Christians and doubt

Fear is a feeling.

Few things do more to undermine my faith than seeing the bad arguments other Christians use to squelch their doubts.
ETA: So if the purpose of these accounts is to encourage trust, they’re not working.


another hymn reflecting the human condition: (Come Thou Fount):
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love:
Take my heart, oh, take and seal it
With Thy Spirit from above.


That is not an argument against a bad argument, is it. [Posted before your edit.]

That may not be the fault of the accounts.

What some don’t understand is that it isn’t about doubting God. It is about doubting our own understanding which we should always remain open to doubting to some degree. Remaining relentlessly loyal to the unimpeachable truth of one’s own interpretations isn’t a value to extol.

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Objective facts are not subjective interpretations.

For you, subjectively.

Doubt is a choice of what we pay attention to. Remember Peter sinking? The disciples in the storm on Galilee?

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

You can throw around blame as you will (though that’s yet another unhelpful thing to be doing with your intended audience).

But meanwhile, what causes people to deprecate what you (and then by extension all believers) claim about testimonies and faith is when they see your own casual, or maybe even careless posture towards truth claims in general.

Who would you rather trust as your airplane pilot, the trainee who graduated from a flight school run by an instructor known to always be skeptically challenging students to prove that they actually know the material and can fly in difficult conditions? Or the trainee from the flight school with the trusting instructor who would kindly take students’ words for it that they know how to land the plane?

Facing doubts - maybe even having to live with some of them, can help a person become stronger.

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As others have just expressed very well, it’s not always a choice. Do you think someone wakes up in the morning and just says “Hmmmm… I think I’m going to start doubting God today”? And again, the whole idea that I’m going to somehow hurt God’s feelings for having thoughts is not a very encouraging view of God. I maintain that he can handle my doubts and anger just as well as he can handle my praise and gratitude.

In this area, as in others, a more productive posture may be along the lines of “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” I doubt (teehee) you’re going to convince anyone to magically go cold turkey on having doubts by shaming them for it. Encouraging people to look to Jesus will probably be much more effective in many areas, and will help us all to focus on what’s most important.


No, of course not. But when doubts occur, we can deal with them properly or not. We can decide what to pay attention to, the stormy waters or the Lord.

Maybe some prostrate pleading is in order.

It is logically possible that the bad arguments I see advanced are not causally connected to their effect on me, but that seems like a real stretch.

Quite true. The effect that the objectively bad arguments have on me is subjective. That doesn’t make the arguments any better.

Dale, you’ve said that you wonder about people’s negative reaction to your claims, but how often have you tried to understand their reactions rather than simply telling people that they’re wrong? To be specific, why do I find your stories unconvincing?


I am also not saying that all doubt is wrong. (And how many times have I said that?!)

But if we don’t grow from our doubting then we are encouraging wilting.

What in them do you disbelieve? Why?

Actually … which facts you pay attention to (because you had to ignore many, many, many more in order to focus in on the facts you’re choosing to bring to the foreground of people’s attentions) is a very subjective choice - and guided by subjective agendas. I’m not saying that objectivity doesn’t exist. I’m just suggesting that the world isn’t neatly divided into some ‘objective portion’ (where all the ‘facts’ live) and another ‘subjective portion’ that is everything else.

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That I did not get a letter from the governor yesterday is not evidence for his nonexistence. If people want to continue to concentrate on their empty mailboxes to validate their subjective agendas, that’s on them.

Absolutely, we should pay attention to God. But the thing is, even that doesn’t always make doubts go away. Yes, it is important to keep our focus on Jesus – that is always a good thing. But it’s not magic. Truly “letting go and trusting” is just that – letting go – making a choice to trust even if the doubts are still there. Even if they stick around for a long time. My fear is that doubt-shaming can inadvertently encourage us to put the focus back on ourselves and our abilities to squelch or paper over doubts.

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We are talking about legitimate reasons for certitude. We can focus on them by choice and not let fickle feelings be determinant. Doubt is not a feeling.

Well, I’ve felt it plenty of times, and know plenty of others who have as well. Not sure what else to tell you. I never said we had to let it be determinant. That’s the whole point of focusing on God, isn’t it?