Thursday, January 26, 2012

Doubt = Bad?

I've begun to rethink my view of doubt in Christianity.

It seems to me that there is this mind among the church of "doubt is from the devil." I know and have known so many Christians who begin to have some form of doubt in their walk with Jesus and really begin to worry about it.

They should, after all, it is what has been taught to them.

The difficulty with this mindset is that it allows no room for question. If an inquisitive believer (or inquisitive atheist/agnostic) goes to their (a) pastor or spiritual mentor or role model with a question, one of two things will happen. Either there is an answer or there is not, and for the answers that are difficult or that can't be answered with a pithy saying or acronym are pushed off as the "mystery" of God.

However if this same inquisitive believer doesn't buy into that answer or still struggles with the answer given them they will often be told "just have faith" (positively), or "don't doubt God" (negatively).

I have known a good number of people who ran from the church, or ignored the church because they couldn't find any answers or couldn't get around a number of issues. I have also known believers who still believe, but do not grow in their knowledge and further beat themselves up for doubting in the first place.

Now this is not the always the case. I do see a number of churches and believers beginning to ask questions (and actually find answers).

The more I think and research I have begun to question why is doubt bad? As I look around I have tried to find some basis in the Bible (a good of a place as any to look for some reason why Christians do what they do). The key New Testament text I hear quoted is the Doubting-Thomas passage in John 20:24-29.

Now I am not sure if you have heard of it, but the term "Doubting-Thomas" is a negative phrase for someone who doesn't have enough faith. A bygone era would use the phrase for a person who questioned too much or voiced their concerns about issues they have with the church and with Christianity at large.

If you are not familiar with the passage I would encourage you to look it up and familiarize yourself with it.

To give a brief background, John 20 takes place after the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ. At this point in time Christ had already revealed himself to a number of the people including some of his apostles. However, Thomas, one of Christ's twelve apostles, hears the news and is suspicious, he essentially says that he will believe this news the moment he can put his fingers in the holes in Christ's hands and his sides.

Surely enough a short time later Christ reveals himself to Thomas. Christ walks right up to Thomas and allows him to see his wounds and place his hands into his side saying, "Do not disbelieve, but believe." Thomas then exclaims "My Lord and my God!"
What I find interesting is that Christ does indeed exhort Thomas to believe (Jn. 20:27) but he never reprimands him. The first things that Christ did was to give him the evidence he needed to believe. Then Christ does indeed say "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (20:29). Jesus does indicate a higher nature of those who do not see and believe.

Certainly the better portion is faith, however Christ is not afraid of our doubt, he does not reprimand us for our questions!

What I find to be an odd marvel is that a person with such a reverence for God as to have faith in him, believe in scripture, but fear and tremble when they cannot answer. They cower when they cannot come up with a snappy retort. If we truly have faith in God (we TRULY believe it) wouldn't we believe that the Bible can stand up to scrutiny? Wouldn't we believe that there are indeed answers to our questions?

I genuinely believe in God, and I do think that faith is certainly the better road. However, it depends on what kind of faith you are talking about. Faith is not belief in something when there is no evidence, or belief when there is stark contradictory evidence against, I would argue in our case is that faith is belief in God in spite of doubt, hoping that God will move and carry us through, and that there will be answers. Belief in the truth when times are dark.

I actually take comfort in my doubt, though this may seem odd.

Being a very analytical person, I have lots of questions. However my history has been that there are answers, God has answers for all my questions.

They are not always what I thought they would be, they are not always what I like. Very many times I pour myself into finding the answers and in trying to understand them better, often times they cause me to take a very painful look inside myself, and often times I find even more questions. However, even in this, from past experience I have evidence to believe that God will still indeed have answers for me.

In Deuteronomy, Yahweh tells us to love him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. I find that often times, we as Christians like to love God with a select combination of two - three of the four parts listed above.

So I encourage you... think! Question! You will find answers if you know where to look and you will be able to live out I Peter 3:15 "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in you."

No comments:

Post a Comment