Honest Doubt and Healthy Faith

I enjoy listening to a radio program called On Being every Sunday morning on our local NPR station. I began listening many years ago when the program was called Speaking of Faith. Despite the name change, the format has remained fairly constant. The host, Krista Tippett, interviews people from a wide variety of backgrounds and vocations and academic disciplines about truth and faith and their general philosophy of life. Most weeks it is fascinating, stretching, and stimulating.

A few weeks ago Krista’s guests were two scientists—astrophysicists, I believe—who were also Jesuit priests. I found their conversation unusually informative and enlightening. I thought I would mention it here, since the theme—belief and doubt—ties in well with the post I published yesterday.

Here are the two main thoughts I took away from that discussion:

  1. The opposite of faith is not doubt. It is certainty.
  2. Spirituality does not begin with faith. It begins with experience. Faith is our response to that experience.

Faith and doubt are not opposites. They are two dimensions of the same reality. Doubt is uncertainty marked by questions. Faith is uncertainty marked by hope. Honest doubt is essential to healthy faith.

Too much of contemporary Christianity is based on unwarranted certainty. That yields pride instead of humility and prejudice instead of love.

George MacDonald, the nineteenth century Scottish minister, was also an author and poet whose influence was acknowledged by writers such as C. S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll. On the subject of doubt and faith, MacDonald wrote:

I cannot say I never doubt… nor… can I wish not to doubt. For doubt is the hammer that breaks the windows clouded with human fancies, and lets in the pure light.

But I do say that all my hope, all my joy, all my strength are in the Lord Christ…; that all my theories of life and growth are rooted in him; that his truth is gradually clearing up the mysteries of this world.

To Him I belong, heart and soul and body, and he may do with me as he will.

Amen. Soli Deo Gloria.

2 thoughts on “Honest Doubt and Healthy Faith

  1. Referring to David Dark’s “The Sacredness of Questioning Everything” as well as Greg Boyd’s “Benefit of the Doubt”, the inability to question our belief halts our quest to know God for who He really is rather than who we currently think He is. Doubt then shakes up our ideology and keeps us moving toward our maker.

    Or as George Herbert put it:

    When God at first made man,
    Having a glass of blessings standing by,
    “Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
    Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
    Contract into a span.”

    So strength first made a way;
    Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
    When almost all was out, God made a stay,
    Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
    Rest in the bottom lay.

    “For if I should,” said he,
    “Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
    He would adore my gifts instead of me,
    And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
    So both should losers be.

    “Yet let him keep the rest,
    But keep them with repining restlessness;
    Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
    If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
    May toss him to my breast.”

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