Over the years, I have talked with a number of people who have been told in response to their questioning about God, “You just don’t have enough faith,” or “You just need to read your Bible.” Some were given such a response in their childhood years; others, in their teenage to young adult years. In every situation described, the result was damaging to the person’s belief in God. I don’t know the mind of the responder, nor the reason why such a response would be given. However, I can say that Christians should thoughtfully engage with questions about doubt.
In Paul Copan’s book, “A Little Book for New Philosophers,” he cites several reasons as to why we should engage. In the previous posts we’ve looked at why we should engage in questioning. In this post, we will look at the doubt itself.
- Those engaging in doubt should doubt fairly.
Many people have told me about how doubt (either their own or a loved one) has caused a turning away from faith in God. I rarely hear a person tell me that while they had doubts about God, they had equal doubts about other views they were exploring and/or about their doubts, in general. Paul Copan in A Little Book for New Philosophers suggests that we should not only investigate our beliefs, but also our doubts. He wants us to consider “doubting our doubts.” Why?
For some reason, we seem to take aim at our beliefs and wonder if they are true, but we almost never seem to take aim at the doubt itself and wonder if it has merit. Are we taking doubts more seriously than beliefs? Copan gives us an example: “After all, it’s logically possible that the external world is illusory, the universe isn’t older than fifteen minutes, and that other minds don’t exist. But we never truly contest these things; we rightly take them as properly basic.”
He goes on to say that we rightly trust our rational capacities, even when we are in the midst of doubt. It takes rationality to doubt beliefs. However, why do we not apply our doubt to our rational capacities? Why do doubters rarely ask from where their own rational capacities come? Why should they trust that their own rationality and thinking are working properly?
Copan responds, “Being made in the image of a rational, truthful God makes excellent sense of this fundamental trust we have that our cognitive faculties aren’t systematically deceiving us and thus that we can seek after truth.”
We’ll look at understanding the different kinds of doubt we face in the next post.