There’s a new phenomenon sweeping the Church in America, the Gospel of Doubt. Questioning the veracity of the Bible, questioning whether doctrine has any worth today, and questioning the need to live out the traditional bedrock assumptions of the Faith have all become standard fare for today’s Christians.
In what has become almost a fad among the spiritually trendy, Doubt has become the new Faith. The heroes of the faith today are not those who stand firm in the midst of trials, but those who quiver with doubt that anything good can come out of tough times. Job’s cry of faith, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” has been replaced with “There is a chance my Redeemer may actually not live.”
We are watching a revisioning of what is worthy of admiration occur in just a decade. Those who routinely express their doubts are now considered the most spiritually mature, the most worthy of imitation. This trend is so new that the language of doubt is still wet on the page, but look for more nominally Christian books discussing it to show up on the shelves of your local bookstores soon.
Postmodernism is partly to blame for this trend. The rejection of assurance in a relativistic age makes heroes of self-proclaimed seekers and villains of those who advocate any kind of certainty. But did our Lord hold up doubt as something to admire? His words say otherwise:
Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
—John 20:27 NIV
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
—Matthew 14:30-31 NIV
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
—Matthew 21:21-22 NIV
The New Testament has other admonitions:
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
—Romans 1:17 NIV
Without weakening in his faith, [Abraham] faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
—Romans 4:19-21 NIV
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
—Hebrews 10:39 NIV
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord…
—James 1:5-7 NIV
Clearly, we do understand that people who are unquestionably Christians do doubt from time to time. But we should never make an altar to doubt. Doubt is the shadow of faith and is, therefore, a pale reflection of the truth. We need to resist it, not make it a virtue lest we find ourselves to be a powerless Church. We must remember that it was in Jesus’ own hometown that we see the fruition of doubt:
He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
—Mark 6:5-6 NIV
We should not be surprised, though, at this elevation of doubt over faith. It is the sign of the times and will persist till He comes again, for the Lord Himself warns:
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
—Luke 18:8b NIV
If we Christians make doubt the new faith, the answer to Jesus’ question is sadly obvious.