“A faith without some doubts is like a human body with no antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask the hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.” - Timothy Keller
Doubts are normal and sometimes necessary to reaffirm our beliefs. Doubt isn’t always the opposite of faith, but sometimes an element of it. Maybe you think I’m suggesting that doubt can actually be virtuous. I suppose I am – but not always. There is a dark kind of doubt, an exaggerated and self-destructive kind of doubt, that leads to despair, depression, and spiritual self-sabotage. I think of it like this: fear is healthy, but fear out of control is called paranoia. Doubt is the same way. Out of control, it becomes unbelief, a hard heart, an arrogant or defeatist cynicism. But in balance, it is our counter for error. Without it, we’d be gullible, naïve, stupid.. not great spiritual qualities!
I think of it like this: all Christians are committed to lifelong spiritual growth. That means that five years from now, your set of beliefs will hopefully be different from todays, your beliefs will be more fine-tuned, more tested, more balanced, more examined. What causes you to examine a belief and test it is that something inside of you that isn’t quite at rest. By doubting it and then examining it, you can either call it a keeper because it passed the test or adjust it.
For example, I used to see science as “the enemy.” I thought I had to believe that the earth was very young, that the whole fossil record was a hoax, that biologists and archaeologists were in a scientific conspiracy against God, and that sort of thing. But then I was overcome by doubts. The scientific evidence against that belief system seemed so strong. This caused me to really begin thinking and reading and questioning. I was given the freedom to do that, and the result has been a vigorous faith that has grown– firmly rooted in the Bible, but not afraid in any way of the findings of science. I realized that my problem wasn’t with what the Bible says, but with what some Christians said the Bible says. As a result, I feel free to question “dogma” from either the church or science – because I believe that God wants me to seek the truth, and because everybody – preachers and scientists alike – can be wrong. I actually assume that right at this moment I’m wrong in hundreds of my beliefs, and I hope that God will keep leading me to doubt those beliefs so I can embrace better ones. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.
I believe Jesus when he said he’ll never leave us or forsake us – and that includes even when we question. Or as Paul said, even when we are faithless, God remains faithful. It’s ironic: the more free I am to doubt my specific beliefs, the more free I become to hold on to that personal faith in God.