The winds of modern thought have blown into the halls of the Church, stirring up a novel perspective that now echoes loudly from the pulpit to the pews. The perception that doubt is a beneficial, even necessary, component of faith has started to hold sway. This novel viewpoint is articulated by the words of Rich Villodas who posts on Twitter:
“Doubt is not the enemy of faith. It’s the ground out of which faith often emerges. Faith requires us to venture into mystery. There’s no certitude in mystery. Doubt and faith are companions on the journey.”
I wouldn’t bring this up if I didn’t think it were a big deal with eternal ramifications. But the 21st-century church has, to a certain extent, succumbed to this idea, swept along by a tide of humanistic philosophies and subjective experiences. The notion that faith is some amorphous entity, a nebulous journey into the unknown, has found increasing acceptance. In a climate where the absolute is often devalued in favor of the relative, questioning God’s existence, doubting His providence, or wavering in one’s trust in His Word, has been repackaged as virtues—a necessary phase for deepening faith, an almost rite of passage for the modern believer.
Yet, is this narrative that pairs faith with doubt as harmonious co-travelers on our spiritual journey accurate? Is it supported by a careful examination of Holy Scripture? A resounding ‘No’ thunders from the pages of the Book of James, challenging this new-found fascination with doubt and inviting us to return to a faith that is resolute and unmarred by wavering uncertainty.
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Dive into the words penned in James 1:6-8, where the Holy Scripture puts forth an uncompromising case against the perception of doubt as a companion to faith.
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
A thorough look of this passage compels us to examine each phrase meticulously.
Firstly, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” James constructs an unambiguous portrait of faith and it is unwavering. The Greek word used for “waver” is “diakrinomenos,” denoting internal debate, a division in the mind, a warring of contrary thoughts. Here, faith is illustrated as a complete certainty, a full surrender to God’s providence. It is not a blend of belief and doubt, but pure, unadulterated conviction.
Next, “For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Here, the individual wavering, the doubter, is compared to the unrest of the sea, signifying an instability and inconsistency. Far from promoting a faith-journey companion, James paints a picture of doubt as a destructive force that generates tumult and confusion.
Then, “For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” Here, James provides a serious warning—the one who allows doubt to creep into his prayer will not be blessed by the Lord’s hand. This biblical truth rejects the notion that doubt is a companion to faith—instead, it portrays doubt as a roadblock to God’s blessing.
Finally, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” The term “double-minded” comes from the Greek “dipsuchos,” literally meaning “two-souled.” This term embodies wavering, doubting, divided loyalty. Such a person, James tells us, is “unstable in all his ways”—this instability is far from the assurance that true faith provides.
In totality, the weight of James 1:6-8 clearly counters the idea that doubt can harmoniously coexist with faith. The picture James paints is clear: true faith is unwavering, complete, not diluted with doubt. Doubt is not the fertile ground from which faith blossoms, but the rocky terrain that hinders its growth. James’ perspective repudiates the idea that “faith requires us to venture into mystery.” On the contrary, faith is the full assurance in what we do not see, a sturdy trust that outshines the darkness of uncertainty.
Let us not be remiss in acknowledging the unfathomable sovereignty of God. Indeed, He is capable of employing even our weakness, including our doubts, to draw us closer to His magnificent presence. We bear witness to His divine ability to transform evil into good, manifested profoundly throughout Scripture. It was our transgressions, our sin, that necessitated the cross, the greatest emblem of grace and redemption. Yet, while God transformed our rebellion into an occasion for His glorious salvation, we dare not label sin as anything other than what it is—wretched and destructive.
This principle holds just as true when we speak of doubt. God, in His grace, can certainly utilize our moments of doubt to reinforce our faith. Nonetheless, we must not romanticize doubt as a benign, faith-strengthening force. Scripture does not lend support to this perspective. James 1:6-8, unambiguously clarifies that doubt is not a companion, but rather a rival of faith. So, let us uphold the truth of God’s Word in its entirety, affirming both His infinite capacity to redeem our doubts and the clear biblical teaching that doubt, in and of itself, is an adversary to faith.