In our contemporary postmodern moment Christians often lionize doubt and decry confidence. There’s a cachet in saying, “I embrace my doubts” or “Churches need to establish safe places for people to question.” Doubt becomes in this line of thinking a function of the Christian life, not an unfortunate consequence of our fallen human condition. To use a computer analogy, it has been elevated as a feature, not a bug.
I don’t think the apostle Paul would share that sentiment. Today I was working with some students in Philippians 1, and vv. 9-10 really caught my attention. Here’s an excerpt and translation:
Καὶ τοῦτο προσεύχομαι, ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ὑμῶν ἔτι μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον ⸀περισσεύῃ ἐν ἐπιγνώσει καὶ πάσῃ αἰσθήσει εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τὰ διαφέροντα.
And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best (NET Bible)
What struck me from this passage relative to the question of doubt is that Paul does not see it as the endpoint of the Christian life. The blessed goal of our faith is love abounding in knowledge and insight which enables us to choose things that are excellent and in accordance with God’s will. In Paul’s thinking confidence in what God has revealed is our standard; doubt is not a feature or a function, but a bug that should be rooted out by a growing faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I don’t say this to imply that those who doubt are warped or that doubt is The-Sin-that-must-not-be-named. I rather see it as a temptation to which our response should be prayer to our Lord, study of his word, and community with other believers. Believers should be encouraged through their doubts, not in them, and their difficult questions should be answered, pointing beyond the doubt to Spirit-led confidence. We shouldn’t elevate doubt as a virtue. It’s a bug in our programming which should be replaced as we grow with strong confidence in our Lord and his revealed word.