In this episode, Ed and Lynn visit with Dr. Timothy Larsen to discuss Victorian England, doubt of significant leaders of that time, and the role of doubt for the Christian today. What were the patterns of those who came back to faith? How did the Church handle them coming back to faith?
Larsen believes that doubt is essential to true faith today and can play a healthy and constructive role in the faith walk. When we doubt, we can answer our questions in a deeper and more profound way.
But what is a biblical theology of doubt, and what does scripture tell us about doubt? The process of making the faith your own is natural, says Larsen, and scripture is a great place to wrestle through those doubts.
So doubt can be a good thing. But what about James 1:6, which says not to doubt? According to Larsen, this passage deals with standing spiritually effective and asking boldly and clearly, knowing who God is.
What about catastrophes? How can bad things lead to doubt, or the reverse? This comes back to the problem of evil, Larsen says, in which we need to focus on the main thing—not answering existential questions, but being present with others as they weep and mourn.
And what about Jesus and how he handled the cross? How does His life serve as a model for us? Larsen touches upon what author George MacDonald taught–that is, that if we can learn anything from Jesus, it’s that we can trust Him.
How then do we help people walk through true doubt today? First, we need to have patience and walk with them as the Holy Spirit does His work in their lives. There are also times to confront people and ask them why they are headed in directions they shouldn’t be. Sometimes, Larsen says, those who seem to be the most bitter towards God are the ones who have something happening under the surface spiritually in their lives.
Dr. Timothy Larsen is the Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College. He is author of Crisis of Doubt: Honest Faith in Nineteenth-Century England.
Lynn Cohick is Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.