence but rely on faith. Anyone who tries to say faith is not good enough because it naturally produces doubt is trying to weaponize a universal human experience and market it as a weakness they don’t experience.


If you’re interested in a surprise, try searching the word ‘know’ in the NT.

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I apologize. I realized after I posted it that it came across wrong. I believe that you are compassionate. You probably are more empathetic than I
What I meant was (I addended it), how do we approach people with doubts with the problem of evil?

I do not understand the idea that we should not doubt because God is a father. However, I wanted to prompt this in another direction, and ask you–

How would we, out of compassion, help people in this situation?

Thank you.

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It does? How does that follow? I have faith that my regular chair will hold me.

That would be a false accusation if it is directed at me. Is Spurgeon doing that in the OP? I don’t think so. Was Jesus weaponizing faith after the storm on Galilee? I am trying to encourage believers to seek assurances, through scripture and in the real world – that is part of what the objective evidence is about. Maybe what I’m saying is don’t be satisfied to be a ‘mere professor’ and believe in a maybe God. What did C.S. Lewis say?

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Have you ever sat in your chair? I mean guess at this point I could say I have faith my cat will purr when I pet them and I have faith a tree will fall down of I chainsaw through it. All of these things based off of “faith” is probably better described as “expectations” based off of concrete evidence, such as having previously done them.

But yeah I guess by this point I am under the impression you are attempting to weaponize doubt. I get it. It’s really important to you that peoples personal experience counts are verifiable concrete evidence. We’ve had versions of this discussion repeatedly. I feel like I explained myself well enough that I don’t have to regurgitate my first response.

It’s A. No it’s B. Well I think it’s A. Well I still think B. Well it’s A.

If your life experiences have lead to you being able to let go of faith because of solid verifiable proof that Yahweh is god and ect ect ect congregations. I’ve seen no such thing. I’ve yet to anyone be able to present any such thing. That includes any such thing expressed in this group since I’ve joined and many thread browsing of posts before I joined.

I think there is a difference between “ I have faith in God “ vs saying “ I know for 100% fact God is real and I can prove it “.


Yet, he wrote this too:

“When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”

Christians and atheists have died by drowning. I often wonder what the word of Jesus have to do with us in this situation.

I’m also concerned that those of us who are told it is wrong to doubt will think that there is nothing behind the wall; that the Great Oz is nothing more than a little man, who tells us not to look. That, as Austin Fischer says, is a trigger for more doubt.

Lately, I have found myself at odds with the picture of myself as a father. Sometimes, I’m domineering when my kids are, to my mind, excessively petty, grouchy, or selfish. I have said, basically, that they can’t be negative. Others have pointed out to me that I need to be patient. It’s normal for us to deal with stress by negativity. In some ways, negativity is doubt that the world works the way we want it to. It can be a way to protect oneself, but also adapt to difficult circumstances. It’s all part of growing up–a bit like doubt. It’s not even a sin. There is certainly a balance. One can express doubts in a kind way, for example.

A lady reminded me recently of her father, who I also knew as a wonderful, Christian man in his 90s. She pointed out to me how he seemed able to turn all his corrections to encouragements, where he took you seriously, treated you as an equal, validated your fears, and came along with you to seek out the right understanding together. I hope to be that sort of man–like George Macdonald implied Jesus and his Father are–to my kids.



Yes, I agree with your sentiments here that faith should not be conflated with intellectual certainty. A book by Greg Boyd called “Benefit of the Doubt” was very helpful to me in sorting out some of these ideas.
Here is the book-cover description "In Benefit of the Doubt, influential theologian, pastor, and bestselling author Gregory Boyd invites readers to embrace a faith that doesn’t strive for certainty, but rather for commitment in the midst of uncertainty. Boyd rejects the idea that a person’s faith is as strong as it is certain. In fact, he makes the case that doubt can enhance faith and that seeking certainty is harming many in today’s church. Readers who wrestle with their faith will welcome Boyd’s message that experiencing a life-transforming relationship with Christ is possible, even with unresolved questions about the Bible, theology, and ethics. Boyd shares stories of his own painful journey, and stories of those to whom he has ministered, with a poignant honesty that will resonate with readers of all ages.


On the one hand, I do not think we can fit notions and experiences of faith versus doubt into a singular intellectual formula. On the other hand there are a couple notions of faith which I strongly misdoubt.

  1. Where you Svengali yourself into believing something, i.e. brainwash yourself, and thus leave no room for any doubt. Another word for this is self-delusion.
  2. Where you make a deal with some god or devil to exchange your honesty and intellectual integrity for some reward or reprieve to believe something. This is also referred to as selling out.

Both are example of faith which leaves no room for doubt and thus I am a bit suspicious of any claim to faith where there is no room for doubt doubt. I would tend to think there can be no faith without doubt. Faith is choosing to believe even when we know we have no reason for certainty. And we frankly have little reason for certainty in most things and thus we have need for faith in all of these.

