Doubt, Faith, the Bible

March 3, 2009

Rod Dreher linked to this article by way of Biblical literacy, but what I found truly striking was Plotz’s confession of his struggles with God and the idea of God during and after reading the Bible:

“I began the Bible as a hopeful, but indifferent, agnostic. I wished for a God, but I didn’t really care. I leave the Bible as a hopeless and angry agnostic. I’m brokenhearted about God.”

Then he ends by noting something important:

“As I read the book, I realized that the Bible’s greatest heroes-or, at least, my greatest heroes-are not those who are most faithful, but those who are most contentious and doubtful: Moses negotiating with God at the burning bush, Gideon demanding divine proof before going to war, Job questioning God’s own justice, Abraham demanding that God be merciful to the innocent of Sodom. They challenge God for his capriciousness, and demand justice, order, and morality, even when God refuses to provide them.”

Those Biblical figures called heroes, and pillars, and faithful, and righteous: they doubted. They struggled. Faith did not preclude that; those titles that they earned — could they have earned them without doubting? Would Abraham have been Abraham had he not negotiated for Sodom and Gomorrah? Moses, lost in the desert, doubted and struck the rock in his own name when bringing forth water.

There is an argument to be made that the struggle with doubt is among the most important aspects of faith. I think I would believe that, though I don’t harbor any presumptions about being the one to make it. But we oughtn’t confuse faith with mere belief — the one is a component, an aspect of the other, though integral to it.

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5 Responses to “Doubt, Faith, the Bible”


  1. […] by David Plotz’s remarks on the contentiousness of the Bible’s greatest heroes, JL Wall channels Andrew Sullivan: Those Biblical figures called heroes, and pillars, and faithful, and righteous: they doubted. They […]

  2. E.D. Kain Says:

    Great piece. I think doubt is the contrast to faith, the black to its white, that allows us to fully understand our faith. Without it, there would be no point. It wouldn’t be faith anymore, it would be certainty. Faith takes us further than certainty because it asks us to contribute a piece of ourselves.

  3. jrshipley Says:

    Doubt is a tiny voice of rational conscience, constantly reminding the believer of his or her irrationality. The champions of “faith” make this voice into a foe to be conquered. Imagine if we all did that with our moral conscience. Immorality would be as rampant as irrationality.

    I suppose that some believers do indeed do that with their moral consciences. I imagine a Christian fighting the temptation to think that the gay couple down the street seem like perfectly decent people and suppressing the basic human instinct to empathize with one’s neighbors. Maybe that’s the point of the binding of Isaac. Overall, the message throughout seems to be to obey and not to question. The utter servility of it all would be evident if the believer did not fancy him or herself a hero for overcoming the “temptation” to follow his or her rational and moral conscience.

  4. Allen Says:

    doubt by definition is to distrust. it is not the opposite of faith, but trust. when I read the Bible and look at the “heros” is see men and women of faith. but doubt is the little voice in our heads that tells us the opposite of what God really is. God is good. and His goodness is shining down on the righteous and the unrighteous. now the people of sodom and gomorrah, were given plenty of time to repent. if God chooses to destroy a city or nation that will not and has not chosen Him, thats up to Him, He is God not me. God is also longsuffering which tells me they had plenty of chances and still chose there sin and lifestyle. everytime we doubt God’s goodness there will be doubt. doubt to a certain point is ok, but to doubt God and His love for you is just foolish. over and over through the Bible God shows His goodness and love for you, quit doubting. every time we doubt we say God I think I can do this better then what you have planned for me. now me a human and HIm God, which sounds like he would know better, the one who created me or me?


  5. […] JL and I went back and forth on doubt earlier this […]


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