Q & R: A Young Person with Doubts?

Here’s the Q (from Twitter, where you can follow me @brianmclaren):

what advice/resources do you have for a young person of faith like me who struggles with doubt?

Here’s the R:

First, I love how you put the question: you are a person of faith. And you struggle with doubt.

If you were a person of certainty, you wouldn’t struggle with doubt. So the fact that you struggle is actually a sign of your faith.

All of us who believe have doubts, and that’s a great thing. One of my favorite writers, Frederick Buechner, said that “doubts are the ants in the pants of faith.” I think he’s right. (Here’s the quote in context – http://www.frederickbuechner.com/quote-of-the-day/2016/10/26/doubt)

If it weren’t for doubt, we would still believe the earth is in the center of the universe. (We might even believe the earth is flat.)

If it weren’t for doubt, white people would still believe they are superior. (Sadly, some haven’t come to doubt this yet.)

If it weren’t for doubt, we would think diseases are caused by curses, not germs.

If it weren’t for doubt, we would still be burning witches and buying slaves.

If it weren’t for doubt, we would still believe in Zeus and Thor (or versions of God not unlike them).

So doubt is important. In that we, you don’t need resources for doubt – because doubt is your resource to challenge you to ask deeper and deeper questions. It’s a resource to your curiosity, to your critical thinking, to your imagination, and in that way – to your integrity and your faith.

But if you come from a background like I did (conservative Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, etc.), I think I know what you’re asking for: resources that won’t tell you to shut up and just believe, but will help you think through your questions.

I would hope all of my books could be of help in this regard. But let me mention 3:

The Great Spiritual Migration tells the story of my own crisis of faith. The first two thirds of the book could be especially helpful (and I think you’d enjoy the third part too).

A New Kind of Christianity addresses ten questions (or doubts) that I think open the door to a deeper faith.

A New Kind of Christian is the first of a fictional trilogy that I also think you would find helpful. Its sequels, The Story We Find Ourselves In and The Last Word and the Word After That, deal with the shape of the biblical story and the subject of hell, respectively.

You’ll find links and details here.


I’d also like to suggest two of my favorite podcasts:

The Bible for Normal People

Homebrewed Christianity

If you start listening, I can virtually guarantee that you won’t feel alone – and you’ll find out that doubt can be a doorway into deeper faith. I hope we’ll meet in person sometime!