Doubt Is the Opposite of Belief
To believe is to be persuaded, to be convinced that something is true.
If you believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, you are convinced that is true.
If you doubt that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, you are not convinced. To have doubts is to remain unconvinced.
I have a pastor friend who says that doubt and faith coexist all the time. He is convinced, that is he believes, that faith in something is never pure persuasion. It is also persuasion mixed with doubt.
Frankly, that does not make any sense to me.
I am persuaded that our President is Barack Obama. I have no doubt about that. If I did, I’d think I had dementia.
I am persuaded that Washington, DC is the U.S. capital. I have no doubt about that.
I am convinced that God exists. I can no more doubt His existence than I can the existence of what He has created. The creation proves the Creator (Romans 1).
That’s the key. Do not lose your grip on reality. As long as you stay grounded in evidence, reason, and persuasion you will avoid the trap that is postmodern doubt.
Embrace Faith, Not Doubt
The more we believe, the more our faith grows. The Bible speaks of milk-of-the-Word truths and meat-of-the-Word truths. The former are very basic. The latter are more advanced.
As new believers we embrace the milk. Our faith grows as we believe more and more of the basic truths of God’s Word.
As we mature, we embrace more advanced truths.
But the key is growth in our faith. That is, we grow in how much of God’s Word we understand and believe.
Part of the problem of postmodernity is that faith is not considered very valuable. What is valued are things like feelings, experiences, and encounters.
Reject the Notion that Certainty Is Impossible
E. W. Kenyon says,
The world has become “doubtminded.” In the higher realms of education, it is a mark of scholarship to put a question mark after every sentence and to challenge all of the old landmarks.
Doubt is an unhealthy mental condition because questions are a sign of weakness. Doubt has never been a sign of strength. It isn’t doubting something but believing something that makes us strong. Doubts always result in unhealthy reactions; faith always results in healthy reactions.
Blessed is the man who becomes faith-minded toward God, who becomes faith-minded toward the Bible, and who reaches the place where doubt is unwanted, where he shrinks from it with fear (E.W. Kenyon and Don Gossett, Keys to Receiving God’s Miracles [Blaine, WA: Whitaker House, 2011], p. 148).
Harold Lindsell famously suggested in his 1976 book that a battle for the Bible had been going on for years at that time. In the forty years since then certainty has been under increasing attack.
If we are to avoid doubt we must reject the idea that certainty is impossible. Certainty is what God wants for us. That is why He gave us His Word.
Reject the Notion that Certainty Is Arrogance
In our “doubt-minded world” certainty is considered arrogant.
Daniel Taylor says,
I call [certainty] a myth because that is my understanding of it…My own experience is that for human beings certainty does not exist, has never existed, will not—in our finite states—ever exist, and moreover, should not. It is not a gift God has chosen to give His creatures, doubtlessly wisely (The Myth of Certainty [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986, 1992], p. 94).
Taylor considers certainty something God chose not to give to us. He says that God was wise in this. His view is that certainty produces “arrogance and self-satisfaction” (p. 127). He asks, “What can the arrogant man or woman learn? Who can teach the smug and self-satisfied?” (p. 127).
But we can be certain without being either arrogant or self-satisfied. Our satisfaction comes from God and His revelation. It is not arrogant to believe what God said. Indeed, some might consider it arrogant to doubt what God has said.
The Apostle Paul was not arrogant when he defended the gospel of grace in Galatians. He was not expressing his opinions. He was discussing reality.
The Apostle John was not arrogant when he presented Jesus as the Source of everlasting life to all who believe in Him (John 3:16; 5:24; 11:25-27; 20:30-31). He was not expressing his convictions. He didn’t say, “I’m inclined to think…” or “I lean towards the position…” He presented absolute truth.
We have a positive message, not a negative one. That God has given us the gift of certainty is a great thing. Without it we would go through life uncertain of everything, including our eternal destiny. We would not know where would spend eternity. But God wants His children to know they have everlasting life (John 5:24; 6:35; 11:25-27; 1 John 5:9-13).
Douglas Groothius says,
Postmoderns fret mightily about arrogance and dogmatism, but to avoid them they typically rebound into the equal and opposite errors of cheap tolerance and relativism. However, a belief in the objectivity of truth and its importance for all of life does not entail an arrogant attitude or an unbending, irrational dogmatism (Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenge of Postmodernism [Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000] p. 12).
Let’s say you are certain that John Kerry is Secretary of State and that John Boehner is Speaker of the House. Does that certainty make you arrogant? Of course not.
To be sure of God’s existence, of the Trinity, of having everlasting life by faith in Christ, and of our guaranteed home in Christ’s kingdom forever is not arrogance. It is faith. It is taking God at His Word.
Read Christian Books That Extol Certainty
There are a number of books you can read if you have an interest in learning more about certainty as opposed to doubt.
David Wells wrote a great book entitled No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993).
Wells notes that tolerance is considered by many Evangelicals today to be the greatest virtue in Christianity and in Christian education. Intolerance is viewed as the greatest vice. Wells shows this is backwards.
Believers should be intolerant of heresy. Tolerance is fine, but only within the boundaries of truth. We cannot tolerate heresy and call it truth. There must be a place for truth.
Certainty: A Place to Stand is a fine book by Grant Richison (Ontario, Canada: Castle Quay Books, 2010). He says,
Faith always rests on certainty, not on a suggestion of probability. Otherwise, chance is final and probability is empty. The very idea of probability precludes certainty and places chance at the core of a system…God’s self-attesting Word transcends all probable approaches to truth (p. 259).
Richison adds, “We have certainty that comes from God. The Bible stands in polar opposition to the prevailing and dominant view of man today” (p. 267).
Famed Christian philosopher Gordon Clark wrote Faith and Saving Faith (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1983). While not an easy read, Clark’s point is made clearly and repeatedly. Faith is not an emotion, a feeling, or a personal encounter. Faith is being persuaded of the truth of a proposition.
Douglas Groothius wrote Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenge of Postmodernism. He argues that God’s truth is absolute, certain, and knowable (pp. 60-72).
Share What You Know, Not What You Doubt
One of the benefits of a culture in which doubt is so prevalent is that the person with certainty stands out.
If you can tell someone you are sure you have everlasting life, and why, then your message stands out as radically different. People are most familiar with evangelists who are not sure of their own eternal destiny and whose aim is to help you share their doubts. No wonder much of what passes for good news today is not perceived that way by the listener.
The world longs for someone who is certain of something, especially someone who is sure of the most important question in life, where will I spend eternity?
The message of John 3:16 and John 5:24 is a message of certainty. We know that whoever simply believes in Jesus has everlasting life, shall not come into judgment, but has already passed from death into life. That is truly good news.
What could be a more positive and uplifting message? We do not find our assurance in our works, our feelings, or our promises. We find our assurance in His works and His promises to the believer.
Of course, sanctification truth is certain as well. That is why the promise of eternal rewards for believers who are found faithful is such a highly motivating truth. We don’t think there will be eternal rewards if we endure. We know there will be (2 Tim 2:12).
All of Christianity, from the new birth to sanctification truth, depends on God’s ability to communicate in His Word. Since He can and does communicate, we can be certain. I’m so glad that God has given us His Word and has made it clear.