Doubt is good Theology

Let me clarify: doubt as good theology is not the kind of doubt that makes us cool or proud, in this skeptical age of ours.

Rather, doubt as good theology is what Peter Enns describes as a dying and rising, where as followers of Jesus we “live and experience God in the present” (The Sin of Certainty).

It’s divine tough love.

It’s where the Jesus of the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament “sounds more like a mystic than an intellectual lining up correct thinking” (Enns).

Finally, doubt as good theology “signals not God’s death but the need for our own–to die to the theology we hold to with clenched fists. [Where] our first creeping feelings of doubt are like the distant toll of a graveyard chapel, alerting us that the dying process is coming our way” (Enns).

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3 Responses to Doubt is good Theology

  1. Jon Hughes says:


    I don’t see any other way forward for Evangelicalism. The ‘John MacArthur’ approach, by way of contrast, is stuck in the modernism of the 20th Century, and has run its course. Greg Boyd covered similar ground to Peter Enns in his 2013 book, “Benefit of the Doubt”.

    As for Enns’ reference to mysticism, it reminds me of the Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner’s famous quote that the Christian of the future will be either a mystic or nothing at all. Surely Rahner was a prophet!

    In going forward we’re returning to the past and a more vibrant, imaginative Christianity, in which we can share the spiritual journey with other Christian traditions outside the bubble in which we’ve operated for so long.

  2. Colin says:

    I sense good doubt is one thing we learn from Normal Thomas, I call him that when preaching on the John episode. One who had questions and issues, which humanly speaking were not unreasonable. But when met at his point of self identified need proclaimed “My Lord and My God”. He did not revel in uncertainty and never reach a commitment. If there is a caution there it may be that sometimes rather than to see is to believe, instead to believe is to see.
    And if there is one thing I feel I have learned from recent reading on Eastern Orthodoxy, it is to accept that there is Mystery which we may not resolve this side of eternity. I sense in balance that Orthodoxy can usefully learn from the perhaps more structured thought of the West. Neither is superior. God gives us both because both lead to us knowing him better.

  3. TC Robinson says:

    Yes, this imaginative and mystic Christianity is indeed the way forward. Modernity is a harsh slave master. It will not do. I’m not too fond of the Christians it produces. Enns talks about being open to the writers of other traditions. This is what I see in Rahner and his prophetic voice.

    We pursue certainty and correct thinking, according to Enns, because we want to be in control. But I like the way of Eastern Orthodoxy – yes, doubt has its place. Great take on Thomas. 😉

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