Friday, May 17, 2024

Is It Wrong For A Christian To Doubt?

"When one permits DOUBTS to enter his thoughts and reasonings, he is on dangerous ground. He is thinking negatively. Whoever DOUBTS is damned. I want the reader to learn that lesson. 
"If one is not certain -- if he has not PROVED a doctrine or a fact -- then the teaching of God is, with open mind free from prejudice, to seek all the facts -- to PROVE it. This is not negative, but positive thinking and procedure. Doubting is not proving. Doubting is not intelligent! It is negative thinking about something one does not know enough about to warrant this form of unfounded disbelief." - Herbert W Armstrong, Autobiography Volume 1

When it came to Herbert Armstrong there seemed to be NOTHING that church members could ever do that was right. Do you honestly remember any time he did a sermon praising members for being strong in the faith, doing good in their lives, and following God faithfully? 

All we got was one miserable shouting sermon after another with jowls flapping and a face red with anger. as he pounded the podium/desk in anger. "You just don't get it!"

Herbert's comment that whoever doubts is damned is absurd and just one more link in the chain of cultish mind control of the church.

The very essence of faith produces questions to a believer and doubt is working through the questions. Doubt is not a dirty five-letter word. Doubt is not some dark struggle that we need to keep secret. If we are honest, all believers experience doubt at varying times and in varying degrees in their faith life.

Think about all the examples of people in scripture who doubted. Two examples stand out in the New Testament. Thomas who is often referred to as "doubting Thomas" and John the Baptist. You could really call Thomas a realist because he just wanted to see to believe. He said, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." I can relate to him.

John the Baptist began doubting after hard circumstances came into his life. He found himself sitting in prison for doing what was right and standing for truth. In prison he began to have doubts so he sent two of his disciples to Jesus and asked, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" In his doubt, he was questioning if Jesus was actually the Savior that he had believed in.

In both instances Jesus did not respond with disgust, by telling them they were wrong, or by making them feel embarrassed or ashamed. Instead, His response was to help them through their doubts and to fix the missing element in their faith. Thomas needed to see to believe so Jesus showed him His hands and His side and told him to touch the wounds. John the Baptist just needed to take time to remember. Jesus sent back the two disciples to tell John, 
Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 
Remembering these facts resolved John's doubt and strengthened his faith. Is it ok for a Christian to doubt?  
I have heard church members claim they have never had a day of doubt. They say they have proven all they were taught as true and have nothing further to worry about. Talk about foolish thinking! It's like the Mormons who talk about feeling "a burning in their bosom" so they do not need to prove anything else or question.

Truthfully, the church was NOT a safe place to let doubt be known. The second you did you were looked at as a backslider or lukewarm in the faith. Even worse, you were labeled as a Laodicean, the ultimate epithet of the church. The church quickly and efficiently shut you down. If you dare to doubt then you dare to doubt what the minister or Dear Leader says and they cannot have that happening! Proper church government, remember! Doubt means you do not respect church government and that is the ultimate sin, one step above the unpardonable sin.

Many faithful honest Christians talk about seasons of doubt in their lives as they walk through the desert.

If you’ve struggled with doubt or are currently struggling with it, before you do anything else, you simply must know that going through these seasons — those ones that wreck you about Jesus and God — is normal.

And not only is it normal, but it’s also necessary.

Doubts are the growing pains of the faith. It’s always been that way. They’re usually seasons of discomfort, and sometimes they bring us to tears. It’s real pain. But they’re seasons we must endure if we want to grow in our faith. Is it Okay to Doubt God?

One of the best stories in the bible is about a man seeking Jesus to heal his epileptic son. He said he believed but yet needed help in his unbelief (doubts).

For those coming out of Armstrongism (or any other church, for that matter) with their faith shattered, finding community with others who struggled with doubt was a refreshing thing to behold. Sharing that doubt, talking about it, mulling it over, spitting out that which was no longer needed, and struggling with others who found ways to overcome doubt is a wonderful journey. A journey where one finally realizes that doubt is a good thing and creates space for learning, investigating, mulling it over, and discarding the useless things that really have no meaning or bearing on one's Christian walk. God knows there were a LOT of useless things in Armstrongism that are not necessary for an honest Christian or doubter.

