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Christians and Doubt

The Rev. Anthony C. Thiselton, professor emeritus of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham, discusses his book Doubt, Faith, and Certainty on EerdWord, the weblog of Eerdmans Publishing:

I wrote this book because there is a deep pastoral and practical need for it. Too many people blame themselves for any kind of personal doubt whatever, when not all doubts in every situation are necessarily wrong. Absence of any doubt often excludes genuine self-examination and thinking. Such people also tend to think of faith, like doubt, as one particular thing, rather than what faith is, namely a variety of different things. There are also many kinds of certainty, including psychological and objective certainty. Moreover, different areas of life may promote different kinds of certainty, whether in medicine, law, or Christian faith.

These pastoral needs, however, cannot be adequately addressed without careful academic study. This necessitates a careful understanding of the varied biblical, theological, philosophical, and popular meanings of all three separate terms. Further, it is impossible to discuss doubt, faith, and certainty without careful philosophical inquiry into how these terms have been, and still are, used in philosophical debate. From the ancient Greek and Renaissance sceptics, through Descartes and Locke, to sophisticated discussions in Wittgenstein, Plantinga, and others, what faith, reason, and certainty consist in cannot be taken for granted.

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