Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JOTGES 24:47 (Autumn 2011) p. 111
The Benefit of the Doubt: Encouragement for the Questioning Christian. By Charles R. Swindoll. Plano, TX: Insight for Living Publishing House, 2011. 72 pp. Paper, Np.
Having recently read Grant Richison’s book, Certainty—A Place to Stand (see review in this issue), I was intrigued when I heard about this new book by Chuck Swindoll. What would he say about the relationship between doubt and belief?
Swindoll’s basic desire for this small book is to encourage the believer who struggles with doubts. I certainly commend him for that. In our postmodern age many young people struggle with believing anything. They are brainwashed into believing that truth is relative and that what is true for one person may not be true for another.
Swindoll seems to fear that if believers view doubt as unbelief, then they will depart from the faith. Thus the way he encourages church people who doubt is not by pointing to the proofs of our faith (evidential or philosophical apologetics), but by encouraging them to accept their doubts as normal and even healthy.
Four questions are posed on the back cover: “Is God real? Does God care? Does God hear my prayers? Can doubt and faith coexist?”
The first three of those questions are different than the fourth. Within the book Swindoll (and two authors who contributed short chapters) suggests that born-again people often doubt whether God cares, hears our prayers, and is even real.
The fourth question is not about God at all. It is about us. And it is not something we might doubt about God. It is a question as to whether when we doubt something, do we simultaneously believe it, or not?
Postmodern Evangelicals answer the fourth question affirmatively. Yes, they say, doubt and belief can and do coexist. They are not speaking about doubt about one proposition while believing a different one. They are speaking about doubting
JOTGES 24:47 (Autumn 2011) p. 112
and believing the same proposition. For example, is it possible to doubt that God exists and yet believe that God exists?
Swindoll’s answer to the fourth question is yes as well. However, it should be noted that he never specifically says that doubt and faith in the same proposition can coexist. He merely implies that. Here is what he says: “Is it possible for faith and doubt to coexist? One desperate parent in the New Testament would answer that question with a resounding yes!” (p. 1, exclamation mark his). He is referring to the father who said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). What that means is ...
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