HOW THE GOSPEL RESCUES YOU FROM DOUBT by Silverio Gonzalez for Core Christianity
Behind the smiling faces at church, the bombastic claims shouted from pulpits, and the religious zeal for a political ideology masked as “the Christian worldview,” lurks doubt. Doubt plagues even people who seem most confident. Doubt captures minds that dare to think. Doubt destroys hearts that fear reason. Everyone doubts, but the worse doubt—the doubt that really messes with your head, the doubt that really hurts, the doubt that makes you feel like a complete fraud—questions God’s goodness. This is the original form of doubt, the kind that first captured Adam’s and Eve’s hearts in Genesis 3:4–5.
Adam and Eve were the first people. God created them good. He set them in a beautiful garden of royal proportions, and gave them simple commands: “Tend to this garden. Keep watch over it. Guard it. Enjoy its fruit. Just don’t eat of the fruit in the center of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For when you eat of its fruit, you will die” (see Gen. 2:15–17).
But Adam didn’t listen. He didn’t obey those words. His and his wife’s hearts were captured by a destructive little lie: “Maybe God is not good.” This was the serpent’s challenge. His subtle lie created doubt: “You will surely not die. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).
Here the serpent challenged God’s goodness, his generosity, his kindness, and his love. He called God a liar. And with that temptation, doubt entered the world, and with doubt sin, and with sin death; and with death hope was choked out of creation.
The Serpent’s Theology
Sinclair Ferguson argues this same case in The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters: doubt lurked behind the serpent’s lie in Genesis 3. Doubt, a strategic entry point to destroy God’s creation, gained the upper hand through the first lie—that God’s Word is not true.
Ferguson argues that doubting the Father’s love and kindness is the real issue at stake. Simply put, behind all human pride, fear, and lust is a distrust of God’s goodness, a self-made prison of doubt. He sees this to be the same issue with which Jesus dealt in John 8:44. There Jesus called the Pharisees spawn of Satan (Ferguson, 69).
The Pharisees thought that they were good people. Yet, when Jesus came to save the world from sin, they doubted. Behind their opposition to Jesus’ ministry, behind their scheming to have him crucified, and behind their hatred of his lavish message of grace to sinners, the Pharisees doubted God’s goodness. They did not understand how Jesus could love the sick, the dirty, and perverted because they did not believe that God was good. They couldn’t understand a message of grace because they did not believe in the Father’s love. This is why Jesus said to them that they were children of the devil (the serpent).