Intellectual Doubt

What’s the solution for intellectual doubt? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I recently wrote about dealing with doubt. Intellectual doubt is often thought to be the most common, but in reality, it isn’t. Matters can have a start that is intellectual, but can move beyond the intellect. This happens in paranoia and phobias for instance.

To use a personal example, when my spouse and I went on our honeymoon, we went to Ocean Isle Beach. My wife loves the water. I don’t really. I enjoy the beach because of the beauty and I can handle the waves lapping at my feet, but not much beyond that. Allie wanted to see me do more, so she got me out into waist high water in the ocean. That was scary enough.

Even more scary was the pool. I never go beyond 4 feet and I never move away from the edge. To put matters in perspective, I’m about 5’7″. I also should point out I cannot swim a lick and I never even go underwater, yet Allie wanted me to hold on to her as I went out into the 5′ section with her.

Did I do it? Yep.

Thinking the whole time? “This is it. I’m going to die right here.”

Rational? Not at all. Even if I had slipped, Allie would have rescued me, but there is still an intellectual seed in there somewhere. It’s the idea that people can drown in water and die. That’s true. If you can’t swim, you’d be more prone to drown, that’s also true.

Yet looking at what happened, it’s quite clear that the emotions took hold of what I was thinking and blew it out of proportion. A good way to see this is the constant raising of “What if?” questions. One can have a good intellectual answer but still come back with a “Yeah, but what if?” This often happens with Christians who doubt their salvation for instance.

In reality, doubt that is intellectual is the easiest to treat. Just learn more. If all your learning doesn’t answer your doubt any, you could have emotional doubt instead. Only you and God know that one. It is important to note that emotional doubt often disguises itself under intellectual doubt.

It could be your view is incorrect and then you would have to change it. If you are intellectually convinced Christianity is false, then don’t be a Christian. If you’re just unsure, then by all means keep looking. As a Christian, I am confident the answers are out there, but I have no problem telling you to keep an open mind. No Christian should. If what you believe is true, further study should bring that out.

There are times reading apologetics books will not do any good. That is with strong emotional doubt. Your mind will dismiss everything you read then. If not that, it will often think it has also explained it away when it could possibly be a quite sound defense of what you doubt. The dealing of emotional doubt will be covered later so that is not to be addressed now.

Besides, it can not hurt any of us to be more informed not only of what we believe but of what others believe. This is one reason I encourage people to not read the new atheists for instance. That includes atheists! The new atheists do not know what they’re talking about and present an uninformed critique. I in fact think the church should thank God for them. They’re getting the discussion in the public square and they get a weak demonstration of it out there as well. (To be fair, too many Christian apologetics works do the same thing.)

The cure for intellectual doubt then? More knowledge? That doesn’t work? Then it could be your doubt is only masked by intellectual difficulties. We’ll deal with that another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters