I want to briefly give you some of the more “mundane” causes of why we, as Christians, might experience doubt, whether it be doubt in the existence of God, doubt in his love for us, or doubt in our salvation.

Personality causes: Some people are prone to doubt because it is in their DNA to doubt. Just as some people are more outgoing and some more socially reclusive. Many of us have a hard time believing anything due to the skeptical nature of our personality. In this case, it is fairly easy to discover if this is a contributing factor to your doubt. Are you skeptical about everything in life? Do you have problems in your marriage due to a lack of trust that is not warranted? Do you find it hard to trust people, even your closest friends? Are you afraid to get on rides at the amusement park that others believe are perfectly safe? There are strengths and weaknesses to this type of personality. The solution is to rationally pursue the truth so as to make a sound judgment and let your thoughts adjust accordingly. Don’t give your personality undue control. Use it to your advantage. (And lay off your wife!)

Historical causes: Like the previous, this affects our ability to trust in general. Unlike the previous, this breach of confidence is brought about by past experiences. Some people have had traumatic experiences in the past that keep them on the edge. This “edge” tempers their ability to trust. It may be something in your childhood or something very recent. Those who have had abusive situations growing up, whether sexual, mental, or physical, find it hard to trust in anything. When one experiences a trauma in their life or a series of traumas, these take their toll on a person. If you have been through this, even though your theology may allow for such, the impact that it has from an experiential standpoint can take its toll and make people “nervous” spiritually and therefore more prone to doubt.

Medical causes: Often people experience chemical imbalances in their brain. This could be genetic or brought about by difficulties, stress, and normal unattended depression. Once the seretonin levels in your brain become imbalanced, people find that they experience all sorts of changes that does not represent who they really are. When the way you think is impacted in such a way, it is sure to have effects on your spirituality. Many people who have gone through such find that their ability to believe God suffers as doubt replaces what used to be certainty. Normally, when the chemical balance is restored, people return to their former self with regard to their faith. This does not make their faith any less sincere as Christians should be able to accept the reality that there is a vital connection between the brain and the soul. One cannot be affected without the other.

Physical causes: As bizarre as it may seem, our physical condition can have an effect on our faith. Eating unhealthy and a lack of exercise can cause us to have tremendous mood swings and even mental depression. This happens for two reasons: 1) Our minds need good nutrition to work properly. When our mind is not working properly, our faith will suffer. 2) While people come in a variety of packages, being out of shape physically can have an emotional impact that can effect everything from our personal security, to our trust in God. When things are not “the way they were supposed to be,” including our physical condition, we, in some sense, are living outside of the will of God. This can bring us down psychologically and effect our faith in many ways. Often, when people get in shape (relatively speaking—the best shape they are able to be in), their ability to notice and enjoy spiritual pleasures enhances.

Stressful causes: When we place too much on our shoulders, it can affect our relationship with God and cause us to be more prone to doubt. Normally, with stress comes a lack of sleep. Both have tremendous effects on the way we think and how we judge reality. I have been around people who are walking zombies and I have noticed the toll this takes on their confidence in God. I have also seen people who are so worried and stressed about so many projects they have on their plate that spiritual doubt comes easy. Be careful with how much you concern yourself with. It may seem like the right thing to do, but it can be counterproductive to the most important thing—your spiritual life.

Theological causes: I don’t know how many people I have come in contact with who were doubting God and they had every reason to. What I mean by this is that we often doubt God, but it is not really the God of the Bible we are doubting. We assume characteristics about God that are not true. We imagine that God is supposed to protect us and our family from all physical harm. When he does not, we begin to doubt. But the god that we are doubting is not the God of Scripture. When  we believe that God has made promises that he has not, when God becomes the candy machine in the sky, we are setting ourselves up for the fall. Bad theology can bring about so much unwarranted doubt.

