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Peter Enns on Doubt

Thought I would share pieces of a long (~5,000 words) post from Peter Enns. This is from the text version of a talk he recently gave about doubt. It was titled “The Benefit of Doubt: Coming to Terms with Faith in a Postmodern Era“. Here are a few paragraphs from the article, though I really do suggest finding the time to read the whole thing!

Doubt forces us to look at who we think God is. It makes us face whether we really trust HIM, or whether we trust what we have made God to be. Doubting God is painful and frightening because we think we are leaving God behind. But doubt—real hard deep unnerving uncomfortable scary doubt—helps us to see that, maybe we have made God into our own image. We come to discover, slowly but surely, that the “faith” we are losing is not faith in God. It is actually in the idea of God that we surround ourselves with. …

This is a one of the points I want to make tonight: Don’t try to run away from doubt. Don’t try to fix it. Try not to think of it as the enemy. Pass through it—patiently… and honestly… and courageously…. When you are in doubt, you are in a period of transformation. Welcome it as a gift—which is hard to do to if your entire universe is falling down around you. God is teaching you to trust him, not yourself. He means to have all of you, not just the surface, going to church and daily devotions part. Not just the part people see, but the part no one sees—not even you. …

Doubt is usually cumulative; it creeps in. God, the Bible, your faith, stop making sense, and so you toss it all away. But here is the point. You say that God and all that Jesus stuff just don’t work in the world you live in. But maybe the God and Jesus that aren’t working aren’t the real thing. What if what isn’t working isn’t God at all, but our version. Maybe doubts are the first step to stripping off the old getting at the real thing. …

This is why TV preachers drive me crazy. They say God wants you to avoid the pain—the suffering, the dying. He wants you to be happy, rich, successful, whatever. No. God wants you to be joyful—but dying is part of that. There is no shortcut. I think that is the heart of Paul’s mysterious words in Phil 3:10. Knowing Christ means both the power of his resurrection in our lives and participating in his sufferings, being made like him in his death. Death and life. Both are part of the Gospel life.

Thanks to Dr. Enns for the thoughtful attitude toward this subject, to Patheos for their reposting of this article, and to Rob Martin (yep, him again) for posting the link to the Patheos version on his facebook account.

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One comment on “Peter Enns on Doubt

  1. One of the ways I’ve come to understand it: Faith without doubt isn’t faith, it’s reason. Faith is a spiritual choice that you make when reason fails to give hope. Faith comes from grace, a gift, we are given grace to be able to fall, screw up, mess up, make mistakes, get it wrong. And we are given faith to keep on believing when it seems that God abandoned us to our failures.

    This is a hopeful message, actually. That even when doubt comes in, even when I can’t reasonably rationalize my faith, that some how God is bigger even than my own doubts and he will come through. Mark 9 has a wonderful story of a father who said “if” and, when confronted with his “if” confessed: “I believe! Forgive my unbelief!”

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