Christian Faith is not Belief, nor Certainty

Christian Faith is not Belief, nor Certainty March 15, 2013

A young Christian wrote an e-mail expressing concern about doubt. I thought I would share what I wrote to them, in case it is helpful to others:

I wonder whether you may not have understood the “faith” referred to in the New Testament primarily in terms of holding the right beliefs. If you consider Paul’s use of Abraham as the primary example of faith, what Christian doctrines did Abraham believe in? Trinity? No. Jesus? Not an option at that point either. Most of the “fundamentals of the faith” were not known to him. His faith is clearly his trust in God – which did not preclude moments of despair and even some bargaining with God (apparently successfully!)

I sincerely believe that, if there is something that God wants humanity to know, upon which our salvation depends, that will have been made VERY clear. And conversely, if something is really ambiguous, I don’t have the impression that God is one who plays tricks on human beings, setting us up to fail and then laughing when we do. That isn’t to say that the things about which we cannot be certain aren’t important and aren’t worth pondering, exploring, and drawing conclusions about. My point is that I cannot believe that God judges people for doing precisely that.

Many think of faith and doubt as opposites, because they think of faith as believing without evidence or even despite evidence to the contrary. Christian faith, I believe, is about orienting one’s life around God. And doubt can have a positive role in such a life – indeed, it is essential. It shows that you are taking the topic in question, and God, very seriously. To simply believe because you are already sure you are right is something that people do in all religions, with incompatibly different beliefs. And so that attitude itself must be wrong, since it stands in the way of examining beliefs and changing one’s mind when the evidence compels us to do so.

Doubt is taking God seriously, and taking life seriously. If it seems incompatible with faith, then perhaps you need to begin to have doubts about your view of faith! 🙂

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