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Thread: Doubt

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    tWebber
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    Doubt

    A recent article published by John Piper's "Desiring God" ministry was on the topic of doubt. By and large I found the article helpful, it hits on some good and valid points. I also read some articles in response that equally made some good and valid points. Please read the article and share your thoughts. Please do not share your thoughts unless you've read the article.

    Thank you.

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    tWebber
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    Thought provoking article (and thread). I think that article is the first one I've seen from DesiringGod that I disagreed with.

    One of the most common points when doubt invades is when we face tragedy, whether facing the horrors of war or personal loss. CS Lewis faced doubt when faced with tragedy in life, others have expressed doubt after surveying the things which man has wrought. But that doubt does not always imply a loss of faith. Sometimes they are followed by a deepening of faith. So maybe there is more than just doubt in view when we see a loss of faith.

    Science has been criticized as seeding doubt among the faithful. From Galileo to Darwin and beyond, science has been seen to counter the Word, a counter to faith (how often is faith taken to mean something in opposition to science? I don't think science challenges the certainty of G-d's word, just the certainty of our understanding of G-d's word.

    While I happen to like Aquinas' five proofs, some say that they don't prove much of anything, rather, they justify the belief. So I may hold some doubt about the role of Aquinas' proofs in the faith, but I won't say that that doubt translates to any doubt on Jesus. The Israelites experienced many wondrous miracles, but their doubt was less an uncertainty but a rejection, or a certainty that their G-d would not reject them, their position as members of the tribe was enough to guarantee their position. The doubting of the utility of Aquinas is hardly like the doubting of the Israelites.

    Only sometimes is faith the opposite of doubt. Usually the opposite of doubt is certainty. But I am never comfortable when people are so certain of their position as to equate it with the Lord's position. What should the steadfast and stable standard look like in the Christian? That is the point of the article, a point which it fails; the prayer of "Lord I believe, help my unbelief" is at root a form of doubt, a doubt which is not injurious to the faith.

    What does a steadfast faith look like?

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by simplicio View Post
    Thought provoking article (and thread). I think that article is the first one I've seen from DesiringGod that I disagreed with.

    One of the most common points when doubt invades is when we face tragedy, whether facing the horrors of war or personal loss. CS Lewis faced doubt when faced with tragedy in life, others have expressed doubt after surveying the things which man has wrought. But that doubt does not always imply a loss of faith. Sometimes they are followed by a deepening of faith. So maybe there is more than just doubt in view when we see a loss of faith.

    Science has been criticized as seeding doubt among the faithful. From Galileo to Darwin and beyond, science has been seen to counter the Word, a counter to faith (how often is faith taken to mean something in opposition to science? I don't think science challenges the certainty of G-d's word, just the certainty of our understanding of G-d's word.

    While I happen to like Aquinas' five proofs, some say that they don't prove much of anything, rather, they justify the belief. So I may hold some doubt about the role of Aquinas' proofs in the faith, but I won't say that that doubt translates to any doubt on Jesus. The Israelites experienced many wondrous miracles, but their doubt was less an uncertainty but a rejection, or a certainty that their G-d would not reject them, their position as members of the tribe was enough to guarantee their position. The doubting of the utility of Aquinas is hardly like the doubting of the Israelites.

    Only sometimes is faith the opposite of doubt. Usually the opposite of doubt is certainty. But I am never comfortable when people are so certain of their position as to equate it with the Lord's position. What should the steadfast and stable standard look like in the Christian? That is the point of the article, a point which it fails; the prayer of "Lord I believe, help my unbelief" is at root a form of doubt, a doubt which is not injurious to the faith.

    What does a steadfast faith look like?
    At the outset of the article Morse states: "It’s hard writing words you suspect will be misunderstood..". It appears you did precisely that. Morse in his article takes aim at "professional doubters" who essentially celebrate their doubts and use them to justify spiritual infancy. He is not lambasting people who are temporarily struggling in their faith due to personal tragedy, but admonishing those proud of their weak faith to wake up and realize that this is not the life or mentality that the Lord has called us to.

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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    I understand what he is saying but he needs to word himself more carefully. He admonishes people for saying that "some doubt is healthy" and his overall tone is that any doubt is not healthy, but dishonoring to God. But the fact remains, nobody has no doubt. We all live with it. To outright deny it is just being blind and setting yourself up for a fall. Faith is what keeps us going through our doubts. We choose to believe despite not KNOWING for sure. Doubt also spurs us into learning more and dispelling that doubt. Or it should.

    And God is the one who gives us that faith and the Holy Spirit sustains it. I am reminded of the father in the bible who said:

    Mark 9:24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

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    tWebber Leonhard's Avatar
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    I think there is something to be said about not voicing your doubt publically. Leading others to doubt the same way you do. We have a responsibility to weaker brothers. I've sometimes done it to small social circles of strong Christian friends when I've struggled with the Faith.

