Big Idea: Sometimes the totality of our life circumstances hurt so badly it causes us to question our faith. John the Baptist lived through this and, with Jesus’ response, models a path for integrating being and knowing even in painful circumstances.
I. Understanding doubt: Two kinds
A. Intellectual doubt - Knowing to being
B. Existential - Being to knowing
II. How does existential doubt work? Case study in John the Baptist:
A. John’s story: from knowing to doubting
1. The family background
2. Finding your own way
3. Preaching the truth (Luke 3:7-9)
4. Pointing the way (John 1:29, 34)
5. Paying the price
6. Wondering if it is worth it
7. Reaching out for answers (Luke 7:18-20)
B. Jesus’ reaction (Luke 7:21-28)
C. What is the essence of the doubt?
III. So now what?
A. Create a culture where it’s ok to ask the hard question.
B. It’s critical to verbalize the struggle. Find someone safe.
C. Go to Jesus for your answers.
D. Chose community whenever you can.
E. Take the hard stand even if it’s costly.
F. Let Christ be your encouragement.
1) Do you understand doubt to be primarily intellectual or is it more emotional? Have you ever had the sensation that something didn’t feel true? What is the difference between feeling something is false and forming the idea that it is false?
2) What is the role of pain and suffering in doubt? Does pain change the truth value of a proposition? If not, then why would being in pain change our experience of doubt?
What effects does prolonged pain have on thinking? Do you have some personal experience with this, either for yourself or a loved one? Please share.
3) What do you think was behind John the Baptist’s question to Jesus, “Are you the one?” John had said that Jesus was the one. What happened in John’s life to make him question this now?
Why do those who appear to be part of the faith fall away during times of persecution?
4) Is it hypocritical to preach something publicly and later entertain doubts in private? Was John being a hypocrite to take his doubts to Jesus? What should a Christian do with doubts?
5) Are doubts worse in isolation? Why or why not? Why do you suppose the persecuted church generally places a much higher value on community than the Western church does?
6) Evaluate the Church and this local church. Are we open to people processing their doubts? Why or why not? What could the church do to help cultivate a culture that encourages people of all ages to process their doubts in community?
7) Evaluate your family of origin. If you grew up in a family of faith, was it ok to express any doubts you had about the faith? If you are willing share your experience, what did you do with doubts?
8) Do you have the courage to take a tough moral stand like John did even though it may cost you a lot? What does that look like in your life? What are you willing to do? Is there an issue you are willing to take a stand on?