O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Matthew Paul Turner: Letting Them See My Doubt


Matthew Paul Turner and I became acquainted pretty soon after he published The Christian Culture Survival Guide (complete with a foreword from Stephen Baldwin) and I came out with Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse. Both books were published by Relevant. Both turned a snarky eye toward Christian culture. Both of us have receding hairlines.


Clearly we needed to become friends, so we did. He’s gone on to write several other books, including Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess and Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost.

We tackle different subjects with our blogging and writing, but he’s definitely a kindred spirit. I’m thrilled he agreed to write a “Voices of Doubt” post.



Okay, so my name is Matthew and I’m a doubter. (Shall we drink to that?)

The truth is, sometimes I think this whole “Christianity” thing feels like a bad
fairytale, like “She-Ra” without the sex appeal and a Pegasus. And other times, my
struggling belief that Jesus lives pulls me out of my own muck (and other people’s

For the longest time, existing amid that tension drove me nuts. Whenever I was
in a room surrounded by people — you know, friends, family, strangers, etc., who all
confess to completely understand the “Good News” (and I feel like I’m always in a
room like that) — doubt made me feel what I imagine Sarah Palin would feel in a room
full of political science professors: like an hors d’oeuvre.


And for a long time, I walked into those kinds of situations anticipating and even
fearing being eaten by the hungry mob of “certain” believers.
Last year, one of the pastors at my church asked Jessica and me to join the small
group they were starting at their house. My first response was a silent cringe,
mostly because I’d grown to hate being in small circles of people whose “faith
in God” was so thick you could cut it with a knife. But we joined, and upon
saying, “sure, why not?” I started sharpening my machete.

The first book that we planned to study was Francis Chan’s Forgotten God, a
relatively short title about the Holy Spirit, the one-third of the Trinity that Chan believes
the church has forgotten. On the first week, the group’s leader asked us to share
our initial feelings/thoughts about the Holy Spirit. After one of the other members
shared her faith-filled passion about God’s spirit, I decided to offer my opinion.


“To be honest, I’m fearful of this study,” I said, “Because all my life, I’ve heard a lot
of things said about the Holy Spirit. Crazy things. Hurtful things. Far-fetched things.
And I have a hard time believing that the Spirit of God has anything to do with a
large portion of what it receives credit for doing. I have a lot of doubt in regards to
the ‘working of the Holy Spirit.’ ”

After a brief awkward silence, the people in my small group affirmed my thoughts
with nods and comments. Nobody made me feel like an outsider or a “special cause”
that they needed to put on their prayer list. And that was uneasy at first. I expected
them to challenge my Christianity. A part of me wanted them to. But they didn’t. Not
once. Each of them accepted me as an equal, as somebody whose story offered value
and insight to the topic of discussion.


Over the course of the next few weeks as we talked about God’s Spirit, I became
more and more comfortable letting people “see” my doubt, questions, and spiritual baggage.

The hardest part for me was keeping quiet when somebody else in the small
group engaged the discussion with certainty. I think that’s difficult for many of
us who doubt. We become so used to our questions and ideas being ill-received
that we often enter discussions about God expecting/assuming that we’ll be
challenged or segregated or labeled.

On numerous occasions, I’ve allowed my doubt
and skepticism about the things of God to morph into closed-minded cynicism,
somebody only interested in poking holes in other people’s beliefs. On several
occasions, some of things that members of my small group said about the Holy
Spirit caused me to write punch lines in my head. On a couple of occasions, those
punch lines were said aloud. And people laughed.


Other times, I was tempted to
speak up in the middle of somebody sharing their own story because I believed
that I had a story that would challenge that person’s belief or disprove it or offer
a reason as to why they should doubt too. And on one occasion, I’m ashamed to
admit that I did that; I pounced on somebody else’s belief like a bobcat on a rabbit.

I’ve had to learn how to engage faith as doubter. It’s not easy. I’m not used to being
accepted. I’m used to feeling like a vampire, lonely and somewhat evil.

But I’m learning to remember that, just like a person’s strong belief can cause
their faith to be rigid and judgmental and come holding a sword, my doubt can
sometimes cause my faith to be cocky and unmerciful and bearing a machete.


And a scenario like that helps no one; of that I am certain.