    I think if you've struggled with something for a while you can develop a bitterness about it, a sneer, a grumbling about God. There's a line between voicing your grief with your friends, or your struggles, and letting out little snide asides. Or chucklingly admit that you don't buy the whole thing about homosexuality being a sin, and doing so to a sunday school class.

    One person is struggling to overcome their doubt and working with God's grace, the other has given up. The latter is definitely dishonouring God. If the former is also dishonouring God, its only within the confines of ordinary ways we humans dishonour God. Its not heroic, or honouring to Him, but I think God will show mercy.

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    tWebber The Remonstrant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrawly View Post
    A recent article published by John Piper's "Desiring God" ministry was on the topic of doubt. By and large I found the article helpful, it hits on some good and valid points. I also read some articles in response that equally made some good and valid points. Please read the article and share your thoughts. Please do not share your thoughts unless you've read the article.

    Thank you.
    The weakness of Morse’s article, ‘Does Your Doubt Dishonor God? What No One Says about Weak Faith’ (4 Jan. 2018), is that the author holds many false assumptions, all (or nearly all) of which are Calvinistic in nature. The following declaration, taken from Desiring God’s statement of faith, serves as the foundation of Calvinistic theology:

    We believe that God, from all eternity, in order to display the full extent of His glory for the eternal and ever-increasing enjoyment of all who love Him, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His will, freely and unchangeably ordain and foreknow whatever comes to pass. (God’s Eternal Purpose and Election, 3.1)*

    Consequently, the implications concerning faith and doubt in Calvinistic thought are as follows:

    • whether a person is devoid of faith (i.e. an unbeliever), believing in God, or ever will come to believe in God and the good news of Jesus Christ, is a matter of divine foreordination;
    • at any given moment of time, the relative strength or weakness of a particular believer’s faith in God, God’s promises, and Jesus Christ his Son, is a matter of divine foreordination;
    • if a person fails to persevere in the faith, this merely demonstrates that s/he was a ‘false believer’ all along. One can only fully and finally fall (i.e. apostatise) from a spurious profession of faith.

    In summary, the actual possession of faith and its degree of strength or weakness in the individual believer are attributable solely to God’s eternal decree. If a believer is presently harbouring grave doubts regarding God and his trustworthiness, s/he is doubting in exact accordance with God’s secret, immutable, inscrutable, eternal decree.

    In the light of Morse’s commitment to Calvinistic tenets, specifically belief in the exhaustive foreordination of all things by God, I cannot in any way endorse his article.


    * See ‘Desiring God: An Affirmation of Faith’ (6 Oct. 2004): <https://www.desiringgod.org/affirmation-of-faith>.
    Last edited by The Remonstrant; 01-12-2018 at 12:52 AM.
    ‘[I]n Gethsemane, in human form and in the moment of His greatest weakness, He willingly submitted Himself to go through with the plan of salvation. Christ was not obliged to die for humanity, a slave to sovereign predestination; He willingly and fully gave Himself over to be crucified.’
    —Kim Papaioannou, ‘Predestination? A Theology of Divine Intention’, Ministry (Mar. 2014): 8



  7. #7
    tWebber
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    He does show traces of Calvinism in the article, but I don’t see “God as the sovereign cause of doubt” anywhere in it. What I see, first, is a failure to distinguish doubt from the broader category of weakness of faith (which covers a much broader spectrum of flaws), or from the mere appearance of faith (which will prove in the end to have never been faith at all, per Calvinism—not referring to hypocrisy but to someone who may really think he is a believer but by his non-perseverance will prove he never was at all). The lack of precision causes him to merge issues about Old Testament Israel (where weakness of faith was pride and rebellion), and questions about meat sacrificed to idols (where weakness of faith was mistaken ideas about the law) and the troubling doubts of a father who was torn apart by tragedy (Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief.) Those are very different issues that get clouded in the article.

    But his main point is to guard against something that Calvinism may inherently encourage: the idea that if I am now or ever was sure that I was saved, I can’t possibly lose my salvation and therefore doubt is irrelevant and may actually be a good thing because it proves that it is God who saves and not faith that saves. He rightly opposes that notion, even if he doesn’t address the theology that might make it attractive.

    The whole concept of doubt is viewed very differently in different religious camps. On one side, where faith is primarily seen as an individual choice and decision, doubt is a yardstick for how close you are to the dividing line between saved and unsaved. It’s never good to be close to that line (even if it is understandable and in a sense natural and to be treated with compassion rather than condemnation). At the other extreme, in Calvinism, both faith and doubt may virtually disappear in significance, as salvation is entirely tied to God’s sovereign decree. Faith may come along to reveal who has or hasn’t been chosen, and God will see to it that there is always a tiny seed of faith in the saved to the end, but it’s more a symptom of salvation than a means of salvation. As such, doubt pertains only to matters of honoring God’s sovereignty or to matters of personal introspection to figure out whether you’re one of the elect.

