The Benefit of Doubt

I read an article this week on the benefit of doubt for our faith. The author of the article is Peter Enns, I will provide some excerpts in this post, but if you are interested in the entire article you can check out this link:  The Benefit of Doubt: Coming to Terms with Faith in a Postmodern Era.

There is a benefit of doubt. Let me put that more strongly: there are things doubt can do spiritually that nothing else can do. Doubt is not the enemy, but a gift of God to move us from trusting ourselves to trusting him. Doubt feels like God is far away or absent, but it is actually a time of “disguised closeness” to God that moves us to spiritual maturity. Doubt is not a sign of weakness but a sign of growth.

Doubt forces us to look at who we think God is. It makes us face whether we really trust HIM, or whether we trust what we have made God to be. Doubting God is painful and frightening because we think we are leaving God behind. But doubt—real hard deep unnerving uncomfortable scary doubt—helps us to see that, maybe we have made God into our own image. We come to discover, slowly but surely, that the “faith” we are losing is not faith in God. It is actually in the idea of God that we surround ourselves with.

You see, doubt doesn’t mean that God is dying for us. Doubt signals that we are beginning to die to ourselves and our ideas about God…Don’t let the obvious pass you by: this sort of thing is in the Bible. Why? Because this “abandoned by God” business is part of normal Christian experience.

Doubt is usually cumulative; it creeps in. God, the Bible, your faith, stop making sense, and so you toss it all away. But here is the point. You say that God and all that Jesus stuff just don’t work in the world you live in. But maybe the God and Jesus that aren’t working aren’t the real thing. What if what isn’t working isn’t God at all, but our version. Maybe doubts are the first step to stripping off the old getting at the real thing.

When you go out into the world and say “it’s not working,” maybe that is a signal. It’s not God who no longer works, it’s your idea of God that needs work.

What are your thoughts on this topic? How have you viewed the place of doubt in the journey of faith? Do you agree or disagree with his comments?

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4 comments

  1. Kory,

    I can totally relate to the topic of doubt, but have never thought about this way. I do agree with the comments, and it will help me reevaluate some things through prayer.

    Thank you for your faithfulness!!

  2. Jonathan, Great to hear from you man. I thought that this perspective was helpful and liberating. In the rest of the article he discusses the honest questions in the Psalms and how doubt can be God-ward. Wrestling matches with things we believe is very healthy so long as God is in the ring with us….I think this is what healthy biblical doubting looks like. As I have grappled with the topic of doubt personally and from Scripture, I have learned that it is a pretty complex topic. Scripture has diverse things to say on the topic and it seems that doubt can be both dangerous and healthy. The context and content of the doubting have a lot to do with what swings it in either direction. I would really enjoy hearing more of your thoughts on the topic if you would like to put them out there. I appreciate you very much Jonathan and hope you are doing well.

    1. I guess I can relate strongly because I have felt myself “slip” into this “doubting phase” from time to time. It didn’t happen in high school or college because I was not outward in my faith at that time. I know many youth doubt in this phase of life due to the education they are receiving or heavy peer pressure. In maybe the last couple years for different seasons I would find myself questioning my Maker, doubting his existence or power. It was convicting read the post because it points me back to my flaw and my sin not the lack of God in this world or in my life for that matter. I can look back when I reflect and she that it is or was idea of God that was flawed, and I am guilty of being a babbling Paegan and not a humble follower of Christ. “Why isn’t my plan His plan?” I would ask, instead of my are my paths not aligned with His will. It takes me back to the heart of the gospel and a reminder that I must die to self daily to receive His blessings. I find when I go for periods of time not doing that my “doubting” gets substantially greater then when my walk to close. Now I will say that when I have been faithful, He has still seemed distant, but during that time of faithfulness it has been apparent to me that The Holy Spirit keeps me from doubting or questions. I guess with that said though, of The Holy Spirit has given me peace in those times, then God was never distant.:) love how you get me thinking man! Hope you guys are well. We are good! Love and miss you! Gotta catch up soon!

  3. Jonathan, I appreciate you elaborating further on the topic. I can relate to the hard reality that God’s plans and my plans are often in conflict. I know you can understand this as you have been part of my journey over the last few years. I resonate with your thoughts about the disconnect at times between God “as he is” and God “as I see him.” You know what has really encouraged me when the two just do not line up—God’s grace toward me is not based on how well I have done in this regard. He is tremendously patient with my flawed views of him. He is also patient with my questions and doubts. As Paul says, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Tim 2:13). He is unmoved by all my flopping around. That encourages me! I also connected with your thoughts on the paradox of God’s distance and nearness. Thanks for your thoughts Jonathan…it’s always encouraging to dialogue with you. Yes, we need to connect soon!

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