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The Virtue of Doubt

By March 28, 20084 Comments

Have you ever stopped and wondered, “What if this is all just a big lie? What if God doesn’t exist? What if Jesus is nothing more than a myth, like the gods and goddesses of the Greeks, or the exalted figureheads of Eastern religions? What if Karl Marx was right, and religion was only created to be an opiate for the masses?”

I certainly do. A lot, in fact. Especially when I haven’t felt God’s presence in a long time, and my faith has been too long sustained by habit and discipline alone–that is when I really start to wonder about it all.

For many of us, such thoughts are disorienting, if not terrifying. When this happens, we begin to question all that our lives have stood for, and we even wonder about the validity of our salvation. After all, a good Christian wouldn’t doubt, right?

Well I heard a fantastic sermon on Easter morning that addressed this very issue. The sermon explored the story of Thomas–a very strange choice for Easter Sunday, indeed! But a good one, nonetheless. The pastor examined Thomas’ doubt, and instead of condemning Thomas for his unbelief, as many Christians have done throughout history, the pastor commended him for it. Why? Because doubt is the gateway to knowledge, not the denial of it.

To explain what he meant in affirming Thomas’ behavior, the pastor read a quote from a theologian named Pierre Abelard that really drives the point home:

The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.

Contrary to our instincts, doubt is actually a virtue. It is blind faith that can be dangerous. In blind faith, we never really know why we believe what we believe. Instead, we accept things without discrimination, thereby forfeiting any degree of credibility with those around us. In blind faith, our belief is based on gullibility or sheer stubbornness, but not evidence.

Doubt, on the other hand, pushes us to question, and questioning leads to answers. The more we push God, the more we will learn about Him. And we need not worry that God will be disappointed in us–He will not shrink back under our examination. Just as Christ was happy to show Thomas his wounds, God can meet us in our doubt. He is more than able to stand up under scrutiny.

Now that is not to say that doubt is the kind of virtue we should cling to and cultivate every step of the way. It is not virtuous to become arrogant, jaded or cynical in our doubt. At some point we must step out on faith, even if we don’t have all the answers. But that step should be an informed one, not a blind one.

So if you are struggling with doubt right now, do not question yourself or your salvation. Odds are, God desires you to deepen your faith, not undermine it, so He has brought you into this season for a distinct purpose. And if you have never before doubted in your life, I might press you to wonder why. We live in a complicated world that is governed by an infinite God, and those two components do not always fit into nice, neat, black and white boxes. That said, it is natural to be confused at times, and to wonder about God’s ways, so don’t be afraid to question Him. In fact, I would be worried if you haven’t. Scripture tells us that if we seek then we will find–there is no promise for those who do not seek.


  • Phil says:

    Wow. Well said. It’s refreshing to see another Christian not be afraid to talk about this issue. I know it was a struggle for many students in the Religion dept. while I was an undergrad. While I have learned to welcome these teaching moments in my own life, i know countless others who have either run from their own doubts or abandoned the faith altogether. Doubt is scary…and I only wish more Christians would talk about it and help other Christians work through it.

  • Wandering Soul says:

    So True Sharon! I have always felt bad about doubting in the past. I felt like a bad Christian because of it. Recently I have come to know that it is okay to doubt. In those times of doubt I have always come back with a stronger faith because of it. I just wish that someone would have told me it is okay to doubt. In those times I thought I was the only one. Bu t now I know that it is okay to doubt. and in those times of doubt it is alot less scary and confusing. I am able to express my feelings with others and know that they too go through those times.

  • Clifford says:

    Have you ever read/heard of “Ruthless Trust” by Brennan Manning? Like “Ragamuffin” it’s not light reading at all, but it’s really, really good and perspective-altering.

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