“Doubt acts as a sparring partner both to truth and error. It keeps faith trim and helps to shed the paunchiness of false ideas. Like a terrier, doubt worries at weak ideas until they escape reinvigorated or collapse exhausted. It is the nature of doubt always to be questioning, challenging, inquiring, cross-examining.” (Guinness, 48)
A relentless terrier. I think that’s a pretty apt description of doubt. Terriers aren’t exactly the breed of dog you’d employ to fend of intruders, but they’ll do the job in sounding the alarm that danger is afoot. Doubt is like that—it’s a horrible thing to use as the sole means of protecting your house, but there is a way in which doubt can actually alert us to false ideas and lead us into a more robust and lively faith.
Yet, I think far too many Christians have opted to just shoot the dog and not deal with the doubt. We’ve been told that to doubt the Scriptures is to launch yourself onto a slippery slope of unbelief. We get afraid when we start to ask questions. We’re afraid that if we put our faith through the fire it might not stand. When we come to a passage of Scripture which unsettles us we rebuke those feelings, try to ignore them, and move on to things which make us feel a bit more certain.
But the terrier still barks.
You can muzzle the terrier, but you’ll remain stuck at that place. You’ll now possess a “faith which was once vital but has become so taken for granted that it is no longer authentic.” Because to keep yourself shielded from the barking dog you have to either ignore places of Scripture, or shelve the entire enterprise. The dog will be silent but your faith will wither into nothingness.
There is another option. Listen to the dog. Truth is never scared of a microscope. If something is true then it’s true down to it’s very core. You don’t have to be afraid to ask difficult questions.
I appreciate this picture given to us by Esau McCaulley:
I propose instead that we adopt the posture of Jacob and refuse to let go of the text until it blesses us. Stated differently, we adopt a hermeneutic of trust in which we are patient with the text in the belief that when interpreted properly it will bring a blessing and not a curse. (McCaulley, 20)
When something in God’s Word unsettles us we should not be quick to leave it for the more comfortable places. Yes, there may be times when we have to table some of our concerns and pick them up at a time when we’re in a healthier place. But we should as McCaulley so aptly put it, “be patient with the text”. God aims to bless us through His Word. We should believe that.
This is why we wrestle with the text. We believe that if keep doing that eventually we’re going to be blessed. That terrier can be our friend. He’s pointing out that something isn’t consistent. It could be that we need to change our worldview and lifestyle. Or it could be that we’re not seeing the Scriptures, or the God of the Scriptures, consistently. And so we wrestle. We plead with God to bless us from His Word—to sort out the questions and help us see Him shine.
When you get unsettled by something you read in your Bible, don’t give up on your Bible reading too quickly. I’d also say that if you’re never uncomfortable with God’s Word, you’ve probably already shot your terrier and are deeply within the process of making a god of your own making.
This article originally appeared here.