Many left the church because they felt the church was an unsafe place to question or have doubts. How can you trust a church that isn't honest and open? “Just have faith” and “don’t ask questions” are the mantras of the church and are believed by far too many, without any reservation, as biblical truth.
Doubt is often used as the opposite of faith in the church. But that isn't true. The opposite of faith is unbelief.

Even John the Baptist wrestled with doubt:

Near the end of his life, John was in prison facing imminent death. He called two of his disciples and requested that they go to Jesus and ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19). John was essentially saying, “I think I believe you’re the Messiah, but in this moment, I’m not 100 percent sure.” 
Really? After all John had seen and testified about? After calling Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? After hearing the Father’s audible voice identifying Jesus as his Son? After all that, the precursor to the Savior himself doubts that Jesus is the actual Savior? 

Now, such facts about John the Baptist might make someone scoff at his lack of faith. If I’m honest, though, I’m comforted by his doubt. Why? Because if he could doubt and admit it plainly—to the point that it’s recorded in Holy Scripture—surely I have liberty to doubt and be candid about it, too.
John’s doubt means I’m free from the shame of admitting my own. I’m free to honestly stumble along in faith, knowing God is big enough to handle it when I quake.

And let’s not forget how Jesus responded to John’s questions: he was patient and gracious. He wasn’t turned off by John’s sudden doubt. He calmly answered the question and gave assurance that he was the Messiah (Luke 7:21–23).  My Comfort in John the Baptist’s Doubt

Armstrongism taught us to pray harder or more often to alleviate doubt, and of course read everything the church published, since it had ALL the answers. All that really did was make the questions even louder causing the shame and unworthyness to set in.

Christians should take stock of the fact that all of the disciples wallowed in doubt, especially at the end. Did that doubt lead them away from faith, or from being a follower of Jesus? It did not and neither should you worry if you have doubts. The true enemy of the faith is not doubt but fear. Armstrongism lived in a world of fear. Christians live in the world of grace. A world where doubt has a home.



Anonymous said...

I should have expected nothing less. A heretical picture and mocking the truth revealed to us by Mr. Armstrong. Typical rebellious ministers.

Anonymous said...

''All we got was one miserable shouting sermon after another with jowls flapping and a face red with anger. as he pounded the podium/desk in anger''>>>

This character I am convinced was mentally ill his self centeredness and self aggrandizement being so excessive it's not what you'd find in a normal person. Did much harm with his lies.

Anonymous said...

My belief is that when John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to ask Christ "are you the one to come or should I look for another," he was being sarcastic. This is because John wanted God to immediately deliver him from prison. In my books, John bombed out here. Most of the disciples (including Joseph) spent time in prison. This was part of their training so that they would comprehend how precious freedom and rights are. This is in contrast to one of my ministers complaining from the pulpit "why do members need so many rights." Which is repugnant to any abused person.

God granted John's request and freed him from prison by allowing his head to be chopped off. But John will receive a lesser reward in heaven since he chose to not endure his trial. Christians should think hard about asking God to deliver them from certain trials. It's "to him who endures to the end" that gets the most toys.

DennisCDiehl said...

From my perspective and experience, faith is not a function of proving anything. Faith, which is belief when proof is absent, is belief without proof. Faith is faith and proof is proof and they are two distinct perspectives. Science basis it's beliefs on reproducible proof over the long haul with adjustments along the way when new information comes to light. Religion uses authority to sustain itself.

It is said that even the smallest amount of faith, mustard seed faith, can command a mountain to cast itself into the sea. Of course, no one has ever done that which seems to indicate that no one has even that amount of faith. It's a statement soaking in rather useless and meaningless hyperbole

Scripture states that "Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God, for he that comes to God MUST belief that He exists..." (Heb 11:6). The scripture does not offer anyone the booklet, "Seven Proofs God Exists". You just better belief He does or you can't even get started in the faith.

While "to doubt" is very human and rightly so because of all the chicanery and deception in the world of religion and faith, it is not held in high esteem among the faithful. However, it is doubting something is so when it seems impossible to be so that can save one from a lifelong mistaken belief that having faith in it would only perpetuate to one's harm. I believe most here would understand that reality with our experiences with WCG. I have simply expanded my view of doubt to the entire topic of religion, to my own satisfaction and everyone and anyone would have the right to do so in genuine and authentic life seeking what is actually so and not what others demand one believe "on faith" to be so.


DennisCDiehl said...


While we quote, "The just shall live by faith", the more correct version of that is "The just shall live by HIS faith". Somewhat a big difference in meaning.

My personal view of now allows me to not believe in magic if it makes no sense. Not making sense is not "precisely the reason we believe it in faith and it is true", does not work for me as apologists insist.

The simple definition of faith is "Confident belief in the truth, value or trustworthiness of a person, place or thing, that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence". That is risky at best as history has shown us.

Faith, to me is neither virtuous nor moral. I do not consider myself a "man of great faith". Doubting Thomas seems the safer route in life to go.

" Faith is fundamentally fallacious and inherently dishonest. Faith takes away reason and accountability. It means never having to accept responsibility for your own mistakes because it means never having to admit you are wrong. Faith is not an allegiance to truth; in fact, faith is the most dishonest and reasonable position it is possible to have...Faith has always only ever served to impede, retar, or reverse progress in whatever sociopolitical, medical, educational, economic or environmental application it has ever touched.

Faith requires that we literally make believe, that we presume, presuppose and pretend; that we ignore what we really do se, and imagine something is there when apparently it isn't. It means we lie to ourselves and fool ourselves. Worse than that, faith requires that we believe the unbelievable..." (Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism"

Faith is often simply pious convictions based on marginal information. It is a risky way to getting closer to what is actually true in life.

One's doubts can save them a lot of misery and deception.

BP8 said...

Because faith and doubt are very complex human behaviors, we have in this post the potential for many interesting comments. I hope many chime in.

When most think of "faith", it is usually in the area of religion, which is what Dennis in his lengthy comment admits to challenge. However, while he says he's not a man of great faith, it's obvious that he HAS faith, but of another kind---not in God or religion (which are not synonymous), but in himself to discern, and man's ability to progress.

While saying, " faith is not an allegiance to truth", he obviously upholds those things he says it impedes, the social, political, medical, educational, and economical systems of this world, the very things the God of the Bible condemns for the very reasons Dennis lists!

Dennis makes some very good points about magic and believing marginal information, but that's not limited to religion, but must be spread across the entire spectrum of human endeavor. How so?

Man and this corrupt world system do not accept responsibility for actions or mistakes. We ignore what we see. They make believe, pretend, and imagine something is there when it isn't. They demand belief in the unbelievable, and expect us to accept conclusions based on marginal or fabricated information. And this system, including religion, definitely uses authority to sustain itself. We all know this is true for many examples can be provided!

The fact that Scripture affirms these points and identifies them for what they are is a great reason in my mind to accept the Bible for what it claims to be, the God breathed word of the living God, the word of truth, worthy of our acceptance and belief. It's not as simple as it sounds, but it is a place to start.

Anonymous said...

I align with Peter Enns (his book, The Sin of Certainty) in believing that the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty. I also believe that certainty cannot be achieved. No amount of proof-texting is going to put someone on the solid foundation of Godly faith. Proof-texting tends to collapse. Faith is trust in God. Faith is not about believing the “right things”, although the Holy Spirit will teach you.

