Trends come and trends go. One of the advantages of middle age is watching them go. Take Christian fashion for example: you can recognize a Christian hipster these days by their vintage jackets, torn jeans, iPhone 14’s, and their in-your-face doubt. Doubt is all the rage. Articulate and earnest Christians are shedding the fashions of their predecessors by posting their doubts online and in print. Thoughtful folks like the late Rachel Held Evans not only wrestled with the faith as they received it, but chronicle their journey of doubt for others to share. Yet it seems to me doubt has become a badge of authenticity in some circles. Is doubt the new mark of a follower of Jesus? What are the limits of doubt?
The Limits of Doubt
To begin with, it’s worth noting that doubt belongs in the Christian story. Gospel accounts of the resurrection include the doubts of Jesus’ closest followers. Doubt does not–and should not–exclude us from worship. Jesus bridged the gulf of open rebellion and sin in order to restore relationship with humanity; a little thing like doubt certainly won’t hold him back. The earliest Christian community followed Jesus’ example and did not reject those who struggled to believe (John 20:24-31 is an excellent example). Nor can I blame others for expressing their doubts. Honesty trumps mindless conformity. The demand for agreement on certain points of doctrine has damaged people’s faith as much as the open confession of uncertainty.
Yet there are problems with the popularity of doubt in our day. The rush to embrace doubt may be a needed correction within some quarters of Christianity, but it comes with a price. I’d like to suggest six considerations worth keeping on the front burner alongside the current dish of doubt simmering today.
6 Thoughts on the Limits of Doubt
1. Doubt can be the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work.
In every generation, the essentials of faith become polluted with the non-essentials of Christian culture. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is moving in a new generation of believers to question whether every detail of Evangelical faith is actually required by God. In every age, religious expressions are infused with political, social, and intellectual agendas that have no real bearing on the Kingdom of God–we just like to think they do!
2. Never trust anyone who hasn’t wrestled with doubt.
The person who receives the words of Jesus without any questions is someone who hasn’t really heard the words of Jesus. The Son of God is an equal-opportunity offender. Saul of Tarsus was a first-rate Jewish scholar who believed he was doing God’s work by persecuting Christians. After meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, he spent three days, blind and alone, reconsidering everything he previously believed to be God’s will. If Jesus is real, everything changes.