Over Holy Week, I read through a wonderful book by D.A. Carson (has he written a bad book?) called Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. In a chapter dealing with who many have named ‘doubting Thomas,’ he outlines six ways doubt in the Christian faith creeps in. Not all doubt is created equal!
- Grounded in simple ignorance. You may doubt the things of Christianity simply because you don’t know about Christianity. If you doubt Christianity, is it because of what others have said about it, or by your own investigation and exploration of it?
- Systematic moral or philosophical choice. “Here, doubt [is] sliding into systematic skepticism grounded in fundamental moral and philosophical choices” (p. 145). If you believe life is meaningless, or you believe that the world was created by chance out of nothingness, then this is an example of how the rest of your life will follow suit. Are there moral or philosophical choices you’re making that are leading you away from God’s design as outlined in Scripture?
- Rite of passage as a function of maturity. Going off to college after being raised in a Christian home and having your Christian presuppositions challenged. “It may take a season of doubt, wrestling, reading, talking, self-examination, even despair, before coming through to a stable stance at the other end” (p. 146). In order for our beliefs to be our own rather than inherited, this ‘rite of passage’ can be a good thing. If you’re in college, have you been challenged to make your faith your own?
- A thousand atomistic choices. You start off well, but you make a great number of little decisions away from God’s will and purpose, then at some point you find yourself at a place where you have drifted into unbelief. If you doubt in this way, can you trace it back to where these thousand choices began? Are you prepared to repent, start over, and pursue God’s design in Christ?
- Sleep deprivation: Being so very busy that your lack of sleep affects you physically and mentally. This affects entire moods, attitudes, and actions. Are you getting enough sleep? What is your body telling you, and what will you adjust in your life to remedy this?
- Some deep, existential crisis: Losing a loved one, growing up in a troublesome home, or another type of pain and suffering can bring about doubt. Has something been troubling you regarding God’s love or care for the world because of this deep, existential crisis?
Are you struggling with doubt? The gospel of Jesus Christ finds a way to explain the need to pursue Him and His righteousness, to understand the place of pain and suffering in the world (after all, did not Jesus suffer, giving us the understanding that pain can have a purpose), and to show that the ultimate goal is for Christ to be formed in us (Galatians 4:19).
Where are you here? If you doubt, which reason best describes what and why? We will follow up in a future post to move through these matters.