Sinful causes: We dare not fail to mention the sinful causes of doubt. When we are not obeying God the way we should, living in sin, we are going to be prone to doubt God at the most fundamental level. Sometimes people use doubt as an excuse for sin, but I think more often, at lease with Christians, people begin to compromise in their lives, taking small yet persistent turns away from God and, because of this, take the exit on the road of doubt. The deeper and more persistent we get into sin, the more we have to pay the piper the heavy cost. Our belief is replaced with doubt before we know it and, so many times, people don’t know how they got there. So often, when people turn away from their sin, they will see the doubts vanish and confidence return. There is a reason God built it this way. You can’t expect to live in sin and not have your beliefs seriously compromised.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    18 replies to "Seven Reasons Why Christians Doubt"

    • Seeking Disciple

      I think the last point of your post is the most prominent. So few today know what God requires from His Word or about what the Bible teaches about holiness that it leads to sinful living (Jude 4). This sinning leads only to more sinning and less of obedience to God which in turn can never provide assurance of our salvation since there are no words of comfort for those living in sin against God (John 8:11; 1 John 3:6-9).

    • Vinny

      How about lack of evidence?

    • Boz

      It seems very strange to me that CMP is describing several causes of opinion-change that I have never experiencd.

      In my experience, the only reason that I would change my opinion about the truthfulness of, e.g., keynesian economics or astrology or behavioural psychology or zoroastrianism would be intellectual. Evidence and argument.

      I would never change my opinion about the truthfulness of keynesian economics due to my personality, past personal trauma, sickness, poor diet, stress or behaviour.

    • Michael T.

      You are right to an extent. Generally people base their beliefs or changes in belief on evidence. However all the things that make up who we are largely determine how we interpret the available evidence. For instance with regards to Keynesian Economics there are many people who believe Keynesian Economics is correct and many people who believe it is incorrect and Classical Economics is correct. This is despite both sides looking at the same evidence and a significant amount of evidence being available. It isn’t the evidence that is determining belief, rather it is everything that goes into the interpretation of that evidence (which are the things CMP is talking about here).

    • Vinny

      Michael T.

      You are correct to an extent as well, but the question is not why two different people would interpret the same evidence differently. The question is why one person would change his intepertation of the evidence.

      I might decide to abandon Hayek’s view for Keynes’, but it would be because my evaluation of the evidence changed. Of course, if I lost my job, it would probably be easier to persuade me that unemployment is a bigger problem then deficits.

      I think that the propensity to doubt one’s current beliefs on any issue probably depends a lot on how those beliefs were reached in the first place. If I have adopted Keynesian economics based on as objective an analysis as I can make, then I am unlikely to doubt my conclusion based on subjective reasons. On the other hand, if my original decision was based primarily on an assessment of my self-interests, I will be prone to change my views as my self-interests change.

      I think the most likely reason that people would doubt their faith for the ephemeral reasons described by CMP is that their original basis for faith was similarly ephemeral.

    • Hodge

      And of course two people approach the evidence differently because of ultimate beliefs, not evidence. That’s circular reasoning. The evidence caused me to interpret the evidence differently? No, beliefs, specifically speaking, metaphysical beliefs determined what one concluded about the evidence. Ergo, I do think Vinny is right in his last post. The first one evidences a misunderstanding of evidence and the nature of interpretation being based on ultimate beliefs. Hence, people doubt for reasons NOT BASED on the evidence, nor do they believe BASED on the evidence, unless they have some sort of belief that gears them toward those conclusions in the first place. Michael, is therefore, correct in his evaluation, and I would emphasize sin as the primary reason why one who believes falls into disbelief (that is, apart from those who never change their ultimate beliefs, but only their secondary beliefs).

    • Vinny


      And I would argue that two people approach the evidence differently because of paradigms rather than ultimate beliefs and that the paradigms one adopts are themselves a function of experience. People doubt when they find that their paradigm is no longer sufficient to make sense of the evidence.

    • Hodge


      Paradigms and ultimate beliefs are similar, but I would argue that paradigms are based on ultimate beliefs, and hence, interpret experience. What you have said is simply another way of restating the idea that evidence causes belief. No, it doesn’t. Belief interprets evidence. Hence, ANY paradigm can make sense of the evidence because it filters information. The problem is when one adopts two conflicting paradigms, which is often the case in our culture. In the end, what is determined by one’s ultimate beliefs will win out. Experience is evidence though, so saying that one interprets evidence with paradigms gained from experience (i.e., evidence) is circular.

