I have been considering lately the recent tendency in Christianity to rally around doubt. There is, I think, good and helpful reasons for doing so. Doubt is a common experience among the faithful and to connect within that dark place of unsure heart eases the anxiety found within it. Sometimes these conversations can move us forward from our doubts, or sometimes they can make us comfortable there.
My worry is that young Christian culture, in getting comfortable with doubt, may make their bed there, so to speak, instead of doing the hard work required to move beyond it. Doubt-as-a-state closely brushes with cynicism, in my experience, and often fosters a spiritual tepidity and acedia. In a Christian world that embraces doubt as a badge of intellectual superiority and world-weary wisdom, where does belief lie?
In my experience, confident belief becomes a signal of eye-roll inducing enthusiasm at best, and anti-intellectual ignorant stupidity at worst. Yet it is clear in the Bible that belief is good and not just good but even maybe necessary for the life we are called to. Hebrews 11:6 says:
And 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 seek Him.James tells us
Now, I do not say this to discourage doubters, because I find myself in that place often, but what I do want to discourage is resting on doubt, and growing comfortable there. Belief is a sort of seed of faith, I think. In Hebrews, following the verse I quoted, we are told the stories of the old saints, whose assurance of hope and conviction of the unseen moved their faith into obedience. In James, we are told that to stop at belief is not enough: "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." He makes it clear that belief is insufficient; we must cultivate a faith which manifests in obedience.But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
As belief fosters faith which becomes obedience, I submit that doubt, if left unchecked can foster fear which will become disobedience. I do not want to suggest that those who doubt are somehow "less" Christian, but I also want to firmly reject the idea that the simple faith of those who do not struggle is somehow anti-intellectual, stupid, ignorant, or "less".
So, what now? What to do when we find ourselves in that place of doubt? My only answer is prayer ("Lord I believe; help my unbelief!"), and obedience in what we can grasp. Doubt does not need to replace faith, but can coexist with it, if one continues in obedience: love others, pray for assurance like the persistent widow, a continually walk to seek that promised assurance. Go out as Abraham, not knowing where he was going, a stranger in a foreign land. Walk as one who clearly demonstrates seeking a country of their own, a better country, even though death may come before:
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God ; for He has prepared a city for them.
What do you think? Am I missing the mark here? Have you experienced doubt or have you experienced others judging your faith because your doubt or lack thereof? And, as always, I am no theologian, so if you think I am wrong, let me know!