A Crisis of Faith? Questions and Doubts for College Students

During a seminar for transitioning high school students and their parents, a parent made a comment that was very helpful. I was discussing the place of doubt within the life of a follower of Christ. One of my main points I really wanted the students to grasp was this: “It is okay to ask questions and to have doubts about faith.” In fact, I explained, doubting is part of the normal process of taking ownership of their faith. I challenged students with these words:

Faith does not deepen through being allowed to stagnate, but through being applied. In this respect, doubt is a positive thing. It is a stimulus to growth in faith. It snaps us out of complacency. – Alister McGrath

The reason many of us do not ardently believe in the gospel is that we have never given it rigorous testing, thrown our hard questions at it, faced it with our most prickly doubts. – Eugene Peterson

A parent raised his hand and made an insightful observation. He turned toward the students and said, “If you come across a difficult problem in algebra, you don’t have a math crisis. You go to someone for help. And you start with the assumption that you will be able to find an answer. Do the same thing when questions arise about the Christian faith.”

Now that’s a great point! Questions and doubts will come. The question is what will students do with them? Will they go looking for answers: asking pastors, reading books, taking them to God in prayer? I hope so. Here’s my advice in Make College Count: “Just know that when you hear a powerful argument against Christian faith, chances are pretty good that you can find a thoughtful Christian response.”

A report from the Barna Group revealed “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church.”  Reason #6 states: “The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.” Now that shouldn’t be the case. Here are a few resources to help us better prepare students for the doubts they will face and for helping the church to be a more welcoming place for those who are wrestling with faith:


Article: “Where Doubt Falls Short” by Jonathan Dunn (Relevant).

Article: “I Doubt It: Allowing Space for Questions” by Kara Powell and Brad Griffin of the Fuller Youth Institute.

Video: John Ortberg, Faith and Doubt (Calvin College’s January Series)