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The core of doubt
by Mark McIntyre
In the story of Peter walking on the water, Matthew records Jesus’ response when Peter became frightened and started to sink. Jesus said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
This phrase has often been interpreted as a rebuke of all doubt. The understanding is that Jesus is telling Peter that it was wrong to doubt, the inference being that all doubt is wrong. When this passage is preached in this way, the implication is that we should have complete control over our thought process and that all doubt can and should be removed from our minds. I have heard some preachers say that all doubt is sin.
Scripture does not support this assertion. I wonder if the preachers who make these claims have ever read the Psalms. David and the other psalmists ask lots of hard questions and reveal their doubts about God and frustrations with God. They are brutally honest about their struggles.
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I also point to Jesus response to Thomas’ doubt. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his doubt; rather than a rebuke, Jesus offered evidence to Thomas (John 20:27). Jesus offered his battle scars to Thomas as proof of his identity.
If Jesus’ words to Peter are not a rebuke of all doubt, then what is the point of the question?
Perhaps we should understand the functional word to be “why.” Understood this way, Jesus is asking “what is at the core of doubt?” What is behind your doubt?
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