Whether or not we’ll admit, every Christian wrestles with doubt. We often come across questions that we don’t have immediate answers for, and this can cause us to wonder – wait, what if I was wrong about all this? Doubt is one of those things that people often like to keep on the down low, because we feel like strong Christians shouldn’t have doubts, and if we have doubts, then we’re not being faithful Christians.
This is, of course, completely wrong. Doubts are okay. All Christians have them. And since doubt is a topic that’s so often not talked about, we often have no idea how to deal with it. Thankfully, Martin Ayers has written a great book to help Christians think through the issue of doubt: Keep the Faith – Shift your Thinking on Doubt. This short, accessible book helps Christians think through how we approach doubt. It points us to what the Bible has to say about doubt, and has some practical insights on how we should respond to our doubts.
How do you handle your doubts? Brush them under the carpet? Ignore them? Trawl angry youtube comment debates about Christianity? As much as those sound like great options, can I recommend an alternative? Read Keep the Faith. Not because this book will magically fix your doubts, but because it will help set you on a path where you can deal with your doubts in a healthy way.
As I see it, there are two main goals in this book, both of which are ultimately helpful to a Christian in a secular society who is dealing with doubt (so, basically all Christians in Western countries). First, it deconstructs some of the claims and assumptions behind the atheistic worldview. I was surprised at first to see Ayers taking the offensive here – in a book aiming to help Christians deal with doubts about their own faith, why is he attacking atheism?
But it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Western Christians live in a sea of doubt and scepticism, and atheism pervades our culture. Many (not all, but many) of our doubts stem from the anti-Christian arguments of passionate atheists, and it can often seem to us that their position is the more reasonable and intellectual position. Indeed, it is often argued that atheism is simply the neutral, factual, unbiased position of weighing the evidence (while Christianity is illogical blind faith).
Ayers demonstrates that this isn’t true, and reveals some of the biases, presuppositions, and leaps of faith that exist within atheism. He exposes the lies that we are constantly (if implicitly) fed about our faith and our doubts, showing clearly that atheism is not as impartial and unbiased as some claim it to be. That’s the first main goal, and it’s a helpful one.
Second, Keep the Faith gives some great advice for how Christians should deal with the legitimate doubts and questions that they do have. He points out a number of methods that Christians often employ when faced with their doubts which are destructive and will not help, and gives some alternatives. For example, he notes that many Christians who are faced with serious doubts tend to withdraw from other Christians and keep it to themselves (hoping it will resolve), but he explains why this almost never works, and that it is a much better idea to actually engage more with other Christians and serve others.
In addition to this and many other concrete steps (which are great), Ayers highlights three things which we should keep in mind that will help us to think and act rightly in response to our doubts: remember the fall, remember your redeemer, and remember the stakes.
If we remember the Fall, we will remember how it has skewed and darkened the thinking of mankind (both Christians and non-Christians). This will lead us to expect doubts, and to expect opposition from others against the faith. If we remember the Fall, then we’ll know that we need not be discouraged by our doubts.
If we remember our Redeemer, and focus on Him in true worship, then our affections for Him will grow. And as we grow in our awe of and affections for God, we will find that many of the doubts that we have become less troubling to us. Will we ever know the answers to all the hard questions? Not this side of heaven. But as we remember our Redeemer and fix our eyes on Him, we start to recognise that some of those doubts and questions aren’t quite as important as they seemed.
And finally, we need to remember the stakes. Christianity is not merely an intellectual exercise. It’s a matter of life and death. Doubts are nothing to be ashamed of. But if we remember the stakes, then we’ll commit ourselves to seeking answers and not settling for anything short of the truth.
Keep the Faith is a great book to read if you want to know how to best deal with doubts. It’s short, very readable, and insightful (you can get it here). Ayers constantly turns back to what the Bible tells us about reality, and helps us to shift the way we think about doubt.
So, how do you handle your doubts? Brush them under the carpet? Ignore them? Trawl angry youtube comment debates about Christianity? As much as those sound like great options, can I recommend an alternative?