Daily Reading for May 6

It’s surprising how many Christians prefer not to talk about doubt. Some even refuse to think about it. Somehow, admitting to doubt seems to amount to insulting God, calling his integrity into question. . . . Yet one of the reasons why so many Christians have difficulty in coping with doubt is that they confuse it with two quite separate ideas, which at first seem similar but are actually rather different.

In the first place, doubt is not skepticism–the decision to doubt everything deliberately, as a matter of principle.

In the second, it’s not unbelief–the decision not to have faith in God. Unbelief is an act of will, rather than a difficulty in understanding. . . .

Doubt often means asking questions or voicing uncertainties from the standpoint of faith. You believe—but you have difficulties with that faith, or are worried about it in some way. Faith and doubt aren’t mutually exclusive—but faith and unbelief are.

Doubt is probably a permanent feature of the Christian life. It’s like some kind of spiritual growing pain. Sometimes it recedes into the background; at other times it comes to the forefront, making its presence felt with a vengeance. . . . It is helpful to think of doubt as a symptom of our human frailty, of our reluctance to trust God. . . . Many people feel deeply attracted by the gospel, despite their doubts. On the one hand, their doubts are real and hold them back from faith; on the other, the pull of the gospel is very strong and draws them toward faith. In the end, they decide to put their trust in God and in Jesus Christ, despite unresolved anxieties and difficulties. They are still in two minds. They hope that their doubts and difficulties will be sorted out as they grow in faith. The seventeenth-century philosopher Francis Bacon commended this way in his Advancement of Learning: “If a man will begin with certainties, he will end in doubts; but if he is content to begin with doubts, he will end in certainties.”

From Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith by Alister E. McGrath (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2006).

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