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I wonder if anyone did.

This is a bit of a scattershot sampling of searchable Bibles online, and not all verses are directly applicable to the question of course, and will vary with the translation…

This one shows 478 hits:




We have a lot of opinions here – maybe we should check what the NT actually says about knowledge and faith.

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Or Job.

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Yes, and he has been in the trenches, so to speak, as a pastor for a good number of years. (And I like his sense of humor. ; - )

Derek Thomas on the book of Job (sorry I did think of grabbing timestamps sooner), some excerpts from the video above:

Joseph Caryl… preached for 23 years on the Book of Job. …the congregation dwindled


(He speaks from pastoral experience and gives a couple of poignant examples.)

…Why is this [evil] happening? …chances are your question is not going to be answered.

The problem of evil, but not just in the theological and academic form, but in a very personal form… we can’t remove God from it.

[22:10] …this is part of the pastoral problem in the book of Job, that Job wants God to answer his questions, and God has been silent. And so in Job 38, 'Then the Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind and said “Who is this that darkens counsel with words without knowledge?” Well, it’s Job of course. “Dress for action” – and it’s a verb from Hebrew which comes from the field of wrestling. Job has been asking for a fight, an epistemological fight, a fight about ideas… “Dress for action like a man – I will question you and you make it know to me” and already you get the impression that the dice is loaded here, because Job is the one asking the questions, God is the who’s supposed to answer the questions, and God reverses it and says I’ll do the questioning, you do the answering. [23:20] [Anecdote about the woman who fails to answer the first question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire XD] …and this is Job. So what is the first question? “Where were you…” …it’s not fair, and you’re suffering and your trial is real and you’re in pain, and you’re hurting and you’re angry you want God to speak, and you want God to justify his actions. And God says to you “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” And you’re going to say “What does that got to do with anything?” And 50, 60, 65 questions about things beneath the ground and caverns, about things in universe and the stars beyond Job’s understanding, and Job can answer none of these questions… [24:52]

(I love his comments about polar bears and alligators. ; - )

[28:30] …only a Christian can answer the question in that way.
It’s not important that I understand, what’s important is that he does, and I trust him.

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l would suspect that most of these are false positives. To get an accurate number you would need to sort them thematically by the sense in which the word is used. Then you’d need to further sort it to isolate the instances where God is the object of knowing. Eg. “Be still and know that I am God”. This would no doubt reduce the total quite a bit! Also given that there are ~880,000 words in the Bible, I’m not sure that ~400 hits is all that significant to warrant the work.

As to the question at hand, can you give me your definition of doubt and some examples where you think doubt is and isn’t permissible for the Christian? That might get us all singing off the same song sheet as it were.


While I’m looking forward to Dale’s response, I thought you’d be interested to consider how the word ‘doubt’ is used in the NT. I especially like how Jude says we should have mercy on those who doubt.


On the strength of the couple of quotes alone that you shared, I purchased and am now reading this.

How long have you been sitting on this treasure?!!


…and, @Kendel, I’m about to start chapter 3 in it, titled: “How to survive a hurricane: doubting with Job”


I think it’s a great book.
I look forward to your thoughts.

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The apostles had plenty of doubt and they lived and walked with Jesus. Jesus had to continually remind them of His plan and to truth in Him, and oftentimes they still were uncertain or didn’t understand the nature of Christ. There’s a reason we commonly refer to “doubting Thomas”. So if the apostles, the most trusted and faithful followers of Christ, can have doubt, them I’m sure people living thousands of years later can too.

If you aren’t doubting things every now and then, then you probably aren’t challenging yourself enough.


Yeah, the way I did it wasn’t a particularly good idea, but I can blame @heymike3. ; - ) It would be instructive to see all that are not false positives though.

Let’s look at the Spurgeon:

The Christian should never think or speak lightly of unbelief.

Isn’t that the first thing we’re doing, speaking lightly of doubting unbelief and saying it is normal?

For a child of God to mistrust his love, his truth, his faithfulness, must be greatly displeasing to him.

Why wouldn’t that be true? If my children mistrusted me, I would be hurt and I would be the one with the questions. Though the fatherhood of God has been eschewed, he is the archetype. How can we pretend to be Christians if we cannot pray the first two words of the Lord’s prayer without hypocrisy? I wasn’t entirely surprised when wide roads and itching ears came to mind last night. We need to test ourselves against scripture as I’m sure Bonhoeffer would suggest.

I wonder if we are making the distinction between questioning and doubting. If we are not, certainly should be! I seem to recall that little children ask “Why?” a lot. ; - ) That is certainly permissible for the Christian!

Maybe a real meditation on Laura Story’s lyrics is in order, as well as listening to the beginning of Derek Thomas’ talk about when he was a young pastor, both cited above.

Aren’t we given their example to learn from so we won’t?

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