Doubt is a matter that is rarely discussed among reformed evangelicals. When I think back about this I realise that it is a real issue for concern not only as part of my own walk with God but also for many other Christians. For whatever reason, we try and avoid the obvious problem of doubt despite its constant and persistent nagging. Reformed evangelicals, I feel, fall into the trap of avoiding the subject and pretending everything is well with us out of fear that people might think less of us if we openly admit that we are burdened with doubt. The reality is that we cannot avoid it. It is an encumbrance that holds us back from reaching our full potential as redeemed people.
This book is written to aid Christians to overcome doubts in a postmodern world. The world we live in is increasingly hostile to us. We believe and stand for what is contrary to the status quo and are hated and ridiculed for it. What we experience is the fulfilment of Christ’s prophecy, in John 15:20 – ‘A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.’ It doesn’t take much scrolling on twitter before you come across tweets by celebrity atheists such Richard Dawkins who gets two thousand retweets for poking fun at religion (of course the majority of the tweets display shocking lack of understandings of Christian theology and presuppositions.)
If you are a doubter, then this book is for you.
The first section of the book deals with defining doubt. He looks at ‘what it is – and what it isn’t?’ McGrath helpfully states immediately that ‘doubt is not scepticism’ nor is it ‘unbelief.’ Rather it is something that flags up weak areas in our own personal faith and will always be an issue as long as we are living in a sinful and fallen world. Doubts can be overcome by putting our trust in a faithful God but will always be present until the day when our faith becomes sight.
The main body of the book (chapters 6-9) deals with different groups of anxieties we have as Christians caused by a post modern society and hostility. Very briefly we can doubt the gospel. We are reassured as long as God is God his gospel will always be relevant and hold great power to convict people of sin and point them to Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.
- You may have doubts about yourself, ‘I’m not sure I am a Christian.’ This can be frightening to think and can ruin your relationship with God. But remember God does not save you depending on your subjective feelings – they are unreliable. Ground your faith in the objective promises of God revealed to us in Scripture.
- Maybe you have doubts about Jesus Christ. ‘How can someone who live two thousand years ago be relevant to me?’ Simply that the eternal God chose to act through him. His atoning death on the cross appeased God’s wrath towards us and his resurrection confirms the hope we have of new life by faith alone. This will always be relevant because God chose to act through him.
- We may have doubts about God the Father. We are sinners disqualified from God’s grace because of our sin. How can God truly love us? McGrath so helpfully reminds us of this: ‘He does not have to wait until we stop sinning.’ We accept his Jesus and are saved. Christ’s death shows us that ‘he is committed to the cause of our redemption.’
The third and final section of the book looks at how to deal with doubt and putting it into perspective. McGrath encourages is not to get preoccupied with doubt. But use them to renew, deepen and consolidate your faith in God. Develop a healthy prayer and devotional life, read books, continually remind yourself of Christianity’s objective truths, be open and honest about where you are with yourself, your friends and your church.
This book is written pastorally, filled with biblical truths to equip Christians to cope with doubts that will arise in a postmodern world.
I’ve attached a link to a video on youtube, hope it helps.
A Review of Alister McGrath’s Doubt in Perspective: God is Bigger than you Think (IVP, 2006)