There’s an unhelpful perception in modern day Christianity that doubt is the opposite to faith, that you can’t be a Christian and have doubts. Such a perception forces us to deny our doubts or hide them. But there, in the recesses of our minds, we take something which could have helped our faith and made it a hindrance.
Recently OCCA graduate and now RZIM itinerant speaker Alex Stark appeared on our Take Five series to explore the misconception of doubt and other unhelpful perceptions of Christianity in today’s world. Take Five began as the world heading into lockdown in March of this year. It was motivated by the experience that time after time, wisdom works in the interruptions of our daily lives. It was the ministry’s invitation to you to turn interruptions into illustrations through the words of a different speaker each week.
Wherever you are on the spectrum of faith and scepticism and whatever else falls betwixt and between, Alex’s considerations of his own doubts and misconceptions will perhaps draw out your own deeply felt questions about meaning.
One of the famous stories from the gospel of John is the story of Thomas in chapter 20. I think we can learn two things about doubt from reading his story. Thomas was a disciple who spent three years on the road with Jesus. Then Jesus died and the hope that he was the King who would come to liberate his people from evil, died with him. All of the disciples’ hopes had come to nothing. But then a few days later Jesus is resurrected from the dead and he appears to the disciples. Thomas was out at the time and he missed Jesus’ first appearance. When his peers start giving him the report of Jesus’ resurrection, he thinks that his mates have gone mad.
Dead bodies don’t just rise from the dead. Thomas would have thought that in the same way that any modern person would think that today. He said these words, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, I will not believe.”
A week later the resurrected Thomas appeared to Jesus and Jesus said is fascinating. He didn’t say, “Well, just have faith.” He didn’t say, “Because you’ve doubted, you’re out.” He said, “Put your finger here, see my hands, reach out your hand and put it into my side.” In other words, Jesus condescended to Thomas’ need for evidence. He responded to Thomas’ question. He met Thomas’ doubt.
Jesus words and actions teach us something, that being a Christian doesn’t mean being someone who doesn’t have doubts. It means about honest about doubt and bringing them to God. Jesus is the God who meets doubters where they are at.
Christian faith isn’t about not having doubts; it’s about being honest about our doubts and bringing them to God. That’s real faith: trusting God with what we can and trusting Him to form the parts of us we’ve not yet entrusted to Him.
*** *** ***
Alex Stark is a speaker for RZIM based in Sydney, Australia. He is interested in the big questions people ask about the Christian faith, as well as helping them imagine what their life could be like if they followed Jesus.