And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it shall happen.” Matthew 21:21 NASB
Doubt – “The attitude which the NT expresses by diakrinesthai in the sense ‘to doubt’ is seen in prayer and action, not in reflective thought. . . . In Mk.11:23; Mt. 21:21 man has the promise of God and he clings to it when he speaks the word of faith to God, or to the mountain. But he still thinks it impossible, or at least not certain, that what he says should be done.”
When the New Testament speaks about doubt or about the double-minded man, it is not speaking about cognition. Doubt is not an issue in my mind. Notice that Büchsel writes, “But he still thinks it impossible.” What I think about God’s promise is irrelevant. Cognitive doubt plays no role in the biblical texts. What matters is what I do with what God promises! As long as I act on the basis of God’s word, it doesn’t matter if I still think such actions are nonsense, impossible, contradictory or useless. I can have all the cognitive doubts in the world and still have faith because I did what God said to do.
It is extremely unfortunate that we have confused the Greek idea of cognitive doubt with the Hebrew idea of failure to act. It’s not surprising, however. In our Western world, doubt has become a matter of mental disassociation. Since the Greek paradigm places primary emphasis on rational consistency, doubt is viewed as a breakdown in the thought process, particularly with regard to the objective of logical certainty. In other words, in our culture, doubt is the expression of a lack of absolute confidence, of resolute conviction. In the Greek paradigm, faith is the equivalent of “confident assurance,” a mental state that admits no lingering questions. Therefore, doubt is, by definition, the opposite of faith. With this definition, if I have doubts, I cannot have faith. The process of believing becomes an entirely inner struggle of the mind.
But this is not true in Hebraic thought. In the Hebraic worldview, the sure sign of doubt is not my mental struggle with the impossibility of the assertion. The sure sign of doubt is my refusal to act. “I believe; help my unbelief” makes perfect sense in Hebrew but is incomprehensible in Greek. Logical certainty is not necessary in order to believe in the Hebraic world. In the Hebraic world, evidence does not demand a verdict. In the Hebraic world, the process of believing is much more like learning to swim. Hold your breath and jump in the water – and see how you like it. Your mind might be screaming that floating is impossible. You weigh more than water. Your mind tells you that you won’t be able to breathe. Your mind is shouting, “Danger!” But you can’t learn to swim by thinking about it. You have to get in the water. You must do before you decide.
Topical Index: doubt, diakrino, Matthew 21:21, faith