In the seeker-sensitive church movement, one of the prevailing streams of thought are the idea that doubt is a good thing. In other words, doubt is viewed as a positive that can be used to develop one’s faith in Jesus. In the video below, Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, quotes “the opposite of faith is not doubt, the opposite of faith is certainty.”
But is doubt really viewed in a positive light in Scripture? Hebrews 1:11 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Barnabas Piper, son of John Piper, says “I affirm doubt. I think doubt is a driving force in discovering truth, not something that should be condemned.” But I can’t find this concept anywhere in Scripture. In fact, what I see in Scripture is the exact opposite,
… for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-7)
So what is doubt? Let’s be clear, doubt is not misunderstanding a theological concept. Doubt is not not knowing the answer to a question you may have about God. Doubt is sin–and it’s deadly.
The very first sin we see in Scripture was doubt. God gave Adam and Eve one command to obey, not to eat of the fruit of the tree, or they shall surely die. But Satan deceived Eve and caused her and Adam to question God’s word. They didn’t see anything apparent in the fruit that would cause them to die, so they doubted and ate, and it brought death.
Doubt is nothing more than unbelief. And there is nothing in Scripture that speaks of a “believing doubt.” This is a man centered concept. Jude 22 speaks of those who doubt as people who need mercy. It’s not the righteous that need mercy, but sinners. This isn’t to say that believers won’t experience doubt, for we’re all sinners (Romans 3:23), but doubt is a sin that needs to be repented of, just like any other sin. But many pastors today talk up doubt as though it’s simply a benign process of sanctification–it’s not. As we see in Matthew 14:31, Jesus speaks of a doubting Peter as a man of “little faith.”
So how can seeker-sensitive pastors like Steven Furtick rationalize doubt, affirming that doubt “builds faith,” or that doubt and faith can coexist? This is no different than saying “homosexuality builds faith,” or “drinking in excess builds faith.” It’s nonsense. But the simple truth is, their congregations are filled with unrepentant sinners and doubters. In order for Furtick to maintain the growth of his church, (in which he claims his goal to be 100,000), and keep the money rolling in, he must affirm his lost customers in their sin. If he were to preach the truth, that those who continuously doubt God and don’t repent of it, are not Christians, most would likely leave. But instead, he preaches that this is normal, good, and healthy, so stay and be entertained while I twist Scripture to build ourselves up, and keep giving me your money.
As we saw in Hebrews 11:1, faith, as claimed by Furtick, is not the opposite of certainty. This is a blatant contradiction of Scripture, and purely a false teaching. Scripture teaches that our faith is confidence and assurance, certainty, and that Jesus himself is the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus never doubted. All throughout Scripture (John 20:27, Matthew 14:31, James 1:6-7, Matthew 28:17, Mark 11:23, Matthew 21:21, 1 Timothy 2:8, etc.) we see doubt being portrayed as sin that erodes faith. Faith and doubt cannot coexist in the Kingdom of God. So while we may have moments of unbelief or doubt, this is a sin that should be repented of, and it’s the repentance of doubt, not the doubt itself, that will draw you closer to God.
“Stop doubting and believe!” (John 20:27)