It is axiomatic that, for the Christian faith, faith is a virtue. Believing God is virtuous; doubting God is shameful.
Yet one sees a sort of reversal of this in contemporary Christianity. There is a certain attitude that regards faith as naïve and doubt as courageous or authentic. Perhaps authenticity is the root of it; in our highly individualized and even narcissistic society, we tend to prize being true to ourselves over being true to the truth. So someone who shares openly their doubts is regarded less as a person to be pitied and helped than as someone to be applauded for their authenticity.
This recently showed up in the responses to musician John Steingard’s departure from the Christian faith. After he declared that he was now agnostic, one Christian musician responded, “Man I love that you shared this. You know I’m always around to talk about our belief in God or lack thereof. Love you and always will”.
I think the goal of such a response was to communicate unconditional love, but it comes across as applauding the open rejection of God. Steingard didn’t have to air his doubts before the world; doing so made his personal struggle with faith into an apologetic for doubt. This is not worthy of approval.
That is to say, there is a proper sense of shame that should accompany doubting God. To doubt is all-too-human in this fallen world. Our minds and hearts have been darkened by sin; we cannot recognize the testimony to the Almighty that abounds around us. That doesn’t mean we should deny our doubts or struggle with them alone; doubts should be confessed to trusted and mature Christian friends, who can help us to overcome them. But they shouldn’t be proudly displayed as though doubt were justified, or a sign of maturity.
Faith may seem childish to the world; they mistake for childish the childlike. Simple and genuine faith is the authentic and authentically virtuous response to the God who has revealed Himself. He does not commend doubt. Over and over in the Scriptures, faith is lauded; I can think of no passage where doubt is treated as praiseworthy.
Indeed, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV).