“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:6-8, ESV
Surely these are convicting words for me. As I have personally had many, many doubts in my life, this caused great worry within me. In fact, I have heard other wise sayings such as “Doubt is what keeps faith a living thing.” This leaves us with a predicament that is often debated about within the church. Above all, we must find the definition of doubt in the context of this letter versus how we discuss the notion of doubt nowadays.
In the letter of James, doubt is seen as a lack of faith. As well as this, a lack of faith is not rooted in the doubting of the religion of Christianity but rather the object of Christianity, which is God. A lack of faith is a lack of belief in the truth that God teaches in the Bible, and this is not the right starting point to a healthy doubt. Furthermore, we see from this passage that doubt must start with a heart that longs for God’s truth, and not a heart the seeks to disprove God. A motive to disprove molds a heart that is as hard as a rock, and in this way we close ourselves off to God. The beauty is that even then, God can use evidence and, more importantly, his promptings to change the heart of unbelievers (C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, etc).
Now that we know what doubt mustn’t be rooted in, let us look at what a healthy doubt can do for our faith. Instead of doubt stemming from a vendetta against God, doubt must stem from a longing to know God more. In fact, the result of doubt should be a search for answers. Often when I doubt, I lay content in merely stagnate skepticism, never to find an answer for myself. However, if faith is real, then we ought to be motivated to search in the Bible for an answer to our doubts and concerns as it relates to Christianity.
“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:14-15, ESV
This is the pinnacle verse pertaining to apologetics, and here we see that Paul charges fellow followers of Christ to seek answers so that they may be no longer fearful of the oppressive opinions surrounding them. Many Christians seek desperately to answer scripted questions in order to be comforted by the knowledge that we are able to gain, but that does not get to the heart of the Bible as a whole. Scripture centers around humility before Christ in all things, and more than anything I find myself supposing that I can know all there is to know about God so I am intellectually comforted. However, we must first accept and honor the character of God; His omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, etc. Christ honors a heart that is humble before anything else.
“‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'” James 4:6, ESV
Again and again, the Bible is seen priding the humble and humbling the proud. By being uplifted, humble people are not presented with riches of this earth, but rather a sustaining assurance and comfort in the Lord due to his promise to embrace those who humble themselves before Christ. Consequently, this does not mean those who are humble will know every question of the faith, but it does mean that God will become more plainly revealed to someone who realizes they ought not to see Him at all.
As we bring our doubts and fears to God, we sometimes will simply not find a clear answer or perhaps dislike the answer provided. While doubt can be a way to spur on a longing to know Christ more, it can be detrimental to faith in the long term. When we search for answers, we will only sometimes find them. On the other hand, we are promised to always find God if we seek him as followers of Christ. Humility in this position is searching for an answer, but ultimately being content, satisfied, and most importantly trusting in the character of God.
This is not an excuse for people to discontinue all apologetic efforts, but rather embracing the humility of being semi-transcendent. There is a great need for apologists in this world, but we miss the humility that God seeks to reward with relationship and knowledge of Him. We ought not to operate at the same level God does; his ways are far above ours, and let that be a comfort rather than a cause for worry. While we naturally react to things unknown in fear or doubt, we can be assured of God’s character that is perfect in every way.