The Bible states that it is by grace through faith we are saved and not by works. But Armstrongism converted trust in God into salvation by works. For them faith was about “proving” ideas to yourself through very careful booklet study and then working as hard as possible to maintain a positive and convinced attitude about it. It became a kind of a “Power of Positive Thinking” work. It was all about the lay member, with gritted teeth, maintaining self-generated belief or falling into condemnation. And everybody in the WCG was ready to condemn you if you were, for instance, sick and didn’t get healed. This was a system that operated on fear, condemnation and judgment. It has nothing remotely to do with faith.

Dennis stated, “While we quote, "The just shall live by faith", the more correct version of that is "The just shall live by HIS faith". I believe this is essentially true. The term “pistis Christou” can be interpreted either “faith of Christ” or “faith in Christ.” The former is based on the belief that the Holy Spirit forms Christ in you (2 Cor 13:5). The latter supports the idea that our tiny human faith (more like an inclination) must bear the burden of belief in Christ as a personal work.

I believe in the doctrine of the Vicarious Humanity of Christ. Armstrongism says you have to do it yourself. The Vicarious Humanity of Christ says that you can’t do it yourself but God by grace and through Jesus and the Holy Spirit will do it in you. So, every Christian has dwelling in them the faith of Jesus and should not be brow-beaten by the people who glory in judgment.


BP8 said...

Scout is right, the opposite of faith is not doubt.

Faith (belief) is what you have when you don't have fact. Unbelief is a belief in a different direction. It is not doubt, which is not being sure.

We all hope for many things, but the question is, what basis do we have for our belief? One can say he believes in reincarnation, but what basis exist for that belief? Or the belief that mankind is doing a great job here on planet earth. Can that belief be supported by what we see with our own eyes in spite of what the politicians say?

Like Scout, I believe the Bible is a source of information that man on his own cannot discover or attain. It is revealed knowledge that serves as the supreme basis of faith in spiritual matters as long as we follow God's lead and directives (Romans 10:10-17).

Anonymous said...

Is it ok with COG-dom to watch the movie "Doubt" with Phillp Seymour Hoffman

Anonymous said...

Doubt what? The Word of God? Yes, it's wrong.

He that doubts is damned if he eats a wrong word that he shouldn't eat, because it's not of faith. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Rom 14:23)

And a lot of you people are eating some offensive words.

For every useless word that men speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Mt 12:36)

Anonymous said...

Giving away your age range NO2HWA.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen Matt 12:36 for a long time, thanks.

RyanAus said...

"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."
René Descartes

We can't seek truth with integrity if we aren't willing to consider all perspectives and possibilities with impartiality- to doubt all things.

Anonymous said...

2:47 there is another phrase about doubt that is a more modern description of it. I heard this often when growing up as a kid. Here it is:

Never believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank Dennis for his outlook on the subject of “faith”. It helps make a lot of his past posts make sense, I.e. in the sense of explaining his lack of answers to prayer for others as a “minister” for-twenty plus years. And, other comments.

His response makes me think of the former discussion on HWA shouting “you just don’t get it”. For example here is one of his don’t get it’s. He wrote: “ It is said that even the smallest amount of faith, mustard seed faith, can command a mountain to cast itself into the sea. Of course, no one has ever done that which seems to indicate that no one has even that amount of faith. It's a statement soaking in rather useless and meaningless hyperbole”.

In actual fact, someone did do exactly that! Anyone who “gets it” would recognize that instantly!! But I wonder how many here don’t get it either, even after decades of reading and “studying” the Bible.

Dennis says repetitive getting of the same results from tests is better proof than faith. That is, faith as he describes it in his own understanding. Interestingly the Bible has hundreds of such tests in it that always give the same results when put to the test. But, those who “don’t get it” can’t figure out what they are. That being true, then there is a lot on Banned that is mainly pure and simple speculation.

So, who knows who threw a mountain into the sea, and what those hundreds of tests the Bible has are, so we can set up tests to compare the results???

Anonymous said...

