Strategies for Dealing with Doubt
Newton suggests some strategies for dealing with doubt. The first one is that some issues require us to hold a “both/and position.” Some issues are not black and white. Second, we should be “healthy suspicious, skeptical” of “some” scholars, but not all of them who do not share our faith perspective. Third, students and scholars should maintain a strong link to a local church. “This will help keep our feet on solid ground and especially so if we can be involved in an active ministry—a practical outlet of service with ordinary people to help us process the things we are learning” (337). Fourth, we should remember the “past faithfulness of God.” Fifth, we should be “suspicious of new and ground-breaking methodologies’ (337). Raymond Brown speaking of the Jesus Seminar observed, “If we ever make Christian faith totally dependent on the latest scholarly interpretation of a text, it could change each week.” We should draw on the riches of the past and not be blinded by the new. Sixth, we should affirm the sovereignty of God. I would add that we need to cultivate the virtue of humility and the hermeneutics of charity.
We have seen that Christians do struggle with doubt. It is not a sin to doubt. As we have seen, even people in the Bible struggled with doubt. Doubt probably just means we are human. It is probably a permanent condition of our lives. Some people because of their physical, psychological, and emotional make-up will be more prone to doubt. Doubt can be beneficial. It is part of faith. It includes skepticism. We must not believe everything. Not everything is true. Faith in God requires a healthy skepticism. There is both constructive and destructive doubt. Destructive doubt can have negative consequences. Doubt does not necessarily cause us to abandon our faith. We chose to abandon the faith because of our doubts. We can choose otherwise. Doubt is part of the process of growing as a Christian. It is a painful process to grow in our faith through questioning. We do not need to be afraid of intellectual challenges to the faith. As Flannery O’Connor stated: “What kept me a skeptic in college was precisely my Christian faith. Itr always said: wait, don’t bite on this, get a wider picture, continue to read.” Faith and reason is not the same thing. Newman observed: “Do not suppose I have been speaking in disparagement of human reason: It is the way to faith; Its conclusions are often the very objects of faith . . . But still reason is one thing and faith is another. And reason can as little be made a substitute for faith, as faith can be made a substitute for reason. Ultimately, faith and reason are compatible. Faith is not a leap in the dark. It is a leap into the light.