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Christianity places a great deal of emphasis on belief. So much so that it's the thing that secures a person's eternal salvation. Only those who believe punch their ticket to Heaven. In the most well-known verse in the Bible, Jesus says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life" (Jn. 3:16). For those who find it easy to believe the claims of the Bible, John 3:16 is comforting. But for those who struggle with doubt, the emphasis on belief can be distressing for at least two reasons.
First, the meaning of the word "belief" that many Christians hold is unbiblical and requires them to refrain from asking questions or acknowledging that they have doubts. So instead of being honest with themselves and others, and expressing those doubts they suppress them. Maybe they are afraid to admit to themselves that they have them, or maybe they are afraid of what others will think of them if they share them. Whatever the reason, it's tragic. way, it can cause a inauthentic faith that suppresses doubts and That's because there's a mistaken assumption - held by some - about what the Bible means when it calls people to "believe". That assumption rules out the possibility that faith can coexist with significant levels of doubt because it sees them as contradictory. can coexist and instead see faith as being :
to believe is to affirm what the Bible claims are true and the more psychologically certain you are about what the Bible claims, the greater your faith is, or the more spiritually mature you are. To really believe is to be certain.
That assumption is understandable but it's wrong.
It's understandable because in English the word "believe" means nothing more than to "affirm that a claim is true." It follows then that if believing just means to affirm a claim is true, the more confident one is about a claim, the more one believes it, and the more of a "believer" one is. Conversely, the more doubts one harbors the less one believes a claim and the less of a "believer" one is. To be a believer in good standing then, one must suppress all doubts, perhaps not even admitting to oneself that they harbor them.
However, that line of thinking is wrong. When the Bible speaks of "believing" it doesn't primarily refer to how much psychological certainty a person has but rather a combination of having some confidence the Bible's claims are true and entrusting one's self to Jesus.1
If "belief" is understood primarily as having psychological certainty about the claims of the Bible, doubt will always be seen as the opposite of faith. But doubt is not the opposite of faith, certainty is the opposite of faith. if that is true, then the only way to increase your faith is to ignore and (definitely never share) your doubts. But doubts can only be suppressed for so long before they
1. To get a handle on what the Bible does mean when it refers to belief continue on to the next post in this series.