Can Faith and Doubt Live in the Same Heart?

Stan Mast

READ : Matthew 14:22-31

You of little faith . . . why did you doubt? (v. 31 NIV)

Does Jesus’ question to Peter make you uncomfortable? I was raised in a church that did not prize doubt. The old Heidelberg Catechism taught me that the Apostles’ Creed is “a creed beyond doubt, and confessed throughout the world.” Now we live in a world predicted back in the nineteenth century in Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach.” It says that the “Sea of Faith / was once, too, at the full . . . . / But now I only hear / Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, / Retreating . . . .”

Untold people are stranded on the beach in the shifting sands of doubt. And we don’t know what to make of it, because our leaders disagree. Rock star preacher Rob Bell says, “Central to the Christian experience is the art of questioning God” (Velvet Elvis, p. 22). Does that imply that doubt is a virtue? Rock solid theologian Kelly James Clark says, “Doubt is the secret sin buried deep within our souls” (When Faith Is Not Enough, p. 7). While he is sympathetic to doubt, it is still “the secret sin.”

So which is it—sin or virtue, an obstacle to faith or a central part of faith? Can a true believer have doubt, or does doubt mean you don’t really believe? Can faith and doubt live in the same heart? Let’s reflect on that for a while, beginning with the story in which Jesus said to Peter, “You of little faith . . . why did you doubt?”

PRAYER

On the wild sea of faith, Jesus, Savior, pilot me. Amen.