    Likewise, those who say “doubt is good” do so for very different reasons. Some would just say it’s natural. Some would distinguish between doubt that arises because we wisely recognize our own lack of omniscience and perfect ability to distinguish truth and falsehood (even in matters pertaining to the very existence, will, or promises of God), and doubt that arises in one who believes in God but questions God’s own truthfulness or faithfulness or goodness, which would be foolish and sinful under any circumstances. Doubting God: bad. Doubting myself, even as it pertains to God and his Word: good.

    Some would say that doubt merely reflects engagement and critical thinking, which is better than apathetically and uncritically agreeing to whatever anyone tells you to believe (even if they point to this book you’ve never read called the Bible as their rationale—but you’ve never been a Berean, caring enough to check whether or not it’s God’s word or man’s word).

    Question: if we were sinless (but the world around us wasn’t), would we be free of doubt? Would we automatically know what is true and what isn’t? Would we always hear the Spirit’s voice within us clearly enough to have no questions at all either about which is the true God and whether the Scriptures are God’s absolute true Word and how to interpret them? In a perfect world (heaven, for instance), any doubt whatsoever would be sin because it would by necessity arise from your own heart. In an imperfect world, doubt arises from a mixture of internal sinful inclinations and external deceptive influences and natural, non-sinful recognition of our own limits of knowledge and certainty. IN the Garden of Eden, Eve’s doubt was instigated by an external influence, but it was still sinful because she heard the command from God himself, she knew, and her doubt did not derive from uncertainty but from self-centered motivations. In our own world and minds, I don’t think it’s possible to completely distinguish what is or isn’t sinful in the area of doubt.

    But I would agree with one key point that the article hints at. Doubt, whether good or bad, makes us introspective, focusing on me, my thoughts, my feelings, my own determination of what is true and good and right. When assailed by doubts, we need to focus outside of ourselves on God, his grace, his faithfulness, and his word. Focus less on whether I believe or feel like Jesus died for me, and more on God’s assurance that he did. The cure for doubt is more God, less me.

  8. Amen Sparko, Scrawly amen'd this post.
  9. #8
    tWebber The Remonstrant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Passing Through View Post
    He [Morse] does show traces of Calvinism in the article, but I don’t see “God as the sovereign cause of doubt” anywhere in it.
    It is implicit and assumed. The main thrust of my post was to address the theology underlying Morse’s article. Every writer for Desiring God must affirm the organisation’s statement of faith in its entirety. (Cited above; see message #6 in this thread and consult the link for the ‘Desiring God: An Affirmation of Faith’ included therein.)
    ‘[I]n Gethsemane, in human form and in the moment of His greatest weakness, He willingly submitted Himself to go through with the plan of salvation. Christ was not obliged to die for humanity, a slave to sovereign predestination; He willingly and fully gave Himself over to be crucified.’
    —Kim Papaioannou, ‘Predestination? A Theology of Divine Intention’, Ministry (Mar. 2014): 8



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    tWebber
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    The only thing that I was questioning in your earlier post is the conclusion, "If a believer is presently harbouring grave doubts regarding God and his trustworthiness, s/he is doubting in exact accordance with God’s secret, immutable, inscrutable, eternal decree." That's the kind of conclusion that doubt is good and doubt is God's will which the article seems to be arguing against. While God is viewed as ultimately sovereign, the author makes a distinction between God's sovereign acts and our individual accountability "when we move from the realm of justification to sanctification, from God’s sovereign acceptance to our everyday accountability as Christians." I don't know how the author makes that distinction, but I just didn't think that he would have agreed with your assessment of his beliefs in this one regard.

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    tWebber The Remonstrant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Passing Through View Post
    The only thing that I was questioning in your earlier post is the conclusion, "If a believer is presently harbouring grave doubts regarding God and his trustworthiness, s/he is doubting in exact accordance with God’s secret, immutable, inscrutable, eternal decree." That's the kind of conclusion that doubt is good and doubt is God's will which the article seems to be arguing against. While God is viewed as ultimately sovereign, the author makes a distinction between God's sovereign acts and our individual accountability "when we move from the realm of justification to sanctification, from God’s sovereign acceptance to our everyday accountability as Christians." I don't know how the author makes that distinction, but I just didn't think that he would have agreed with your assessment of his beliefs in this one regard.
    Morse would say that the theological implications I have drawn pertain to the secret, all-encompassing, decretive will of God. According to God’s preceptive will, however, God does not desire believers to doubt. When we come back to the issue relating to why some believers harbour grave doubts in God and his promises, the answer is not complex: Calvinistic thought maintains that God decreed it to be so.
    Last edited by The Remonstrant; 01-13-2018 at 06:22 PM.
    ‘[I]n Gethsemane, in human form and in the moment of His greatest weakness, He willingly submitted Himself to go through with the plan of salvation. Christ was not obliged to die for humanity, a slave to sovereign predestination; He willingly and fully gave Himself over to be crucified.’
    —Kim Papaioannou, ‘Predestination? A Theology of Divine Intention’, Ministry (Mar. 2014): 8



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