Thursday, September 14, 2017

How can I be sure? - And other questions about doubt, assurance and the Bible

by John Stevens
93 pages / 2014

Without a doubt, this book is sure to be useful for any Christian who wonders whether he or she believes, or whether what he or she has always believed is still true. The author John Stevens demonstrates just how many reasons for and types of doubt there are when, in the book's introduction, he gives eight portraits of Christians who lack assurance in their faith in some form or another.

What makes this gallery of doubters so effective is what Stevens does with it at the end of the book. First though, in five short chapters, broken up into sections of two to four pages, Stevens
  1. defines doubt in six significant ways;
  2. demonstrates five dangers of doubt;
  3. shows how someone can know he or she is a Christian - in both faith and life;
  4. describes five ways to deal with doubt, including understanding doubt's four root causes; and
  5. outlines six ways to strengthen your faith.
Four of the five chapters also deal briefly with more specific questions like:
  • How do I respond when friends fall away?
  • How can I be sure that God loves me?
  • What is the gift of faith mentioned in the Bible?
  • If God is the one who gives faith, why do I still have doubts?
To see just how helpful this book is, let's look at the answer to the first question, one that many in my own congregation are struggling with. If friends are falling away, Stevens tells us, we should do the following:
  1. Pray for them and seek to share the gospel with them again, urging them to come back to Christ. (Sadly, excommunication in our churches often ends all contact with the former members, rather than making that contact much more deliberate, intentional and lovingly corrective.)
  2. Don't be surprised or think that God has failed them in some way. Stevens reminds us that unbelief is the responsibility of the individual.
  3. Make every effort to strengthen and protect our own faith, joining with other believers in prayer and studying God's word.
  4. Finally, the falling away of our friends should prompt us to examine our own doubts to be sure that they do not become unbelief.
Stevens' conclusion, as I hinted above, invites us to consider the doubters profiled in the introduction - why they are suffering with doubt, and how you could help them - and gives us his own view, as well as some final words of comfort and exhortation.

An appendix lists resources to help Christians struggling with doubts regarding science and God, history, suffering, homosexuality, the Bible, truth, and other questions. Two small notes for Reformed or non-British readers:
  • Stevens mentions his own doubts and change of heart about infant baptism now disagreeing with it, though he "respect[s] the views of Christians who come to a different conclusion."
  • A look at physical causes of doubt mentions PMT (a British version of PMS).
An edifying and comforting book! If you think that John Stevens has good answers to questions about doubt, assurance, and the Bible, you can purchase his book, at or

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