“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting,
for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea
that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
James 1:6 (ESV)
Apologists work in the tempestuous seas of doubt. This is not always a safe place. Quite often it’s terrifying. Like an ocean voyage doubt can be used for great exploration, with curious questioning driving us to distant answers and new solutions. But when doubt is let loose without the pacifying presence of reason, reality, humility, and truth doubt can quickly capsize even the most confident Christian. Apologists must do battle with their own doubts so they can better help others through theirs. Our public ministry hangs in the balance. When our doubts are only superficial addresses or emotionally swollen they can effectually weaken our knees. We can lose heart, lose confidence, lose nerve, and recede in the faith. applied to public ministry we risk imparting our own insecurities, fears, and confusion to others. We risk harming those we’re helping.
To “doubt your doubtts” means you apply skepticism to itself, questioning whether a given doubt is even justified. Rather than starting with doubt, questioning everything, granting nothing, we can, instead, start with reality, granting that our senses and knowledge are broadly reliable even as they are subject to revision. Knowledge, not doubt, get’s the “benefit of the doubt.” Rather than let some raging insecure doubt enter my mind and rule my whole worldview, I’m going to have to see some “ID first.” I demand that a given doubt offer some plausible and reasonable justification for why I should let his doubting skeptical outlook come in and interrogate all things I hold true. I’m not assuming perfect knowledge, but neither am I going to flip the switch and revert to chronic doubt. That’s not realistic, reasonable, nor safe.
When we harness those nagging questions and grapple with emotional insecurities to make them submit to Christ’s truth, then we can begin (by God’s strength) to right that ship and keep from sinking. Sometimes that battle is rational/logical, where you find or remember established truths or sound reasoning that first led you to the foot of the cross. Other times that battle is emotional and willfull, and we need Christian fellowship, rest, solace, healing, quiet, friends and family, or any number of concrete-tangible manifestations of Christian truth. Ideas can’t hug you, but they can comfort you. When ideas aren’t enough, you may need a real hug too. Christian apologists need to approach doubt with guarded optimism. Doubt is not some glowing happy hope that we should eagerly embrace with confident zeal. No, sometimes doubt hits us like a brick truck full of burdening grief. Other times, doubt is a guest of depression and despair. Still other times doubt is just a curious uncertainty needing good reasons and settled truth.
However doubt hits us, we should remember that it can easily drown us if we don’t respect it’s oceanic force. We don’t have to be scared of it but neither should we ignore it. Doubt can rot the foundations and frame of our Christian worldview if you let it flood you. Instead we can take it seriously ourselves, learn from our own battles with it, grow stronger and wiser through its trial, and employ that seasoned learning as we counsel others in the middle of their doubts.