On Dealing with Doubt

If you ever spent much time reading Christian apologetics, you’ve probably encountered writings which counsel Christians on “dealing with doubt.” (If you haven’t, do an Internet search on “dealing with doubt” and click on some of the links in the search results to see what I’m talking about.) The assumption seems to be that doubt is either intrinsically bad or, at the very least, potentially dangerous (insofar as it might lead to nonbelief).

I have to confess I find myself slightly amused by the very expression, “dealing with doubt.” As opposed to what? Dealing with evidence? Imagine reading a web page devoted to dealing with evidence that goes like this.

Most freethinkers struggle with evidence at one time or another. Evidence by itself is not unethical but it can be dangerous. It can also be a spur to enormous intellectual growth. It’s what you do with your evidence that matters. Here are seven simple suggestions about how to handle your evidence….

If that strikes you as odd, well, that’s exactly how I feel when I read the words, “dealing with doubt.” It seems to me that any viewpoint which struggles with how to “deal with doubt” is already admitting a defeat of sorts; it comes across as emphasizing the importance of belief over truth.

For example, pick any branch of science which is relatively disconnected from theological issues, such as basic chemistry. It’s my understanding that there is no real doubt among chemists about the periodic table of elements, but let’s assume there were such doubt. If the periodic table of elements were controversial among chemists, it’s difficult to even imagine someone seriously trying to counsel chemists about how to handle their doubts about the periodic table of elements. Rather, chemists would embrace those doubts and try to design experiments to gather further evidence one way or the other.