Christians and doubt

“When [the Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness”

Conviction is another form of knowing. I can understand the Christian who is doubtful about historical eyewitness testimony and the integrity of Scripture. It could be a 20 year journey for some.

“I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.”

Happy Father’s Day

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I can now amend and clarify on my earlier response to this, Dale - thanks to Randy’s suggestion, I’ve now started in on an older book of Fischer’s: “Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed”. And already in the foreward of that book (by Scot McKnight) I found this (which will give a more direct answer to your specific question). The following is McKnight’s voice:

I had been star-struck by Calvinist theologians and still was, but I found the exegesis less than compelling. Passage after passage convinced me that while the big picture – God’s glory in the face of Christ – was as good as our theology can get, the finer nuances just didn’t work with how the Bible frames the freedom of God’s love and human responsiveness. For a number of years I wandered between Calvinism and other options, eventually settling for what I sometimes call “Anabaptism with Anglican sensibilities.” I still read Calvin and Piper and Edwards, but with a hermeneutic of suspicion. I like their architecture, even if their furnishings need to be tossed into the garbage heap. I like the idea of God’s glory, but God’s love is the final end – not God’s glory.

Note the final sentence above. Or better yet, read McKnight’s entire foreword to get more context. You can click the ‘read preview button’ in the page linked to above which does allow you free access to the entire foreword and probably more.

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That is not at all antithetical to this that you have seen before:

So where is the issue?

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I should walk that back. It is antithetical to the “not God’s glory” part. There is no incompatibility between God’s love and God’s glory. There is no conflict whatsoever in that I wanted my dad to be respected and that I wanted his love (he wanted both too). Both can coexist and they in fact cannot be separated.

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The following was posted last month in another thread (it did not garner many comments, unsurprisingly), but if we are still if-ing we better start pleading and even prostrate pleading Keller’s parishioner’s prayer, “Come find me!!!”


*Objective outward experience is also possible and to be desired!

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I can only definitely remember doing that once (or maybe more than once in a narrow window of time) when I was in severe anguish and distress – it will have been thirty years ago this fall.

It was after when I had left my career and quit my job in medical electronics and gone to med school at the maybe ridiculous age of 43. They had just that fall radically condensed the curriculum to introduce clinical experience week one instead of year three by cramming all of the basic science courses into morning classes so as to have clinical exposure in the afternoons, and the faculty did not have their act completely together (there was wasted students’ time as a result, time they did not have to spare). That, combined with the facts that I had not taken biochem or A&P as an undergrad, and I am not a quick memorizer. I had gotten an A on the first combined test of all the sciences but was being overwhelmed by a tsunami of data and memorization, and I knew I was in a tailspin* and would completely fail the second one.

So at least once I was prostrate on the floor of my little apartment pleading in severe anguish and perplexity, not knowing who I was or what I was supposed to be doing. I don’t think I would call it despair however – I remember an important verse to me at the time was Isaiah 46:4,

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

There are numerous more details including at least three special providences of remarkable timing and placing over the next four months (not counting the several confirming that I should go on my little excursion to med school in the first place), but I was given a new position with my former employer at no loss of pay, benefits or seniority, and totally unexpectedly – it was a wonderful surprise. And I was rescued.

*One of the difficult providences, or part of the series (our trials are designed for us, if we belong to him), was that I had to transcribe the Krebs Cycle lecture for the note taking service that all of the students subscribed to. A lecture would be recorded and the recording (a mini-cassette, ‘back in the day’ ; - ) given to the assigned student to transcribe overnight and the transcription taken to the campus’ copy center. Copies of the transcripts of all the previous day’s lectures would be handed out to all the students later that day. The purpose of the process was of course so that students could listen to each lecture more intently instead of having to be simultaneously scribbling notes. Well, the lecture was on a Friday and it took me an exorbitant amount of time over the weekend trying to understand and learn it as I was transcribing it. I didn’t even really know what ATP was nor how it worked. That expense of time set me back in my studies of the other sciences. My anxiety was growing and because of that I couldn’t study and then I couldn’t sleep because of my anxiety, was then short of sleep so I couldn’t study… and thus it spiraled down. I was only getting about four hours of sleep each night and for several weeks on end.

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I’ve had this on my mind most of the day, and it finally occurred to me, yes I can be that slow, God’s love for us is seen in how he redeems us to worship him and how we find happiness in doing it.

God’s love is his glory, and his glory is his love.

And his love for himself, is what probably resolves the apparent discrepancy between his mercy and his justice.

I think that’s a fair summary of the same conclusion that Fischer, the author of those words also reached.

He makes a pretty good case, I think.

Huh. That’s odd – it sounds a lot like an ideal father/child relationship, especially after when the child has gotten into trouble of one sort or another. ; - )

Yes, it is okay. It’s human. God loves us, doubts and all.


I’m thinking of the popular hymn “Just as I am.” It was used by Billy Graham, but is also included in mainline hymnals. Consider verse 3:

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!


I never said all doubt was wrong. Billy Graham used “Just as I am” as an alter call. That rather defines a brand new and immature faith. Shouldn’t we grow up? Our Father is trustworthy and doubting him is hurtful and wrong when we should know better.

Your implication here being that doubt is for the newly converted and still immature disciples? Once we’ve grown in the faith, been around the block a few times - doubts will then be a thing of the past for us. Is that it?


Doubt is not an act of the will and neither is distrust. They are responses, sometimes merited and sometimes not. Jesus did not respond to Thomas by acting hurt or telling him he should have known better. He gave him what he needed so he could respond differently. Not everyone gets that though and I think you are wrong to imply that people who legitimately struggle with doubts and trusting God, sometimes for very good reasons, are willfully doing something wrong or are immature or spiritually deficient. I think that is a toxic attitude in Christian circles.


I may have mentioned that we will have trials. But even in trials we can still trust. I am empathetic with those whose whole lives may be as doubters, but is that the standard we are to encourage? That’s why we have accounts of God’s providential interventions, to encourage trust and squelch doubting! I’m hearing that doubting should be the daily routine standard for all. I don’t think so.

I think that is toxic.

No. It’s more that doubters should not be excluded. Which is something we wouldn’t even need to be discussing if we or the church had been busy celebrating doubt as a great spiritual practice just because we all have so much fun there. [/sarcasm]

I’ll repeat this quote that Randy had originally shared (which got me to read Fischer’s book in the first place.) From memory:

People don’t leave the faith because of doubts. People leave the faith because they think they aren’t allowed to have doubts.


Saying doubting should be a daily routine standard is still treating it as a volitional choice. No one “chooses to doubt” when they should be “choosing to trust.” That is not how belief or certainty or trust works.


But false certitude doesn’t result in strong faith

That is the quote I copied and responded to.

Doubting is a choice of the mind! It’s not just a feeling! “Trust me! Let go!”