    • Vinny


      I would argue that your conception of “ultimate beliefs” is incoherent and is simply an attempt to rationalize adopting a paradigm that is not consonant with experience or evidence.

    • Hodge

      Of course you would, because you have a self refuting methodology of inquiry, so you need to simply restate a proposition, i.e., “you’re views are not based on evidence like mine are!” Here’s a question for you, Does data interpret itself or does it need an interpreter? The only incoherent position is the one that answers data interprets itself, which is your position. Otherwise, saying that we gain paradigms from data that then interprets data is circular. So if you want to argue that my conception of ultimate beliefs is incoherent, then do so; but posturing is for peacocks.

    • Hodge

      BTW, by appealing to a system that argues from empiricism alone you are already assuming the philosophic naturalism (and one of the ultimate beliefs about God that produces it) that dictates that system. Hence, you prove my point about ultimate beliefs by simply appealing to it. The problem with naturalists is that they don’t move back far enough in their methodologies of inquiry. You all assume naturalism and then argue that Christianity doesn’t make sense within a naturalistic understanding of the world. Really? Naturalistic assumptions in an empirical “evidence only” argument doesn’t make sense in a theistic universe either, but I won’t belabor the point since I wouldn’t argue in circles when trying to “prove” a proposition.

    • Vinny


      It is not my position that data interprets data. I interpret data by recognizing patterns and applying those patterns to other data by making analogies between new data and the previously interpreted data. The fact that the patterns are based on analysis of the data doesn’t mean that it is the data that is doing the interpreting. The data does not have a mind of its own.

      I do not have a philosophy of naturalism; however I have a methodology of naturalism. I cannot determine and I do not claim that there is nothing beyond the natural. However, it seems that I am only equipped with tools to analyze data that comes from the natural world and I can only make analogies based on patterns I perceive in the natural world. It is not a question of either ultimate belief or assumptions.

    • Hodge

      “I interpret data by recognizing patterns and applying those patterns to other data by making analogies between new data and the previously interpreted data.”

      Vinny, do you hear yourself? You recognize patterns? Patterns of what? Data? Patterns are data. So you are applying data to data by way of analogy. You are arguing, therefore, that you interpret data with data. I’m sorry if you haven’t deconstructed your own definitions and logic, but it is what it is.

      “I do not have a philosophy of naturalism; however I have a methodology of naturalism. I cannot determine and I do not claim that there is nothing beyond the natural. However, it seems that I am only equipped with tools to analyze data that comes from the natural world and I can only make analogies based on patterns I perceive in the natural world. It is not a question of either ultimate belief or assumptions.”

      Vinny, we’re talking about God. You just got done implying that there was a lack of evidence for God. You are making metaphysical claims based on philosophic naturalism. Your methodology is not absent of a belief system. That’s the problem here. What you just described was philosophic naturalism: i.e., “All that I can know is found within the natural world.” That’s not methodological naturalism absent of philosophic naturalism. That’s philosophic naturalism. If you were consistent, you would say nothing about evidence for or against the existence of God; but such is not the case in what you have claimed here.

    • Vinny

      Patterns are not data. Patterns are relationships between data like correlation or cause and effect. They exist in the mind of the interpreter.

      As far as I know, all I am able to perceive is based in the natural world, but that’s an epistemological assertion, not a metaphysical one. I don’t claim to know that the natural world is all there could possibly be, but I do say that I don’t see any evidence that leads me to believe that there is a God. I am not really sure whether any evidence would prove the non-existence of God. If it were a matter of ultimate belief, how could I have gone from being a theist to being an agnostic?

    • Michael T.

      How do you define ultimate belief??

    • Gloria

      Being right or wrong about economic theory will have no impact on a person’s eternal destiny, and contemplating the relative merits of various economic systems will probably only keep people like Ben Bernanke up at night. When a person experiences psychological trauma, I doubt the event serves to shake his or her confidence in a particular economic theory. In terms of shifting from the position of a theist to an agnostic, people make this shift because they have been emotionally disappointed or spiritually offended in some way, not because they have found some new, solid data that has detracted from belief in the existence of God.

    • […] are many reasons that we doubt our faith. Once you enter into this battlefield of your own fallibility, you will […]

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