Here’s a question for you, is doubt a good thing or a bad thing? If you answered that it’s a bad thing, are you sure? Yes I am encouraging you to have your doubts about doubt.
Sometimes, for Christians at least, doubt is considered a bad thing. Particularly about doctrinal issues. You know how it can go. “Good” Christians don’t have doubts. If you have real faith, you will not doubt. Sadly this thinking can slip into the belief that if you doubt anything- one thing- your entire belief system will crumble.We worry that doubt will lead to a loss of faith. To protect ourselves we develop a church culture where doubt is unacceptable. We develop church cultures where certain kinds of questions are unacceptable. Doubt is thought to be the opposite of faith. But is it?
Some people suggest that certainty is the opposite of faith. If they are right then doubt can be a part of faith. And so I want to suggest doubt is a prompt,a nudge to think more deeply.
Doubt is actually pretty common it seems to me. After all Christianity is full of odd and paradoxical beliefs; the resurrection, the virgin birth, the incarnation, the Trinity,to name a few. If would be remarkable if we didn’t periodically ask a question, or have a doubt. I think those doubts, the questions we have are an encouragement to think things through again.
Doubt can be a hint that our old ways of thinking about something doesn’t work for us any more. Doubt can mean it’s time for us to think more complexly, more deeply. Doubt needn’t mean we are loosing our faith. Doubt can mean our faith is ready to grow. Doubt can be the beginnings of a deeper, richer, more complex faith.
When we were children, the story of Noah’s Ark is a tale about a boatload of animals and the reason for some silly songs. As adults, that shouldn’t work for us. As adults we should have our doubts about that interpretation. We should ask questions. We need a more complex view of God and God’s relationship to the world. ( see God and Dog and Noah for some thoughts on this story)
When our neat ideas about God careen into the hard edges of life, doubt can push us past platitudes and into the divine mystery.
As for me, I prefer a church full of doubters. A place full of people who are willing to say, “How can this be?” ” This doesn’t make sense, there must be more.” “What I thought before, doesn’t work anymore, what do I do now?”
I prefer a church where people can say these things out-loud. Because then someone can say to them, “I know, I feel that way too”. Or “That bothered me for a long time, and here’s what I discovered” And most importantly, “Let me walk with you as you wrestle with that”. Sometimes I’ll be the doubter, sometimes I’ll be the one walking with the doubter. That’s one of the things we do in the church, we’re there for each other.
Doubt can isolate us and drive us to despair if we are not careful, if we are fearful, if we keep it to ourselves and let it fester. But if we face doubt, surrounded by fellow pilgrims, fellow travelers on the journey, we can move through doubt into greater understanding and faith.
I’d like to know, what do you think?