Is doubt good or bad for Christians? According to Barnabas Piper, the answer is “yes.”
The son of the prominent Calvinist pastor, John Piper, says that two kinds of doubt exists. One kind is bad, idolatrous, and usually destroys faith. But another kind, which Piper calls “believing doubt,” is healthy and leads the doubter to trust in divine mystery. In his new book “Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not The Enemy of Faith,” the younger Piper says too many people throw the doubting baby out with the doubting bathwater. He says he fears for these unquestioning Christians and their untested faith. Piper says they need to learn to distinguish between the two types of faith and begin embracing the believing kind. Here we discuss his views and what he is saying that is new.
RNS: You say that God is often more interested in sparking questions than offering answers. What are some of the issues or doctrines where some Christians assumed is settled but you think is actually left open?
BP: I come from a tradition that loves to argue the finer points of theology and philosophy–the gifts of the Spirit, sovereignty versus free will, the problem of evil, etcetera. While the Bible speaks much to these kinds of debates it does not resolve the issues. The Bible isn’t a systematic theology text or a book with the answers in the back. The Bible reveals God’s character and a narrative of His work, but is not an A to Z answer book for all theological or philosophical questions. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep digging; we just need to be content with some aspects of mystery.
RNS: But some people might counter that “God isn’t the author of confusion” or that God has come to reveal rather than obscure.
BP: God has revealed in scripture exactly what the world needs to be saved from our sins, to follow Jesus, and to know God’s character. The Bible lacks nothing necessary for guiding a believer to faithfulness. Without God’s word, hope would be obscured. But that does not mean what the Bible reveals is all there is of God. An infinite being cannot be communicated in a thousand volumes let alone a thousand pages. Aspects of God are obscured because we, as finite beings and cannot grasp them. But that in no way undermines the perfect revelation of Scripture.
RNS: Your father, John Piper, seems to believe that God causes or allows certain types of events one might call “evil.” He has said before that God has caused a natural disaster like a tornado that killed innocents. Do you disagree with him, and if so, how?