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Pastoral Care for the Doubting

Prof Scot McKnight writes ons his blog (

Christians without any doubts are either liars or overly confident. One of the deeper ironies for some Christians is that it is the Bible, “a book intended to inspire faith” that has become “the source of their doubt: they mentioned things like the violence attributed to God in scripture, it’s subordination of women, it’s acceptance of slavery, and its teachings about sexuality.” So Adam Hamilton in his book, Wrestling with Doubt, Finding Faith. Hamilton’s years of pastoring brought richness to this book. His doubts may not be your doubts, but the approach he brings can prove helpful for many.

Books about faith and doubt, and even certainty, regularly get published. But never as a fad or an avalanche even. Rather, thoughtful books about doubt are regularly needed because of the presence of doubt and thoughtful people in the church. I have learned that many pastors are not permitted to express their doubts. The same would apply to teachers and professors in seminaries and Christian colleges. Honesty however ought to promote honest questions, honest approaches, honest answers, and sometimes no answers. The most important book about doubt in my own journey in faith is Daniel Taylor’s The Myth of Certainty, which he followed up with many years later with The Skeptical Believer.

He writes, “there was a time when, in meeting with people struggling with faith, I would have felt compelled to try to persuade them to believe. That seldom seemed helpful. What did seem helpful was to honestly admit there are legitimate questions that can be raised about faith; that there are things in the Bible that are troubling to thoughtful people; and that we all struggle with doubt, including me. I found that when I could articulate that I understood their questions, and that I, myself, had wrestled with some of these same questions and doubts over the last 40 years, there was an openness to have a meaningful conversation about their doubts, and a greater openness to hear the reasons that, despite my doubts, I had faith.”

Here are the topics Hamilton discusses in this small, accessible book:

Suffering and the goodness of God
Is Christianity the one true religion?
Is there really a heaven?
Does God hear and answer our prayers?
Can the Bible be trusted?
Does God really exist?
Does God really know and love me?

Question: Which of these is an area of doubt for you? Or do you have others?

In his church in Leawood KS Hamilton found these principal areas of doubt from a survey of 1000 people. He writes that 47% of these people had learned that their doubts ultimately strengthened their personal faith. And, 27% said that doubts neither strengthened nor weakened their faith. Another 23% reported that their faith was weakened by doubts, and 3% admitted that their doubts had led them to lose their faith.

This book is not one of those classic apologetics books that attempts to answer with certainty and finality all questions about the faith. Rather pastor Hamilton wants to enter into a conversation with you about areas typical for people with doubt in the Christian Church, and how they might be approached and discussed in each of our pilgrimages.

How have doubts been approached in your church and circle of fellowship?