Doubt. It is the haunting specter looming over the shoulder of every believer, the arch-enemy of the faithful. Or is it? What if doubt could be a tool? What if, as God often does, He could turn what at first seems like a hindrance into a launching pad? I think the real enemy is unchallenged belief. Thomas Jefferson famously said,
“Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”
In a previous post entitled Trigger Warning I put it this way,
“I have been convinced for a long time that it is impossible to remove all doubts from anyone’s mind including my own. I want to be totally transparent in saying that I spend a large percentage of my time actively doubting some of my most closely held beliefs. I have found over time that doubt can be my ally if I doubt well. The key is to not reject what you currently hold to be true without cause. Doubt itself is not cause. Doubting well keeps you open, it prevents dogmatic belief and behavior, it keeps you asking of yourself and your community of believers questions like, “why do we do this this way?” and “If the Bible says ______ why are we saying ______?” These are the kind of questions that can spark revolutionary movements of God within churches and cities. This is exactly what we want to bring about.”
This begs the question, How do I doubt well? Start by being willing to be radically open. By radically open I mean that when someone offers an opinion or “fact” that seems to contradict what you hold to be true don’t reject it right away. Sit with it. Give it the full weight of consideration. Ask yourself some questions. Ask them some questions. Examine your own assumptions and whether they’re warranted. Examine whether your first instinct is to reject the information and whether its because you’re convinced it’s untrue or because of the implications for your life if it is true. I’m urging you to examine this information, that seems to be so contrary to your most closely held beliefs, as you would a precious stone if you were a jeweler. To be sure you will see flaws, but when you look closely don’t you see flaws in your own beliefs? Aren’t there times when you say, If _____ is true why does _____happen? The key is to dive deep, but like any diver don’t go too deep without a life line.
The life line is your current belief that the new information is challenging. The next step is to hold the two up side by side. Do you think God is afraid to be held up side by side with any other god? In the case of Atheism you’re holding God up next to …… nothing! This follows the main principle of doubting well, never reject what you currently hold to be true without cause. Remember you have had good reason to hold the current belief for a long time in many cases, it’s not to be thrown away on a whim. At the same time don’t think this will be easy. This is the crucible of true faith, and the more you’re willing to intentionally do this the more you’ll be given the opportunity. Too many times what you hear from the non-believer who is a former believer is some version of, “I believed until one day I read this verse that I had read a hundred times but I thought what if it means the opposite of what I always thought it did and I just couldn’t believe in God anymore”, or “The bible says ____________ and I just can’t believe anymore in a God that would say that”. These are examples of rejections of beliefs that either weren’t strongly held or weren’t held up next to the new information and considered closely.
If you do the previous two steps the third step comes pretty easily, put down the well considered but too flawed fact or belief. At this point you should have some serious and formidable objections to either the new information, your current belief, or both. May I suggest that these objections may be best expressed in the form of questions. Dig into the flaws you see in what you hold to be true and the new information. This will often start the process over and branch off into multiple lines of inquiry. It might be helpful to keep a notebook to keep up with the journey you’re embarking on by doubting well. This whole process will put some serious muscle on your faith. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is a necessary skill for every thinking Christian to develop. Let me give you a passage of scripture to consider in light of this. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus quoted this as the greatest commandment in Matthew 23:37. When I read it in context in Deuteronomy I see a commandment that is given in light of promises of direct actions by God and with the warning not to forget that the Lord is the one who gave them these things. The implication is that if the people didn’t hold their blessing up next to their belief (the commandment) that one would cause them to abandon the other. The rest of the Old Testament is an unending repeat of God’s people doing just that, following faithfully, receiving blessing, becoming selfish and arrogant, turning their backs on Him, losing all the blessings, and coming back to Him. The application is that doubting well builds faith and brings you closer in relationship to God.
In these days of dogmatic belief on all sides doubting well can be a revolutionary act. I don’t know about you but my faith needs a little revolution from time to time!
Next Week: Mr. Doubtwell’s Guide To Purposeful Skepticism
Coming: January 27