Ten Great Quotes About Doubt & the Christian Experience

Ten Great Quotes About Doubt & the Christian Experience April 25, 2016

doubt.001I’ve been thinking about doubt a lot lately, and its central importance in the act of faith. Over the years I’ve come to believe that if you don’t, at one time or another, doubt nearly every aspect of the Christian faith, then you are simply not taking it seriously. Here are a few of my favorite quotes on the essential nature of doubt to the Christian experience:


“Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith… Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful.” – Paul Tillich

“Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” – Frederick Buechner

“Belief in God does not exempt us from feelings of abandonment by God. Praising God does not inoculate us from doubts about God.” – Eugene Peterson

“Surely… we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety.” – John Calvin

“I do not believe there ever existed a Christian yet, who did not now and then doubt his interest in Jesus. I think, when a man says, “I never doubt,” it is quite time for us to doubt him.” – Charles Spurgeon

“To deny, to believe, and to doubt absolutely — this is for man what running is for a horse.” – Blaise Pascal

“I think the trouble with me is lack of faith… often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address.” – C.S. Lewis

“Who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith?… We’ve all experienced this, me too.” – Pope Francis

“The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions, and we become smug like the Pharisee who listed all his considerable virtues, and thanked God that he was not like other men… Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.” – Madeleine L’Engle

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate… I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.” – Brennan Manning

One good warning about the downside of doubt, or superficial doubt:

“We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can almost be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt.” – Dallas Willard

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  • jekylldoc

    All excellent insights. Thank you. I try to focus these days on faith in values, rather than faith in propositions of fact. It seems to me the dynamics of doubt are even clearer, and even stronger, for those commitments. If you haven’t doubted your commitments, there is a good chance you don’t really know them.

    • And its probably safe to say you have no commitments because of your doubt.

      • jekylldoc

        I don’t know why you say this, or even what you mean.

      • Tim Suttle

        What a pathetic thing to say… who are you to judge my commitments, Ann? You know nothing about me and the commitments I have not only made, but lived into with fidelity for decades. You obviously didn’t read these insightful and brilliant quotations, or if you did you have not comprehended them. Doubt is a necessary aspect of faith. Remove doubt & what’s left is not faith. It’s certitude. Faith disappears when there is no doubt. Don’t come to my blog & make those sorts of accusations…

  • Ficino

    I join Brendan Manning in liking beer, but his quotation and his apparent understanding of Aristotle drive me to vodka.

    I don’t understand why doubt is celebrated as the back side of the faith experience. Why should an omni-everything God f-ck around in this hide and seek game with rational creatures of flesh (sorry, Brendan)? I have heard the rationales many times, but the whole shebang makes more sense on simpler assumptions. I’m guessing Wm. of Ockham liked beer, too.

  • George Waite

    I doubt I’d be able to stay away during a religious service.

  • John Gills

    As an agnostic, I’m a laborer in the fields of doubt. Fun connection, my college religion teacher, the redoubtable Ronald Goetz, was a student of Paul Tillich.

  • I agree 100% with the Dallas Willard quote- its so apt. Sceptics love equating doubt as an element of faith in an attempt to be intellectual. Yet its just intellectually pretentious.

    • Or just a convenient cover for unbelief.

  • TLC

    As someone who is chock-full of doubt right niw, this is much appreciated. Thank you!

    Can I still be an angel if I have an incredible capacity for wine? Or margaritas?

  • Jerry Lynch

    If we do not doubt all beliefs, bring the the power and intelligence of the Devil’s Advocate to mercilessly bear on every thought, we live a delusion.

  • Linnea912

    Love that quote by Buechner. He’s got a whole book on the subject of doubt, called “The Hungering Dark.” Highly recommended.