Doubt as Virtue: How to Doubt and Have Faith without Exploding
By Travis M. Dickinson
An experience of intellectual doubt is often taken by Christians to be a sign of weak faith. I argue, however, that an encounter with doubt, when treated properly, is extremely valuable, since it can lead to knowledge and an even greater faith. To see this, it’s important to understand the nature of doubt. Intellectual doubt should be defined as finding plausible what we take to be a potentially defeating claim. This definition provides insights for how to evaluate one’s doubts. My claim is that it is completely rational to maintain our Christian faith while experiencing doubt. This allows us to in turn evaluate the reasonableness of our doubt. Evidence matters with intellectual doubt, since a doubt requires outweighing evidence to defeat a belief effectively. Merely to find an objection plausible is not for there to be a preponderance of evidence in its favor. The upshot of all this is that, by addressing our doubts, we are forced to think more carefully about our faith (i.e., we have greater knowledge) and, in the case that a doubt is diffused, we have more reason to trust (i.e., we have an even greater faith).
It is not uncommon for Christians to doubt their Christian faith. Unfortunately, we often treat our doubts as if we have contracted an illness. Indeed, the prescription for doubt and the prescription for a common cold are often virtually identical. When one doubts, one is told to wait it out, treat symptoms as best as one can, and hope it goes away. This approach might work for some. But for many others, the doubts creep back in, and they often return with friends. Sadly, many abandon their Christian faith because they cannot find a safe place to admit and address their doubts. Doubt, when handled properly, is incredibly valuable because it leads to knowledge and an even greater faith…
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