Doubt 1

Doubt is a topic that many Christians want to avoid, but shouldn’t—in particular because many non-Christians view Christians as “anti-intellectual” and afraid to ask questions of what they believe and why it matters. There is a difference between asking questions about our faith and questioning our faith. The difference lies in our attitude and motivation. Those with faith in the Lord may struggle with doubt and say with the man in Mark 9:24, Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”’ Some people are greatly hindered by doubt, while others, see it as a springboard to life. Others still see it as an obstacle to overcome or avoid at all costs. The Bible has a lot to say about doubt and provides examples of people who struggled well with it.

Classic humanism teaches that doubt, while uncomfortable, is essential for life. René Descartes, a philosopher, said, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” The founder of Buddhism Siddhartha Gautama once said, “Doubt everything. Find your own light.” If we take this advice, we will have to doubt everything, including what they said. Instead of taking the advice of skeptics and false teachers, we have the clear, authoritative, sufficient, and inspired Word of God.

The first expression of doubt in Scripture was Genesis 3 when Satan tempted Eve. The Lord God had given a clear command to Adam regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and specified the consequences regarding disobedience. Satan introduced doubt into Eve’s mind when he asked, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:3). Satan, at this moment, wanted to introduce a lack of confidence in the command of God to Adam and Eve. When Eve affirmed the Lord’s command and the consequences therein, Satan replied with a denial, which is a strong statement of doubt, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Doubt is a tool of Satan to make God’s people question God’s Word—it functions like poison in the soul of God’s children, leading them into sin and rebellion against Him, instead of towards obedience and growth in His grace.

It would be a mistake to think we can blame Satan for Adam’s disobedience. The Bible holds accountable every person who doubts. For example, when Zechariah was visited by the angel of the Lord and told that he would have a son (Luke 1:11-17), he doubted the word given to him. He assumed that he and his wife were too old to have children, and in response to his doubt, the angel said he would be mute until the day God’s promise was fulfilled (Luke 1:18-20). Zechariah doubted God’s ability to overcome natural obstacles. Many people today share the same doubt. Any time we allow human reason to overshadow faith in the Lord God, sinful doubt is the result. No matter what our reasons may be, God has made foolish the wisdom of the world (1st Corinthians 1:20), and His seemingly ‘foolish’ plans are far wiser than man’s. Faith is trusting God even when His plan goes against human reason or experience.

Contrary to the humanistic view that doubt is essential to life, the Bible says that doubt is a destroyer of life. James 1:5-8 tells us that when we ask God for wisdom, we are to ask in faith, without doubt. If we doubt God’s ability to respond to our request, what would be the point of asking in the first place? The Lord says that if we doubt while we ask, we will not receive anything from Him, because we are unstable. “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).

The remedy for doubt is faith, and faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The Lord gave us the Bible as a testimony of His works in the past, so we will have a reason to trust Him in the present. “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago” (Psalm 77:11). For us to have faith in God, we must study to know what He has said and revealed in the Word of God. Once we have an understanding of what God has done in past redemptive history, what He has promised us for the present in Christ, and what we can expect from Him in the future, we can act in faith instead of doubt.

The most famous doubter in the Bible was Thomas, who declared that he would not believe that the Lord was resurrected unless he could see and touch Jesus himself (John 20:25-28). When he later saw Jesus and believed, he received the gentle rebuke, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  We can have confidence even in the things we cannot see because God has proven Himself faithful, true, and able.

In this issue of Theology for Life, you will hear from many of the most prominent theologians of our day on the subject of doubt to help you learn to face it head-on and grow in the grace of God. Wherever you are on your journey, there is help in this issue for you—from help for the skeptic, to the Christian struggling with doubt. It is our prayer that, as you read this issue, you will be helped, equipped, and grow in the grace of God through facing your doubt with faith in God’s Word.

In Christ Alone,

Dave Jenkins

Executive Editor, Theology for Life Magazine