I remember reading HWA's explanation of what faith is regarding healing. When we ask God for healing, we must ask in faith in accordance to Heb 11:1, "... the evidence of things not seen."
For example, you develop a swollen hand due to some causes. You ask God for healing. But you are not healed because you can still see the hand in the same swollen state, or even worse than before you asked God for healing. HWA said that in this situation, you are looking for evidence of healing, so you have no faith because you are looking for evidence when faith demands no such observable thing. What I think HWA is implying is that, the fault is not with God but with you who do not display faith of the Heb 11:1 kind. Also, you must ask in faith per Heb 11:1, expecting God to heal you as a done deal, not caring the when and how. Can you do it? So, the moral of the story is you better have faith (Heb 11:1) and think twice or deeply before you approach God for this faith healing. The majority of us should just see a doctor and be done with the healing (curing) of the scientific kind.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, regarding the Mustard Seed:

I have an opinion about the mustard seed and the mountain. The disciples tried to perform a miracle and they could not do it. Yet, there was nothing outlandish about the miracle. It was the kind of thing they were expected to do. But they were rookies. Because of this, they may have thought that the “system” did not work – that faith was not what it was cracked up to be.

I believe the disciples, at this stage, regarded the performing of miracles to be something like the use of an enchantment. Like Gandalf, you said the right words in Elvish and the door opened up or whatever miracle happened. This is a primitive view of performing miracles. You look not to the wisdom of a higher power but to the magic words themselves. It is not about entreating God in High Heaven to make a judicious intervention but about the use of a verbal tool. You say it and you get it without background, qualification or process. It is an invoking and not an entreaty.

Simon the Sorcerer made the same mistake as the rookie disciples. He did not see the bestowal of the Holy Spirit as a Godly intervention involving the participation of a great sentient being but as something that could be purchased like a commodity and then bandied about like a form of barter.

Jesus was saying that this is not how it works. Faith, real faith, does work. It is powerful to the removal of mountains. Jesus told the disciples that they were unbelieving. Not that they had little faith or impaired faith but that they had no faith. This is because faith is trust in God and this is not what they were doing. And if God judges conditions to be right, miracles of any magnitude can happen. And if they trusted in God, they would never expect mountains to be just arbitrarily removed. Faith is not a tool but a relationship with God. Jesus then performed the miracle to show them that faith did in fact work in the proper context and for the God-approved purpose.

My two cents …


Anonymous said...

Scout, thanks for your input on my question about casting mountains into the sea.

However, the fact is, a mountain was cast into the seas, just as the Messiah said. Yet, the majority of individuals who read the account cannot see what that account means . They just read it as said. As the scripture states, they have eyes to see but cannot see.


Byker Bob said...

A human processes incoming information hundreds of times per day, discerning in accordance with probability, cost-benefit analyses, and relativity of the seriousness of an event or circumstance. It is instinctive and is a defense mechanism with which we are hard-wired

Faith would seem to be a reprogramming or defiance of this process. Whether or not faith is effective appears to be determined by the source of the faith.


Anonymous said...

OK, let’s get to the conclusion instead of belaboring the point. If one doesn’t get it, they just don’t get it. Those who do will appreciate the Bible more.

So, here it is in brief,

Here are a few clues that are commonly overlooked or forgotten or ignored by too many of us when reading what the Messiah said.

And he spake many things unto them in parables,...(Matthew 13:3,

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? (Matthew 13:10, KJPCE)

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (Matthew 13:13,

All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: (Matthew 13:34

Please look up the other verses as there are specifically 15 on this subject.

Now, the Bible tells us what the symbols used in parables mean. So, what does a mountain symbolize?
The sea?

If you get it, the Messiah gave a prophecy about the near future of Israel. And after his death, it came to pass!

So, Israel, the mountain, was cast into, scattered, the sea, masses of people in other nations.

Look up the symbols the Messiah used in his speech for yourself.

Besides, the Messiah also said his disciples would/could understand his parables.

The Messiah, it says in the NT has faith, so his faith was confirmed when 70 AD began casting the mountain into the sea. The parable was not as described by others as an impossible piece of nonsense.


Anonymous said...


