“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31
Doubt – “There is no word in Biblical Hebrew for doubt; there are many expressions of wonder. Just as in dealing with judgments, our starting point is doubt, wonder is the Biblical starting point in facing reality. The Biblical man’s sense for the mind-surpassing grandeur of reality prevents the power of doubt from setting up its own independent dynasty. Doubt is an act in which the mind inspects its own ideals; wonder is an act in which the mind confronts the universe” – Abraham Heschel.
Heschel’s comment makes us reconsider our typical understanding of doubt. Furthermore, it challenges our translation of this Greek passage in Matthew. Could Yeshua have really used a word that doesn’t exist in Biblical Hebrew? And if He didn’t speak of doubt, then what did He say to those men tossed about in the boat?
Most of the time we are told that doubt is not sin. In fact, we are often encouraged to express our doubts openly to God. He can handle them. It’s OK to question things. But take another look at Heschel’s comment. The essence of doubt is found in the story of the Fall. The serpent suggests that even if God did tell the couple what was true, they had their own faculties to determine if God’s word made sense for them. In Heschel’s words, Havvah inspected God’s word according to her own ideals. She doubted the truth of God’s instruction because she did not allow the wonder of creation to dispel the ridiculous suggestion that she had the capacity to decide what was true for herself. She did not confront the universe. She looked inside to inspect her own consideration of the matter. This is sin, plain and simple. When self-determination is the root of my actions, whether mental or physical, I oppose the truth of the Creator. I sin. I refuse to confront the wonder of it all. I deny my dependence. I reject His glory and mystery. I turn a blind eye toward the question of my own existence. No wonder Hebrew doesn’t have a word for this. In light of the Creator God, such an act is incomprehensible.
Ah, but we have a word for it, don’t we? We doubt – and excuse our affront to the Creator by acting as though we have a right to question His glory and authority. After all, He made us with the ability to choose, so what’s wrong with questioning Him? Actually, everything! This is self-idolization disguised as rational dilemma. The proper answer to this kind of arrogance is this: “What’s the matter with you? Are you so blind that you cannot see the handiwork of the Creator in front of your face? Do you imagine that you made all this? Do you imagine that you control and care for all this? Do you think your very being is the result of your action? Get real! Why are you setting yourself up as the arbiter of what is true and what is real? Look around you – and get some humility.”
Conversing with God about serious things is part of our experience with the God who cares for us. Questioning God’s authority or ownership is not. The biblical viewpoint is about an encounter with God’s care and God’s instructions. Doubt has no place in this arena because care and direction are the assumptions of the biblical point of view. It’s perfectly OK to ask God why. It’s sin to ask God “Says who?” Rolling on those waves is an unholy ride.
Topical Index: doubt, Heschel, Havvah, wonder, Matthew 14:31, Genesis 3:4, distazo