What’s Essential With Doubt

Are we really doubting something that’s worthwhile? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night I got a call from someone who was doubting. I asked them the nature of their doubts and got told it was about Noah’s Ark, Moses, and the resurrection. This person is a Christian, but is greatly troubled by their doubts. My first point to make to this person was what issues really mattered.

Could it be hypothetically that Noah’s Ark never happened in any way and yet Jesus rose from the dead? Could it be that Moses never existed in and yet Jesus rose from the dead? Both of these were a yes. Now what if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? Then we are in serious trouble.

There is a mistake many of us get into where we think we have to answer everything. We don’t. We can’t. It is always easier to raise up a question than it is to give an answer. It doesn’t matter who is asking the question. In any debate, it’s easier to be on the attack. To be on the attack, all you have to do is raise up a doubt. To defend, you have to do the work.

Let’s suppose a Christian wants to argue against an atheist so he presents what he thinks is a problem with evolution wanting to that route. In all honesty, it could be the atheist doesn’t have an answer at that point. Maybe he’s not a specialist in the science of evolution. It could be the Christian has a valid point. Maybe. Maybe not. Further study will answer that. Either way, the Christian will likely have the much easier time.

On the other hand, the atheist can all things being equal just raise up something that he doesn’t like in the Bible. Perhaps the Christian has an answer. Perhaps not. Further study again will answer that. Anyone who just gets in a dialogue and has no answer and immediately recants their faith is someone who didn’t take it seriously to begin with. These are issues that take a long time to work out. A Christian should not take abandoning Christianity lightly. An atheist should not take accepting Christianity lightly.

Yet this is the problem of our modern age. In too many debates on the internet, it is assumed that if you defend a position, you must be able to answer every single question against that position. No one can do that. When it comes to questions about science, for instance, I am more than happy to refer people to others. As someone who helps other ministries out with questions also, I will gladly say when a question is outside of my area of study and refer it to someone better equipped.

One of the big problems many doubters have is thinking that they have to know it all. This is an unreasonable expectation to have in any field. Let’s consider the sciences. These are divided into many different sciences and those sciences are divided into other sciences and on and on. The same with philosophy. In Biblical studies, someone could spend their lives studying just the Gospel of John for instance.

So what do you do? Focus on what is most essential first. For a Christian, it’s the resurrection of Jesus. Does this mean Noah’s Ark is an unimportant question? No. Does this mean the question of Moses is unimportant? No. It means that you don’t put all your eggs in baskets that don’t require them. All-or-nothing thinking is very common with doubters.

This is not to say all doubt is irrational. It’s not. Sometimes we should have legitimate doubt, but it does mean we need to say if we’re okay with being unable to answer everything. One way you can see what kind of doubt you have is if you are given a good factual answer and then you say, “Yeah, but what if?” What ifs are killers with doubt. A what if can be raised with anything and one has to ask if it’s a real legitimate one or just a sort of grasping at straws because of the dread fear one could be wrong about something.

Of course, one should be studying all that they can. This is why I also recommend reading both sides of the issue and having serious interaction with them. As for emotions, they don’t always have to be addressed. I compare them often to a barking dog. Many dogs will bark at you, and never bite. If you respond, they just bark all the more. Just let them bark in the background and move on.

If you have serious doubt that you don’t think is factual, that could be the time to talk to a trained therapist. There should not be any shame in that. (Guys. We have a disadvantage here. We often want it to be anything other than our emotions. Women have the advantage here.) That can be something that can help us overall in life when we get our emotions under control.

Doubt is common, but it’s not the end of the world. The people who never doubt their position are the people who are not taking it seriously. My thinking is that if I meet a man who cannot be wrong in what he says or thinks, I wonder why I should think him right.

In Christ,
Nick Peters