JESUS LOVES DOUBTERS!

Brian Nixon

Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service,writes…

In her book Doubt: A History, Jennifer Michael Hecht wrote, ‘Socrates counts among those great minds who actually cultivated doubt in the name of truth.’[1]

This seems like a contradiction: Doubt in the name of truth? If something is true, it is beyond doubt; facts are facts, right? And yet, everyone doubts at some point. But what if that doubt could lead you to discover a greater truth about God? Could doubt and truth have something in common?

Believe it or not, doubt really can lead to truth. [2] A quick look at some of the great lives in history reveals this:

  • The apostle Thomas: Nicknamed Doubting Thomas, this disciple of Jesus is known for seeking proof of Christ’s resurrection (see John 20:24-29). When Jesus showed Thomas his scars, Thomas was changed forever. He went from distrust to trust, from folly to faith.
  • Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a leading voice in the early church. Before coming to Christ, he led a life dedicated to intellectual pursuits and worldly desires. Augustine reflected on the close relationship between doubt and faith when he said, ‘Doubt is but another element of faith.
  • Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a mathematician, inventor, and devotional writer. One of the great thinkers regarding geometry, Pascal was well acquainted with numbers and objective truth. He was also a committed Christian, writing classic works of devotional thought. Pascal understood that doubt and truth were sometimes associated: ‘To deny, to believe, and to doubt absolutely – this is for man what running is for a horse.’
  • C S Lewis (1898-1963) was an Oxford professor, author, and Christian apologist. Yet prior to becoming a Christian, Lewis was an atheist. He later wrote, ‘I came into Christianity kicking and screaming.’
  • Philip Yancey (b. 1949): One of contemporary Christianity’s most popular authors, Yancey wrote, ‘Doubt is something almost every person experiences at some point, yet something that the church does not always handle well. I’m an advocate of doubt, because that’s why I became a Christian in the first place.’[3]

God has used doubt in the lives of Christians throughout the ages to reveal his truth. He uses doubt to create dependency on Christ, turning intellectual turmoil to trust in God. The Bible calls this faith.

Define
Derived from the Latin word dubius, doubt means a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary adds greater clarity by stating that doubt is ‘to believe that something may not be true or is unlikely.’[4]

Discover
Though doubt is part of the Christian experience, the Bible places greater emphasis on trust and belief. So, doubt in this sense doesn’t mean doubting doctrinal truth – that is, what the Bible clearly teaches to be true. Rather, doubt can lead to truth about how you live out your faith. In fact, finding God’s greater purposes is what life is about. As noted above, this ascent to God’s truth is deemed faith (pistis in Greek, meaning belief or trust).

Here are a few Bible verses to help you discover what God has to say concerning doubt and faith:

  • ‘So he said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”’ (Matthew 14:29-31).
  • ‘Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me’ (John 14:1).
  • ‘Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”’ (John 20:29).
  • ‘But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6).
  • ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways’ (James 1:5-8).

Develop
Atheist-turned-Christian Alister McGrath understood the correlation between doubt and faith. Doubt is based on uncertainty, but certainty isn’t the heart of faith – trust is. McGrath wrote:

‘To believe in God demands an act of faith—as does the decision not to believe in him. Neither is based on absolute certainty, nor can they be. To accept Jesus demands a leap of faith – but so does the decision to reject him. To accept Christianity demands faith – and so does the decision to reject it. Both rest on faith, in that nobody can prove with absolute certainty that Jesus is the Son of God, the risen Saviour of humanity – just as nobody can prove with absolute certainty that he is not. The decision, whatever it may be, rests on faith. There is an element of doubt in each case. Every attitude to Jesus – except the decision not to have any attitude at all! – rests on faith, not certainty. Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservations – a trust in a God who has shown himself worthy of that trust.’ [5]

Doubts will come in life – it’s part of our human fabric. It straddles a line between fear and trust. But rather than dwelling on doubt, turn to trust – a ‘trust in a God who has shown himself worthy.’

Doubt

 

 

 

 

 

When developing a plan to help those dealing with doubt, the Billy Graham Association’s Christian Worker’s Handbook gives some valuable advice:
• Offer a word of encouragement.
• Help identify the source of the doubts, emphasising that it is not wrong to ask why in life.
• Give a reminder that God has never promised freedom from adversity in life.
• Reflect on God’s goodness demonstrated in the past to remember evidences of God’s faithfulness.
• Pray for renewal.
• Encourage faithfulness in worshipping with God’s people. [6]

Demonstrate
Also, love the doubter. Why? Because Jesus loves doubters!
LListen to people. Make a sincere effort to get to know them and their situation.
OObserve their life. Where are they coming from – emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually? What is the root of their doubt? Ask yourself, ‘How can I assist them?’
VVoice God’s truth. What does the Bible teach concerning doubt? What does it say about trust and faith?
EEmbrace them with the love of God in Christ. Empathise over shared experiences, but keep Jesus the focus of your conversation and outreach.

To learn more about the series, Jesus Loves People, click here: www.jesuslovespeople.com

Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, minister and family man. Links:  https://twitter.com/BnixNews

References
[1] Jennifer Michael Hecht, Doubt: A History, 2003, http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/810463-doubt-a-history.
[2] Hecht is not implying that all doubt leads to truth.
[3] Philip Yancey, Faith and Doubt, 2009, http://philipyancey.com/q-and-a-topics/faith-and-doubt.
[4] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘Doubt’, 2014, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/doubt.
[5] Alister McGrath, Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith, Intervarsity Press, 1996.
[6] Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Christian Worker’s Handbook, 1996, p. 93.

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