Sunday, June 7, 2009
The Gift of Doubt
The conversation yesterday about theological dogma got me thinking again about this issue of certainty and doubt.
Throughout the centuries there, of course, has been a tremendous amount of intelligent writing by theologians and philosophers about this meticulous waltz between faith, reason, doubt and certainty.
I’ve said before that one of the key thoughts that I got out of Dave Tomlinson’s book, The Post Evangelical was his statement that the hallmark of the post evangelical is the loss of certainty in all things.
So all morning I’ve been thinking about the issue of doubt. As I press for complete honestly, living down near the first floor, I must admit that I’ve been a chronic doubter. I was one of the first agnostics in my Bible-belt high school. Then, after I became an evangelical, doubts continued haunting me. All my Christian peers could boast that they had 100% (or if they were ex-football players, they would say 110%) sure that not only God was there, not only that Christianity was true, but that their precise brand of theological dogma was true.
But, I now realize that it was not the doubts themselves which caused me so much grief. I mean, I did not lay awake in bed at night pondering the good chance that God did not exist. My doubts have always been minor. But it was the doubt-stigma that gave me grief.
I really think that doubts have gotten a raw deal. Doubt isn't the sign of lack of faith, or rebelling against God. Actually, those who say they never doubt should scare us.
Imagine that all doubts came from one little part of the brain. Say it was contained in a little scrotum-looking sack beneath the brain (okay, I know I'm describing the pituitary, but this is pretend). Now imagine that every Christian had this little doubt sack cut off. Never again would they doubt anything . . . but believe everything. This would be a complete disaster! If we think Christians are gullible now . . . can you imagine them without their doubt organ?
Doubt is a gift. We should doubt everything because we live in fallen world where real deceit thrives.
So when it comes to believing that God is there and that Christianity is true, I too believe that it is impossible for anyone to be 100% convinced. What happens is that they become more and more dishonest about their doubts.
If our reason is fallen it therefore (different than what Aristotle implied) can not arrive at total truth all the time. Secondly, our emotions are fallen and can not be trusted.
I work in neurology and almost 30% of our patients have psychogenic illnesses. These are not like real stomach ulcers caused by worry. These are totally fake diseases, like seizures, caused by the subconscious. The patient with fake seizures will fall on the floor, shake, scream grunt . . . but it is not real. Usually they are doing it to get the nurturing that they crave (and often did not get as small children).
So we can not trust our emotions. When we say that I know that God is there and I've never doubted Him for a second, then we are living closer to self-deceit. If God is there (and I believe that He is)then He is a God of truth. The closer we live to truth, the closer we live to God.
So, I believe that doubt is a gift. It is a gift that sadly has so much of a negative stigma attached, that most Christians are left to doubt in the secret places, in the dark corners of their minds.
I may add more . . . but again . . . maybe not.
Posted by MJ at 12:20 PM