Recently, my friend Bobby Conway released a new book called Doubting Towards Faith. He even gave me the opportunity to write the foreword. I recommend the book to you not because I wrote the foreword. Rather, I wrote the foreword because it is a timely and excellent book. I hope the books helps the many people who genuinely struggle with doubt.
Doubt is not simply an academic issue for me. In fact, I wish Doubting Towards Faith had existed years ago when I went through my own period of substantial doubt. Even though I have been blessed with amazing friends and family during my entire journey of faith, this book would have been life-giving when I first began to seriously doubt my own beliefs. The insights Bobby shares would have saved me a lot of heartache and given me a helpful roadmap for navigating the world of doubt and faith.
My doubts first hit as a college student. Before this period in my life, my faith was simply something I took for granted. I have fond memories of attending Christian conferences, going on mission trips, and listening to my father as he taught the Bible. My parents raised me in the Christian faith. As a child growing up, I can never remember not believing in the Christian story of the world.
Yet as a college student, I felt the gravity of my beliefs for the first time. What if I were raised in a different family? Is Jesus really the only way to God? How do I know Christianity is true? Sometimes these doubts were so intense they felt paralyzing. I decided to share these doubts with my dad, who has (now) been an evangelist and apologist for over five decades.
His response completely took me by surprise. “I think it’s great that you want to find truth,” he said. “It’s wise not to simply accept things just because you were told them. You need to find out if Christianity is true. You know that your mom and I love you regardless of what you conclude. Seek after truth and take to heart the things your mom and I have taught you. Reject what you have learned growing up only if you believe it is not true.”
As I look back on this experience, now that I am a speaker and apologist myself, I have learned a few key things about doubt. First, doubts don’t have to be the end of faith. In fact, doubts can often be the impetus for the development of a deeper, more genuine faith. This has certainly been true in my life. But this doesn’t happen by accident. It is important to be intentional about how you approach doubt.
Second, don’t doubt alone. Share your doubts with others. When you are in the middle of doubting, it is critical to experience the love, grace, and guidance of the body of Christ. Doubting alone is a recipe for disaster. I thank God for the people who loved me and guided me through my season of doubt.
Third, use your doubts as a motivator for learning. Sometimes I envy those who have the faith of a child and never seem to doubt. I used to be hard on myself until I realized that my questions and doubts often drive me to understand. If I had a simple faith, then I wouldn’t be as motivated to study intelligent design, the historical Jesus, or tough ethical issues. I wouldn’t have the same hunger for knowledge. And yet I have learned to thank God for the people with the gift of faith, for they use their gift to encourage the body of Christ.
The reality of doubt has been ignored for too long in the church. With our age of unlimited information and endless truth-claims, people will inevitably experience doubt. Rather than seeing this as a bad thing, I pray the church will see this as an opportunity to help people go deeper in their faith.
And that is why I am thankful for Doubting Toward Faith. Bobby Conway honestly and insightfully probes the reality of doubt, but also provides hopeful and practical ways forward. Trust me, it’s worth the journey. I have full confidence (and little doubt) that you’ll enjoy reading, studying, and passing it on to others.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog at seanmcdowell.org.