Two Myths About Doubt and the Reason for Apologetics

by Graham Veale

A popular evangelical urban myth – popularised by theologians and preachers who should know better – is that “doubt” is a state half-way between belief and unbelief. This description of “doubt” comes close to agnosticism; many Christians, therefore, feel an unnecessary dread of doubt. It is as if questions like, ‘How do I really know there is a God?’ put a Christian on the path to unbelief. Of course, this is absolute nonsense, as a few minutes reflection demonstrates.

A simple example illustrates that doubt and belief are compatible. Consider a student sitting an important exam. She passionately wants a good grade, has studied hard, and gives what she believes to be the correct answer to every question. Once she has answered the paper it is sent away for marking; and, typically, this is when most students experience doubt. She has written what she believed to be correct; but what if her beliefs were not true?

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The more that student wants to pass her exam, the greater her anxiety will be; a student who has little invested in the course will not lose much sleep over his result. So the student, who paid most attention to the questions, who read over each several times, and who gave what she earnestly believed to be true answers, is much more likely to experience doubt than, say, her boyfriend who took a casual approach to the exam. It doesn’t matter to him if his beliefs were true or false.

Similarly, the Christian’s doubt is not evidence of a lack of belief. Doubt is simply evidence that the Christian would like some assurance that her beliefs are true. In fact, the Christian with passionate faith is more likely to experience doubt than the tepid believer, who does not really grasp the monumental importance of Christianity. Doubt is nothing to be ashamed of; quite often it is the road to deeper understanding and maturity. As Christians discover answers to their  doubts, they learn why they  can trust the Gospel.

In answering her doubts the Christian gains a deeper appreciation of God. An acquaintance with the moral argument helps the Christian understand that God is the greatest good. She learns that atheism cannot give an adequate account of life, the universe and everything; she sees that a universe without God is meaningless and hopeless. An acquaintance with the design or cosmological arguments familiarises the believer with God’s majesty. She better understands God’s work and God’s world, aiding her worship of the God who is the foundation of the universe.

So doubt, like other growing pains, feels unpleasant but can be a sign of health. Yet there is a second myth about doubt…

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Two Myths About Doubt and the Reason for Apologetics – Saints and Sceptics

 

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