Pursuing our doubts toward greater faith

Pursuing our doubts toward greater faith

An excerpt from “Wandering Toward God: Finding Faith amid Doubts and Big Questions.”

There I was in a seminary class, of all places, having a crisis of faith. We were only a few weeks into the semester, but I was seriously doubting my Christian beliefs. My growing-up experience was strongly Christian. If the church doors were open, my family was there, and we were involved. Generationally, my family had been doing formal ministry since at least my great-great-grandparents! And I was all in from an early age. Somehow I made it through Sunday school, summer camp, youth group, countless youth events, Bible college, summer ministry, and international mission trips without deeply questioning my faith. I made a commitment to Christ at a young age and just assumed it was true from that point on. At this moment in seminary it hit me like a splash of ice-cold water—the kind that takes your breath away. I had never seriously considered why I should think Christianity is true above all other worldviews.

I’m sure as a kid I asked questions along the way. But there’s a difference between considering the truth of Christianity when everyone knows the answer and deeply considering its truth with a real possibility of it being wrong. There’s the “let’s have a fun discussion about Christianity” sort of considering. And then there’s the painful, teary-eyed, scared to death struggle of considering whether it’s really true. I had never done the latter until I found myself doubting in seminary.

It is quite common for Christians to experience doubts from time to time. Unfortunately, doubts about our Christian beliefs are often treated in the same way we would treat a common cold. We wait it out, treat symptoms as best as we can (perhaps with a good dose of prayer and Bible study), and hope it goes away. This approach might work for some. But for many others the doubts creep back in, and they return with friends! As the doubts compound, Christianity can begin to be uncompelling for this reason alone. Notice it’s not for a lack of evidence. It’s simply because there are doubts that are left untreated. Sadly, many abandon their Christian faith because they cannot find a safe place to admit and talk about their doubts. Rather than our questions and doubts being a part of the adventure as we wander toward God, without a safe place to doubt our faith, Christianity can feel like a fake.

My story is different. I leaned into my doubts. I asked those difficult questions in a lonely backroom of a church I had been given to work in while in seminary. I began to read. I had conversations with people further along in their journey than I was. I began to find answers. Even though I still had plenty of questions (and still do today), I began to see my way clear of some problems. I didn’t fall away. In fact, I grew stronger. The irony is I became even more well-grounded in my faith. By leaning into my doubts, I came to a place of deeper faith.

How about you? Do you have questions? Are you seeking and searching? Are you doubting? If you have questions about Christianity or are struggling with doubt, I want you to know that you are normal! Hear this: You. Are. Normal. The honest struggle of questions and doubts is not sin. You are not failing. You are courageous—probably more courageous than others who act like they have it all figured out. I respect you. It’s most likely that you are doubting your faith precisely because you are intellectually honest and are seeking truth rather than mere acceptance by your peers. This can be a lonely place, but please hear me: You are not alone! Some of the most ardent defenders of the Christian faith wandered toward God with doubts and big questions.

For others who, like me growing up, have never really considered the reasons why you should believe, it’s time to do so. Let me be clear. I don’t want you to doubt your faith just for the sake of doubting it. Though doubting and deconstructing faith is a popular thing these days and though leaning into doubt can lead to good things (such as, a well-grounded faith), doubt is not good as an end in itself. But I do want you to ask questions. And hard questions often lead to having some doubts along the way. It isn’t always easy. But here’s the good news: you are reading a book that sees having doubts and big questions as perfectly compatible with having faith and as a normal and valuable part of the journey to a deeply grounded faith.

We don’t want to stay in the grip of doubt. Again, doubt is not the destination. We may be wandering but we are wandering toward God. I want you to see that doubting our faith, when approached properly, leads us to knowledge and truth. Pursuing our doubts can bring us to a place of greater faith.

Taken from “Wandering Toward God: Finding Faith amid Doubts and Big Questions” by Travis Dickinson. Copyright (c) 2022 by Travis Dickinson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

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Travis Dickinson

Travis Dickinson is professor of philosophy at Dallas Baptist University. He has taught courses in philosophy and Christian apologetics for over 20 years and has done apologetics and evangelism in more than 35 countries. He is the author of “Wandering Toward God: Finding Faith amid Doubts and Big Questions.”