Thank you, MPT! Stay in touch with Matthew Paul Turner via his prolific blogging and tweeting. More about him here

Previous posts in the “Voices of Doubt” series…

Sally Lloyd-Jones: Where Did You Put Your Faith?
Chad Gibbs: When It Doesn’t Seem Fair
Leeana Tankersley: The Swirling Waters
Robert Cargill: The Skeptic in the Sanctuary
Dana Ellis: Haunted by Questions
Rachel Held Evans on Works-Based Salvation
Winn Collier: Doubt Better
Tyler Clark on Losing Fear, Losing Faith
Rob Stennett on the Genesis of Doubt
Adam Ellis on Hoping That It’s True
Nicole Wick on Breaking Up with God
Anna Broadway on Doubt and Marriage

Comments read comments(10)
post a comment
Janet Oberholtzer

posted October 8, 2010 at 7:50 am

Jason, I’m enjoying these Friday post.
Matthew, I really like the thoughts in your wrap-up … “just like a person’s strong belief can cause their faith to be rigid and judgmental and come holding a sword, my doubt can sometimes cause my faith to be cocky and unmerciful and bearing a machete.”
I like it is because I realizing the same thing and trying to back off from thinking people in my world should also ask questions and/or doubt.

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posted October 8, 2010 at 8:49 am

Great post, Matt. I’m with Janet…that section in your wrap up is brilliant.

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posted October 8, 2010 at 9:21 am

Matt, what you said here resonated with me. Crap, it’s almost like I was saying it myself. After being slammed for what I believe (or don’t believe) so many times, I’ve become “cocky and unmerciful”. Only I’ve replaced the machete with a full load of napalm that I’ve been all to willing to use in the past. I’m working on that…, with varying degrees of success.

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Ray Hollenbach

posted October 8, 2010 at 9:31 am

I appreciate MPT’s courageous honesty even as I suffer with him for the ill treatment he’s received over the years. We need to hear his voice. I live in what is apparently an isolated community of faith, where I was given the freedom to belong before I believed. As a result my seedling faith found a warm environment where growth was possible. I think that’s a Biblical model.
There was once a guy who refused to buy into the “fantastic” stories he heard from other believers. He wasn’t going to be taken in. He wasn’t going to go along to get along. His statement was even bolder than Matthew’s at the book study. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
The amazing thing are the simple words recorded next, “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them.” The other guys hadn’t ostracized him. He apparently still considered these men to be his friends. In other words, is “belonging” was not predicated on his belief.
Finally, Jesus showed up and settled his questions. I trust Jesus is still in the business of settling people’s questions: personally, directly, and lovingly. Peace!

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posted October 8, 2010 at 10:10 am

The Devil always begins with questions
that lead to doubts. He tries to get
you to question GOD’S truth and HIS
love and mercies. If you listen long
enough to his lies, he will deceive
you. After he has deceived you, he
will leave you defeated and discouraged!!
Know the enemy of your soul, understand
his strategy!!

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Ed Cyzewski

posted October 8, 2010 at 11:00 am

Thanks for this Matthew. I think you’ve really turned over some new ground here and opened up some new channels for discussion.
When it comes to our faith, beliefs, and experiences with God it’s tough to not become defensive. We can become defensive about our doubts, certainties, and experiences. Sometimes that hardest thing is to remain open and non-threatening. We feel like we have something to lose, as if there is much at stake.
It has helped me to consider that God’s existence does not hinge on my experience or understanding of him, nor does he hinge on the experience of anyone else. We don’t need an inerrant Bible to prove God. He can withstand doubts, questions, and even times when we accuse him of failing. In fact, the more introspective I become sometimes, the less hope I have. I don’t know if that resonates with anyone else, but that’s where I’m at right now.

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posted October 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Thanks for that, MPT. It is too easy to go from doubt to cynicism and hurt ourselves and others in the process.
(And really like the comment by Ray about Thomas the Apostle. Really encouraging.)

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like a child

posted October 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm

“I’m not used to being accepted. I’m used to feeling like a vampire, lonely and somewhat evil. ” This almost brings tears to my eyes (mostly because I’ve shed way too many tears over my doubts and don’t have much left to give). I’ve often wondered if the feelings of loneliness were all in my head. Was I predisposed to depression…was I imagining feeling excluded…was I being paranoid. When I read stories like yours, I feel comforted that it wasn’t all imagined….I’m not going crazy. (I need to remind myself of this daily)

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Tony Alicea

posted October 12, 2010 at 8:20 am

I have no problem with people that are doubting. I have had MANY doubts myself which I have wrestled with.
My concern is, how long will you stay there? I feel like some people are doubting and then they receive affirmation that it is okay to doubt. The problem is that they stay in this perpetual state of doubting and it turns into cynicism like you said. That cynicism is cancerous in the body of Christ. Then it just becomes cool to doubt everything and make fun of things in this body that you are supposed to be a part of.
So my question is, “When do you make your decision? Are you in or out?” At least have the honesty to make a stand at some point.

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