My question is about doubt. I have to write a paper for a Bible class I
take at my school. The paper is on the subject of doubt. I was just
wondering if you think doubt is a sinfull act or an act of trying to find
God. What do you think is the role doubt plays in a Christian’s faith? I
would love to hear your opinion.


I sure hope that doubt is not sinful, as I have had many doubts over the
years, and I still have many today. A doubt is a feeling that there is a
logical inconsistency between something we believe is true and our
experience or some other sort of evidence. A doubt is a feeling and
feelings by themselves are not sinful. It is how we deal with our
feelings which determines if they lead to sin or not. I believe it is
impossible to remove all doubts from our mind. In fact, it is not a good
goal to remove all doubts. As long as we continue to ask questions, doubts
will come up. If we stop asking questions we stop growing. Therefore, it
is not a good goal to eliminate doubts from our mind. If we do not doubt,
then we are arrogant?assuming that we are right on every point.

To prove my point that doubt is not sinful per se, let me share a few
biblical examples of faithful people who doubted God as well as God?s
response to that doubt. First, consider Psalm 73. Here the psalmist Asaph
is pouring his heart out to God, expressing his doubts. He is very honest
about the fact that he was tempted to question God?s love and wisdom
because of some difficult situations he had endured. Asaph complains about
the fact that the wicked appear to prosper, while the righteous suffer.
Another example is Habakkuk 1:2-4 in which the prophet asks God how long
he must wait for God to answer his pleas for justice. A third example is
Jeremiah 12:1-2 in which Jeremiah declares God to be just, yet immediately
charges God in his heart with being unjust. From the examples I have seen
in the Bible of sincere, faithful men and women who doubted God, I
conclude that God is very understanding about this. He does not get angry
when his children share their doubts with him. He wants us to carry our
burdens, including our doubts before him. We are not to suppress our
doubts. Rather we are to open up about them so that we can find answers,
both from our own research and from God?s intervention.

I believe there is a kind of doubt which is sinful. If we choose to doubt
so that we might have an excuse for not changing our lives, that is a
different story. Sometimes we want to avoid a difficult decision. Our
doubts can become a smoke screen to cover up our stubbornness and hardness
of heart. This is the case with many intellectual skeptics of
Christianity. Believers can fall into this trap as well. We can come to
cherish a particular doubt because of the excuse for inaction it gives us.
In such a case, we will cast reasonable evidence that our doubt is not
justified out of our minds because to stop doubting would require us to
take decisive action against a particular sin or in order to take on a
difficult task.

I do not want to produce “paralysis of analysis” in you. Those who tend
to struggle a lot with doubts may find themselves doubting whether their
doubt is sinful or not. Let me summarize in this way. If you are plagued
by some sort of doubt which disturbs you, you should be open about that
doubt with God in prayer. You should also be open about that doubt with
someone spiritual who is sufficiently mature that he or she will probably
not struggle with that doubt. You must be willing to seek God?s answer to
that doubt, even if it produces unpleasant consequences. Here is where
input from a friend may be helpful. For a doubt which is not going away,
you can ask a mature friend whether your doubt is reasonable or
unreasonable. If the doubt is unreasonable, you may need some
self-examination. Remember that the goal is not to remove all doubt, but
to use your doubts and the answers you find for those doubts to increase
your faith in the long run. In that sense, doubts can be “an act of trying
to find God.”

John Oakes, PhD

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