How we respond to doubt is a big deal. Lots of Christians struggle with doubt (whether or not they say so). Sometimes they get the impression that their doubts or questions aren’t ‘allowed’ — I’ve even heard someone say, ‘Maybe I’m going to hell for thinking this…’
I found this diagnosis particularly insightful (it’s fromthis article from last November’s issue of Christianity Today — you can also read an accompanying interview with the author at The Other Journal):
Christians often have one of two opposite and equally harmful reactions when they talk with someone who has left the faith: they go on the offensive, delivering a homespun, judgmental sermon, or they freeze in a defensive crouch and fail to engage at all.
Whether it’s someone who’s left the faith or someone currently wrestling with doubts, my pastoral instincts and experience tell me that there’s got to be a better way to respond.
But what is it?
Here are a few random thoughts:
- Give each other permission to work through our doubts. I suspect a large part of this would come from Christian leaders taking risks and sharing their own struggles — and not always just the ones they’ve struggled with in the past (although, of course, we’d need to model constructive engagement with them as well).
- Help each other with appropriate resources and opportunities to ask questions and express doubt (and hear others ask questions and express doubt). Is it any wonder people who struggle with doubt move to the periphery of Christian community we never giving them the space to do it in fellowship with us?
- Inspire each other to face doubt Christianly — e.g., point to the stories of ‘trusting doubters’ (from the Bible as well as contemporary and historical experience). Doubt isn’t necessarily the enemy of faith but often leads to deeper faith — for example, expressing doubt honestly in prayer enacts a much deeper trust in God’s goodness than playing your cards close to your chest out of fear.
Maybe you could add to the list?