I understand what you are doing but I think your interpretation is a long shot. The reason why is that there is no context in the Mustard Seed discussion for the future geopolitics of Israel. The eventual outcome for Israel is so disconnected from this I believe you have developed an eisegesis instead of an exegesis. On the other hand, if you want to believe what your have written, it doesn't really hurt anything that I can see.

I think Jesus was simply using the hyperbole to intensify his correction of the disciples. In Luke for this or a similar account, a sycamine tree is used instead of a mountain. Precisely because the symbol doesn't matter.


Anonymous said...

I see some signs of faith building here so I shall speak.

As said above, removing mountains by faith is symbolic, symbolic of getting rid of something that stands in the way of your faith, whether it be demons (which supplied the context for this statement; Mt 17:19-20), governments (that want to kill you or prevent you from practicing your faith, such as assembling during a pandemic), self-will, self-doubts (about casting out demons) or any enemy who desires to destroy you from your inheritance, etc. Many of you don't even know who your enemy is. As Paul said, we wrestle not against unreasonable flesh and blood human beings but against heads, authoritative powers, rulers and harmful spirits above (Eph 6:12) who want you to doubt God so that they can destroy your soul. So the problem isn't your boss, friend, family, pastor or acquaintance (the visible frontmen); it's the spirit in the air that is driving you to hate, distrust, doubt, greed, lust, covetousness, corrupt communication, lies, impatience, prejudices, gainsaying and revenge. That's the mountain that you have to bury in the water at baptism by faith (in God, to justify you in the end).

Diehl seems to think that no one has cast a mountain into the sea by faith? Easy for you to say but have you witnessed everything on earth over 4 billion years? Or listened to conversations in heaven over that time? Large parts of the earth have sunk under water over the distant past and recent future. It's not just plate tectonics at work independent of the one who created it. What happened to Sodom and Gomorrah? What is going to happen soon to Mt of Olives? (Zech 14:4)

By the way, mountains are symbolic of kingdoms, as per Zech 4:7 and 6:1, but I disagree with the above interpretation that the mountain to be cast out was Israel. Israel had already been cast out centuries before so it could refer to Jewish rule and the priesthood in Jerusalem that killed the Lord. That "mountain" was removed to distant parts because it wasn't worthy of living in the city of the great King.

Anonymous said...

I love it. Reading the responses to my get to the point post is overwhelmingly as expected. The mind of man is so clearly explained by the Bible that it is “mind boggling” in its accuracy.

Can’t wait to see more of the responses here. Love it, love it, love it! Thanks!!!


Anonymous said...

Why do we always insist on one correct interpretation? I think it's hilarious that the leaders of Armstrongism (including the namesake founder) insist on this, and when events and actions fail to unfold as they had forecast, they backpedal, revise, and in some cases even blame God for them having gotten the wrong interpretation. Some things are intended to be mysteries we can't understand until it is our time to know. If things were masked to keep the first century Jews from understanding them, that is most likely policy for today as well.

Anonymous said...

2:20 this may answer your post.

And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all [these] things are done in parables: (Mark 4:11, KJPCE)


Anonymous said...

I agree, 64. Obviously Armstrongism has always been on the outside looking in. HWA preached that because his church had the true doctrines, and observed them, God provided the gift of understanding end times prophecy correctly. Because Armstrongism has failed abysmally with prophecy, we can know for a fact (by the criteria which HWA set) that we never had the correct doctrines. We just thought we did because Herbie said so. It's another example of how the man messed with our minds and lives

As child, I had nighmares about my relatives and friends at school who were not in the church being tortured and killed by the Germans. Most of them lived their lives, good safe lives, and have died natural deaths by this point in time. I didn't get a choice, of course, but I really wish I had been lied to about Santa Claus!

Anonymous said...

Wrong, 5:47, WCG was on the inside looking out. If you weren't on the inside, you couldn't see what was going on outside.

By your criteria, anyone who sins or makes an error is a phony.

Yet, didn't you say that Christ and His forgiveness should be the focus?

So it looks as if you stand alone.