Friday, May 18, 2012
Questions Come from Doubt
On the cross, Jesus cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Just hours before that, he prayed that he could be spared the trial that was coming. He wanted any other option. He questioned the plan of God. Jesus doubted.
For whatever reason, the notion of doubt has gotten a bad reputation. There's this unspoken idea that we must have absolute certainty in what we believe. It may come from the Enlightenment which elevated rational thought above all else. It might be a part of the Industrial Revolution where precision was the key to productivity and success. It might be the prevalence of the 24 hour news cycle that encourages newscasters to spout out positional statements in a non-stop stream.
Doubt is not bad. It's not the opposite of faith, it's not detrimental to the Christian life and it's not something to be avoided.
Not only did Jesus doubt, but he inspired others to doubt as well.
I can feel your fingers ready to type comments at me about how Jesus rebuked doubting Thomas for his lack of belief. That's true. Jesus said that it was more blessed to not see and still believe. But he still answered Thomas' questions; he still provided the evidence that Thomas craved.
In essence, what Jesus said to Thomas is this: You must pass through doubt to get to faith; some make the journey more easily than others, but I will help everyone who's willing to embark on the path.
The bible is filled with doubters. Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, Job, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and more. The heroes of faith were those who suffered through doubt. They willingly stepped into doubt, despite the fear, despite the danger. They walked the path of doubt and found faith.
Faith can't be had without doubt. Hebrews 11.1 says: "Now, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Confident surety in an invisible future without any prior doubting isn't faith, it's blindness. God doesn't call us to that, he didn't ask it of any of his exemplary followers, nor did his son live that way.
The questions of doubt lead us to faith rather than away from it.
"Does God really exist?"
"Is Jesus the son of God?"
"Is God really good?"
"If God is good, why do bad things happen?"
"How can God be all loving and the church be so hateful?"
If you aren't willing to wrestle with these questions, they will undermine and poison your psyche until your religious system crumbles. So much of Christian industry exists for the sole purpose of defending church-goers from hard questions. Christian industry is anti-doubt and therefore destroys faith.
I don't think anyone is doing it on purpose. I believe that the people in Christian industry are honestly trying to help. But their attempt to defend faith by avoiding doubt is akin to saving people from falling into a river by tearing down the bridge. There is a risk that those who attempt to cross over the doubt-bridge will fall off and be swept away, but without any bridge at all, the raging river is impossible to cross safely.