From its very first words scripture sets up a relationship between God and man that shows his infinity and our limitations. He is the creator, we are the created. He existed before time began and we exist within time. He is eternal and we have a life span. He always has been and we came into existence at a specific time and our bodies will pass away at a specific time. He created everything from nothing and we are part of that, spoken into existence with words.
To understand God and to understand our own doubts it is vital that we grasp this relationship. We tend to go through life with the assumption that we can learn, discover, and comprehend anything if we truly want to. We see ourselves as the masters of our domain with the world at our fingertips. We have technology and science and cultural advancements on our side. We build lives of ease and efficiency with the aim of security and comfort. And we rarely, if ever, consider our limitations or God’s lack of them.
Genesis one reminds us of reality. God was, is, and will be forever. God spoke all things into existence that do exist. God created our very ability to learn, create, think, solve, build, and make. Despite all our hustle and efforts and self-trust we are finite and will reach the end of our abilities. We will max out our understanding. In short, we live within a defined time frame and a limited capacity for understanding. We are not infinite; God is.
The Breaking Point
Genesis three is where everything breaks. Adam and Eve choose to pursue being gods rather than trusting the infinite creator God. They want God’s knowledge for themselves. They want his deity, his infinity, so they break his explicit command. In doing so they introduce sin to the world and they doom themselves and every person to follow to death. In one bittersweet bite of fruit the world went from paradise to graveyard.
The consequence for their sin is a curse. It is not a spell or a fairy tale curse that can be broken by a kiss or a quest. It isn’t limited to a person or place. It is pervasive, touching every person everywhere for every moment of all time. The curse taints every aspect of life: relational, physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual.
This means that every thought we have, every discovery we make, every advancement in society, every invention – they’re all flawed. They’re all incomplete. And it means that our view of ourselves is broken too.
We too want to be like Adam and Eve. We want knowledge like God. We want to be the god of our own lives, and we often don’t even realize these sinful impulses. One of the major effects of the fall and the curse is blindness. We simply cannot see what is true and real as true and real. We love things we shouldn’t, believe things we shouldn’t, and are skeptical of things that are true and good.
When we consider God’s perfect holiness, the curse becomes that much bleaker. Before we were limited in our understanding of God by being finite. Now we are sinful, blind, self-worshiping, and finite. We are further removed, in our natures, from true understanding of God than ever.
We’ve seen two significant realities that shape how we see and understand God. First, God is infinite and we are finite. Second, God is perfect, and we are sinful. It seems obvious, then, that we would struggle to understand God. With our limitations and weaknesses and His infinity and holiness we are bound to reach the borders of our understanding. We simply do not have the capacity to fully understand an infinite God.
Where Doubt Comes From
Now we are at the core of where doubt comes from. Doubt, in its most basic form, is when we say “I don’t know.” It is simply being unsure. It is when we do not understand so we struggle with confidence. For finite sinful people like us, of course we will experience doubts about God.
He is infinite and holy, and that means he is constantly thinking and doing things at a level beyond our comprehension. At every moment God is sustaining the entire universe, knowing every thought, weaving every life, and working His perfect plan for all creation. He never stops. We cannot possibly comprehend even a minuscule fraction of God’s perfect knowledge and wisdom.
As you reflect on these truths something should begin to stir in your mind: doubt is not necessarily a sin. We are sinners. We think wrong thoughts about God all the time. We rebel against and reject God just like Adam and Eve. But our doubts are not necessarily sinful.
To doubt is human. It is natural. It is a direct result of being who we are – finite creatures seeking to understand things beyond ourselves. It is inevitable that we will doubt. It is inevitable that we will question and wonder and be unsure.
Scripture is full of people with questions and doubts. Gideon asked God for a sign because he was afraid (Judges 6). Hannah pled with God for a son with the kind of pain and emotion that only comes from fear and doubt (1 Samuel 1). Job lost everything and wondered aloud why such a thing would happen. The Psalms overflow with prayers asking where God is, when he will return, has he forgotten his people, and more. The prophets lament and mourn and wonder when God will rescue. Thomas did not know how to believe in Jesus’ resurrection until he saw him in the flesh (John 20).
To doubt is human. It is how we respond when we doubt that determines whether it is a sin. You can doubt in a way that draws you closer to faith in God or you can doubt in a way that undermines and dissolves your faith.
This is an excerpt from my small group study titled Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith. Learn more about the study, additional resources, and how you can use it with your group at lifeway.com/helpmyunbelief.
For more on the subject of faith and doubt check out my book Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith.