READER REVIEW – There nothing else like God In The Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt out there in print that makes such a thorough examination of the phenomenology of doubt.
In part 1 Guinness starts with what he calls the “square one principle”: “The person who has the courage to go back when necessary is the one who goes on in the end.” Going back and reexamining faith guards against coasting through life on the basis of a faith that, though once vital, has grown inauthentic due to it being taken for granted. When an inevitable crisis comes it fails, leaving one disillusioned and alone in the dark with all kinds of duplicitous thoughts.
From there he “dares” us to doubt by explaining that the idea of faith being “doubt free” only sets us up to drive our faith into the ground like an overloaded donkey. First, it is beaten with a variety of admonitions and cajolings that then lead to warnings and threats of the “big stick” of judgment until it expires and collapses. Then it is beaten for collapsing.
Guinness explains that the doubt is an “in-between” problem that has two minds between faith and unbelief. Unbelief is a deliberate refusal to believe that willfully rejects any affirmation of faith, while doubt is the suspension between the two. The distinction is important, because it makes all the difference in expunging that dreadful perfectionism demanded by “doubtless faith” which ends up being more discouraging than the worst of doubts ever could be.
Part 2 is the lengthy middle section of the book in which Guinness identifies seven different kinds of doubt:
- Doubt from ingratitude
- Doubt from a faulty view of God
- Doubt from weak foundations
- Doubt from lack of commitment
- Doubt from a lack of growth
- Doubt from unruly emotions
- Doubt from hidden conflicts
I cannot go into all of these, but I will say that the first two and the last two had the greatest effect on me. Sometimes our doubts are good in that they question our pitiful ideas of God that often are outright misrepresentations of him.
In part 3, Guinness addresses two of the biggest questions that most often shipwreck faith: Why, O Lord; and How Long, O Lord? Suffering and evil are at the center of the first question, and is only answered by trust in the God who knows why–the same one who became incarnate and asked the very same question at the point of his death.
Interestingly enough, Guinness believes the second question is much more difficult for faith than the first. Faith seeks its vision to be substantiated; it does not want to BE, it wants to DO. The prospect of the vision going unfulfilled makes one ask if believing was even worth it, and there is no easy answer except to nourish the vision with the vision of God’s character.
The book prescribes remedies for each of these doubts, though none is exhaustive. However, I was struck by the non-simplistic answers to these issues and how one must be diligent in engaging the heart and mind to really grasp for the assurance of faith in an honest way.