Doubting believers? New study shows 2/3 struggle with doubt

Doubting believers? New study shows 2/3 struggle with doubt

By Logos Post News Desk - Christians aren't exempt from facing doubts in their faith, says a new study by the Barna Group, but most of them make it through the tough season and become stronger in their faith because of it.

According to the survey 26% of those surveyed still experience some form of doubt. Another 40% said they have experienced doubt, but were able to work through it. Another 35% of those polled stated they have never experienced doubt. 

"Spiritual doubt has been a reality of the Christian journey since the disciples—and today is no different,” says Roxanne Stone, editor in chief of Barna Group. “Just like first century Christians, their twenty-first century counterparts question aspects of their theology, doubt the existence of God and mourn his seeming absence during hard times. Doubt remains a flip side on the same coin as faith. For the majority of Christians, this inevitable doubt is a catalyst to spiritual growth.

Millennials polled stated they experienced doubt more than any other age group with 38% claiming doubts compared to 23% of Gen-Xers, 19% of Boomers, 20% of Elders. "Men are also more likely than women to actively experience doubt (32% compared to 20% women). Those who have been through college and encountered an array of ideas, philosophies and worldviews are twice as likely to experience doubt as those who have a high school education or less (37% vs. 19%)," according to Barna.

The survey revealed that though the struggle with doubt can be difficult, the majority are strengthened in their faith afterwards. "At the end of the day, spiritual doubt can be a powerful and formative experience, strengthening and bolstering faith," according to the Barna Group. "For more than half of those who have wrestled with doubt (53%), the time spent asking honest questions about what they believe about their religion or God made their faith stronger. For another three in 10 (28%) it had no effect at all. About one in 8 (12%) lost their faith entirely, small minority (7%) say they held on to a weakened version of their faith."

“This should lead pastors and spiritual mentors to view seasons of spiritual doubt in their constituents as fertile soil—not as dangerous ground,” notes Stone. “The challenge here for leaders is that people experiencing doubt have a tendency to withdraw from Christian institutions and practices: church, Scripture, prayer, their pastor. Much of the journey through spiritual doubt, then, falls on their closest relationships: spouses, friends, family. How can pastors equip Christians to walk with their friends and family through seasons of doubt? How can churches institute closer, mentor-like relationships that can persist even when people pull out of other formal Christian community?”

“This challenge is particularly true for Millennials,” points out Stone. “Their attachments to Christian institutions and relationships are already more tenuous. They are less likely to attend church and less likely to have Christian friends and family—especially nearby. When they go through periods of doubt, and naturally withdraw from Christian practices and church community, they have fewer built-in Christian relationships to support them and point them back. Even the ‘peer pressure’ of having friends and family who are still attending church, praying or reading scripture, just aren’t as present for Millennials. It is easier, then, for them to fully disconnect. Yet, as we can see from the data, staying connected to people of faith (whether through church or intimate relationships), is key to coming out the other side of a time of doubt with your faith intact—or stronger.”

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