Why is doubt such a dirty word?

During one of the first worship services that I ever attended (a whole 8 months ago), one of the congregation announced during notices that he was recruiting people for an evangelical expedition to a local shopping mall. Anyone who wanted to join him would be trained, and given explicit instructions on what to say and how to answer any tricky theological questions.

Google ‘Christian apologetics’, and you will get over 2 million results. Essentially, apologetics is finding hard and fast answers to questions of religion; defending faith against those who seek to scrutinise it, either through a genuine desire for clarification, or as an attempt to destabilise the foundations of a belief system.

To me, this sounds like an attempt to make religion a science; finding rational answers to what is at its core an irrational system.

I don’t mean irrational in a derogatory sense. I mean it’s not rational.  It cannot be qualified or answered definitively. Surely that is one of the fundamental tenets of faith. A belief system that requires adherents to parrot back memorised answers is missing a fundamental point.

As Douglas Adams famously said, ‘proof denies faith and without faith, I am nothing’.

But it makes me wonder;

 Are people within the church so involved in justifying their beliefs to unbelievers that they don’t have room to embrace the voice of doubt within themselves?

Instead of viewing genuine questions as enemies that must be dispatched before we can get on with the real truth of living, how about we embrace uncertainty.

Embrace uncertainty.

Not supress it, for fear that it demonstrates the manifestation of a lack of trust in God.

What I’m looking for is for people to be honest about their doubt and uncertainty. I need this, in order to legitemise my own uncertainties.

You see, I want hard and fast answers. I want to know that God exists.

And that is something that I’m going to have to get over.

Short of an actual physical manifestation (and even I don’t think that I’m that special) it’s not going to happen. So I can’t imagine a time when I won’t have more questions that answers.

And if anyone claims that they do have answers for me, then I’m not going to believe them.

For now, I need to know that I can be safe in the understanding that disbelief and questions are an authentic method of lifelong growth, rather than as an expression of spiritual immaturity.

7 thoughts on “Why is doubt such a dirty word?

  1. Love this post and your blog!

    I wrote about this very thing a few months ago in a post I titled, Doubt : The Dangerous Power of Asking Questions. I think you would like it. Click HERE to read it.

    See ya around the blogosphere!

  2. Hey Pam; great article. My iPad won’t get me comment on blogspot at the moment. The whole purpose of this blog is to get new perspectives on my thoughts, and so far that’s exactly what’s happening- thanks!

  3. I have only just discovered your blog and plan to read more, but in reading this post in particular, I wanted to reassure you that there *is* room for mystery in the Christian faith – and that there are churches that allow for the idea of “mystery of God” to exist in that we recognize that not everything that God does can be explained and that *some* things just have to be trusted in by somewhat “blind” faith. In my family’s case, we are Orthodox Christian (think: Greek, Russian, etc.) Some things, we don’t understand because we *aren’t meant to.* We’re either not spiritually ready as individuals or as a society. Just want to put that out there. Good luck in your journey.

  4. Thanks Melissa, I think that its important for me to get my head around the fact that I’m just not going to ‘get’ some things, and that will have to be ok. I’m working on it!
    I appreciate your perspective

  5. Well, even Mother Theresa, arguably one of the more recognizable religious mentors of our time, spent years in doubt – not of her *faith* but in doubt of God’s closeness to her, yet she persevered in the works to which she felt she had been called out of her FAITH that God was indeed near. Jesus Himself called from the cross, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” – again, not a lack of faith, but an overall, devastating (but thankfully brief) feeling of being alone. The point being that we do not always “feel” that God is present but a) He always is and b) our “feelings” are not always deserving of validation or action. Just because my kids don’t “feel” like helping clean the house (I have five children, so I relate most to this 🙂 doesn’t mean that they are exempt from the responsibility…. act “as if” (or fake it ’till you make it, whichever you like!)

    on the flip side, my husband was an atheist as a young teen and I have never understood *not* believing, so I appreciate seeing your thoughts on such an important journey!

  6. Thanks Melissa; I intend to read some of Mother Theresa writings; I’ll get onto it right away.
    I’m enjoying reading your blog, but my iPad is having some issues with commenting. I’m in awe of anyone with 5 kids!

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