Monday, July 09, 2007

Faithful Doubt

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands…I will not believe.” – The Apostle Thomas (according to the Gospel of John 20.25)

James R. Adams, in his book So You Can’t Stand Evangelism?: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Church Growth, writes, “The gospels never characterize those who oppose Jesus as doubters; the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Roman officials are sure of themselves and of their beliefs…the only people in the gospel stories who doubt are the disciples…to be a follower of Jesus is to be capable of doubt.”

Isn’t it exciting to recall that the people who first followed Jesus and who led the Jesus Movements within Judaism (and beyond) were capable of doubt?! In fact, I “doubt” if real faith is possible without honest doubt. To believe something without examining it, questioning it, or considering alternatives isn’t faith. Faith (another word for “trust”) is saying, “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t need to have all the answers. I’ll ask my questions and explore the possibilities and trust the process to lead me where I need to be.” That’s what it means to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5.7) – to live boldly with the questions rather than clinging to preconceived answers.

If we have all the answers (as dictated by an ancient creed, papal decree, doctrinal statement, or uncritical use of a biblical proof-text), then what need is there for faith? Trusting the process of life…that’s faith. Trusting that our questions have merit…that’s faith. Trusting that we need not “get it right” in order to be acceptable to God…that’s faith. Trusting the ambiguities, uncertainties, and multitudinous possibilities in life…that’s faith.

We are people of faith, but that doesn’t mean we are people who hold all the same opinions or who agree on any particular dogmatic assertion. We are people who trust that we have sacred value and that our search for meaning and fulfillment is a holy journey that must ultimately lead to peace and joy. That level of faith is what was modeled by the first followers of Jesus, and it can be modeled by followers of Jesus (and our various allies) still. We’re here not to hand out easy answers, but rather to equip people for an honest and on-going adventure. Such radical trust, or “faith,” is bound to facilitate a positive spiritual experience.

(c) Durrell Watkins, 2007

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