“Who are you, Lord?” Acts 9:5
Doubt is not the absence of faith, it is the questioning of faith. You can only doubt what you already believe.
- When a Christian doubts, she fears that God may not exist. She believes there is a God, and when she doubts, she questions what she believes.
- When an atheist doubts, he fears that God may exist. The atheist believes there is no god and so by definition a doubting atheist would be someone who was questioning his unbelief!
- When a communist doubts, he questions Karl Marx’ vision of the Utopian society.
Doubt presupposes some kind of faith. In other words, doubt is faith with questions, and it is one of the most common struggles in the Christian life.
You can only doubt what you already believe, so it follows that doubt and unbelief are very different. Doubt is questioning what you believe. Unbelief is a determined refusal to believe. Doubt is a struggle faced by the believer. Unbelief is a condition of the unbeliever.
Unbelief involves spiritual blindness and a determined resistance towards God. When Paul was persecuting believers, he said, “I acted in ignorance and unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13). In other words, Paul was saying, “I could not understand the truth,” (that’s ignorance) and “I was deeply resistant to the truth” (that’s unbelief).
Unbelief was Paul’s condition, and the only cure for it was what happened on the Damascus Road when he was wonderfully converted. He discovered that Jesus is Lord, and the whole disposition of his soul was changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. He moved from a position of unbelief, to a position of faith.
Can you distinguish between periods of doubt and unbelief in your own life?