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Good Question! How to Relate to Someone Doubting Their Faith


I have an occasional (very occasional!) segment called “Good Question!” where I take a stab at questions people send me. Click here for previous “Good Question!” posts. (The link will take you to another blog of mine.) In the last few weeks 3 students in Eileen Flynn’s journalism class have contacted me about various topics they’ve chosen for writing projects. I think the topics would make 3 worthwhile “Good Question!” posts. Names aren’t necessary, so I’ve removed them. Here’s one:

Hello Pastor Goodman,

I was directed to you by Eileen Flynn, the former religion reporter from the Statesman, I am a student in her Journalism and Religion class at UT. 

I am writing a story for her class on the new “Openly Secular” campaign and I was wondering if you could briefly explain what you would do if/when you had a member of your congregation come to you and tell you they were doubting or questioning their faith? What do you tell them and what is your normal process for helping them?

My answer:

Thanks for writing, C*. In answer to your question, I would visit with them and ask about their story. In other words, I’d want to hear what they feel is the source of their faith struggles. I might suggest some resources for them to look at on their own—likely Tim Keller’s The Reason for God or C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, or I’d give them a copy of my book, The Anchor Course: Exploring Christianity Together. I’d probably follow up with them in a few weeks after they had worked through some of this material.

The process I use when talking with people who are considering entering the faith is pretty much the same process I use when talking with people who are considering exiting it: Listen to their life accounts, treat their questions with respect, let them know there are solid resources to address their doubts. Friendships/relationships do not change based upon what they do with the faith, though naturally I’m convinced that there’s substantial worth in coming to Jesus and staying with him.

Hope that helps. Let me know if you need to follow up by phone or email.

Learning to Doubt Your Doubts


In one of the old Peanuts cartoons, Peppermint Patty stepped up to the store counter at the start of a new school year. “I need some school supplies,” she said. “Some pencils, some paper, a loose-leaf binder — and some answers…. I need a lot of answers.”

Don’t we all.

We’ve all struggled with religious questions and doubts, and this is true for those who are following Christ as well as those who are considering a commitment to him.

In his book, If I Really Believe, Why Do I Have These Doubts? Lynn Anderson identified different things that cause doubt.

First, he says there are “congenital doubters” like himself (and myself) whose personality draws them to uncertainties and questions. I think you find a high concentration of these kinds of people in two areas: creative arts and creative technology. (Welcome to Austin!)

Second, some doubters are rebellious people who say, “I’m not going to let somebody run my life or do my thinking.”

Third, there are people whose doubts stem from their disappointment with God. Life hasn’t gone their way, and they wonder if God really cares—or even exists.

Fourth, some doubters have personal or family wounds — Anderson pointed out how many of history’s most famous atheists had a strained relationship with their father or their dad died early or abandoned them at a young age.

Finally, sometimes doubts come at particular seasons of life. People can be great believers at one point in life and then get too busy for prayer and Bible study and find that doubts have crept into a faith they have not been cultivating.

Jude 1:22 says: “Be merciful to those who doubt.” Don’t you love that? But the Bible sees doubt as a problem to be solved, not a condition to stay in.

We have to learn to doubt our doubts.

When John the Baptist was thrown in prison, he had a crisis of faith (Matthew 11). He sent word to Jesus, asking, “Are you really the one we’ve been waiting for, or should we look for someone else?”

Let’s look at the gentle way Jesus dealt with him. Join me live on May 18, or listen to the recorded message later. Let’s learn how to move from doubt to faith.


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About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.