I have of late received e-mails from some who are facing severe doubts about their life and about the Christian faith, and I have no capacity here to dissolve doubts by cooking them dry on some apologetic stove — by and large I don’t think doubts are dissolved so much as they are, by faith, put on our shoulders to be carried along with us. In other words, I think doubt and faith are not opposites; faith sometimes is what demonstrates doubt. Or, faith sometimes demonstrates doubt.
I’m curious about your own view of faith and doubt and about these my meanderings.
In this post I’m not talking about the kind of faith that trusts Christ for redemption — though I don’t think that kind of faith is all that different than the faith needed to press forward in the way of Jesus (our concern here).
I think sometimes we fail to see the distinction between faith and certainty. Let us say that certainty is calculable odds at such a high level that leads us to be thoroughly confident about something we are called to do. I would use certainty for the rising of the sun tomorrow morning and the satisfactory powers of water and the nourishment of the body through foods.
Faith, on the other hand, is trust in God when the odds are against us. In the face of such odds, because we are confident in the God of promise, of covenant, of grace, of providence, and of love — and because this God has spoken to us of a challenge — we trust God for the odds to be overcome. This, I think, is what faith is all about. Abraham — the paradigm of faith — didn’t have a clue (he certainly wasn’t certain) but he knew God and trusted God and it was in the face of such odds that he walked in faith from Ur to the Promised Land. That, I am saying, is what the Bible means by faith. It means to engage God in relationship and to trust God.
I’m not sure it is wise for me to use the word “faith” for turning on the switch and trusting electricity to charge into my light bulb so I have light. I see that as scientific reasoning and certainty (or at least a high degree of probability). Faith, on the other hand, describes personal relationship with God that prompts behavior in light of our confidence in God.
Central to faith (as opposed to certainty) is relationship. When we face doubts because the odds are against us we “bank” on knowing God, on our relationship with God, and we trust God. Quite often I find doubt follows calculating evidence and faith summons us to trust in God.
Now I would contend that doubt is often inherent to faith. Calculating certainty means I look at the situation and I say “this is very certainly to happen.” When I calculate and see that the odds are against me, I hear God say, “Trust me. You are called to trust me in this very difficult situation. Trust me.” Some of us shoulder a heavier burden of doubt than others, and it is in carrying that burden with God’s grace that we learn what faith is — against the odds but with our gaze fixed on the God whom we have come to know.