Don’t Just Doubt Faith, Doubt Your Doubts
By Brett Kunkle
Students need space to share their doubts. We all do. If serious questions about Christianity and uncertainty toward God are not recognized and explored, they remain in the heart and mind, only to surface farther down the road and often with greater force. Simplistic Christian responses will not suffice. “Do extra devotions” or “just have faith” don’t do justice to a student’s real struggle with doubt. I encounter student doubt all the time.
My work actually helps to surface doubts, as I raise challenges to Christianity and then explore answers in my talks. I remember when Helia, a freshman at a Christian college in Southern California, approached me after the talk I gave at a Summit Ministries student conference this past summer and shared her struggle with doubt. I was glad for her honest questions and told her as much. Why? I want students to get their doubts on the table while they’re with me. So I always allow space for questions, the starting point for dealing with doubt.
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But what’s the next step? How do you help a student move from doubt to confidence in God’s truth? Here’s where some prominent voices in youth ministry are doing more harm than good. Andrew Root, coauthor of the book, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry, has an entire chapter on doubt titled, “Doubt and Confirmation: the Mentor as Co-Doubter.” Root seems to suggest that doubt is not something to eventually overcome. Rather, it is an end in itself: “But what if the objective of the confirmation teacher was not to work to pass on anything but was rather to be a partner and companion in doubt? …what if the best way to actually pass on the faith was not through lessons, certainty, and knowledge, but through doubt?”
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