Last week I posted on how doubt for many Christians is a burden that they must eliminate or at the very least seek to overcome. I want to purpose in this post that faith and doubt cannot exist without each other. The two are paradoxically linked together. Paul Tillich in his book Dynamics of Faith shows how doubt is an integral part of faith, for without doubt faith sinks into blind belief. Without the presence of doubt there is never a sense that what has been taught or realized as “belief” is evaluated. I don’t want to say here that all faith actions and its dynamics have to be empirically proven or tested rather that we do not uncritically take in just blind belief. Paul Ricoeur discusses this movement when he describes the hermeneutic arc. The process of moving through the critical stage into a new understanding or a second naïveté. This I believe is what the power and presence of doubt can do in the life of a Christian.
If doubt then is necessary for the Christian faith why are some many lay people terrified of their doubt? Why are so many pastors proclaiming from the pulpit that doubt should be eliminated? Why are those who express doubts in their Christian walk and life branded either as heretics, or lacking in some spiritual discipline? The answer I fear has more to do with our modernist heritage than it does with real authentic Christian faith. Modernism defined knowledge and truth to be clearly defined. Descartes often said to be the founder of Modernity wanted a clear and distinct way of knowing which he found in “pure reason”, this is often referred to as Cartesian certainty. This is the foundation of much of what we say faith is in this day and age.
What if we reinterpreted the biblical passages of strong doubt into positive aspects in the faith journey? Instead the degrading “Doubting Thomas” we saw this narrative as a way for which Thomas to continue in his faith journey. Doubt is apart of the Christian life and should be a integral step in the faith journey.Selfishly I am writing this post because I am kind of tired of being labeled a crazy heretic or liberal or whatever title you want to give me. I guess it is my hope that one day I can approach my fellow sister or brother in Christ and not be condemned for my theology or beliefs, but rather be welcomed and may the same be true of me.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
Sorry about posting late this week I have been incredibly busy and have not had much time to think about a topic so this will probably be a short post. I did however get to teach a Doctrine of God class this week which was very exciting. No sure how the students took it, but I really enjoyed it. It was during this time of preparing for the lecture and listening to the students talk about the subjects that I began to reflect on the what it means to have doubt within the Christian faith. From my upbringing doubt was always taught to be something you avoided at all costs. Faith meant that you believed with the absence of doubt. We read in the Bible about the faith stories of both Peter and Thomas and their respective encounters with doubt and with faith. Traditional interpretations usually consider these two individuals to have doubted Jesus in some fashion and then because of Jesus call or appearing their doubt is erased. My concern here is what does it mean when a Christian follower has doubts. Does this mean she or he is unfaithful? Does it mean that they just need to trust God more? What happens if we are doubting the very existence of God? How can you trust God more? I find these questions troubling especially from my own spiritual walk, because I have been branded a heretic, a radical, a liberal whatever for questioning and doubting certain beliefs.
So how should the Christian handle doubt? This is my question. I hope to follow-up with my own thoughts later.