Tag Archives: faith; doubt; christianity; jesus christ

On Faith and Doubt

pillars-o-godI wrote last week about my faith.  This week I want to cover the concept of doubt, and explore why, for me, they are not necessarily opposites or even incompatible.

I remember the moment when I first doubted. I was in college, sitting in the back yard of my apartment building.  I was reading something, probably for school, but I don’t remember whether it had anything at all to do with religion or philosophy.  What I do remember is that the thought suddenly came into my head, in these exact words:  “There might not really be a God.”  I was 21 years old, and this had never occurred to me before.  I was stunned.  I felt a vast emptiness that was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

Once you know something, you cannot un-know it.  I have lived with that doubt every single day of my life since.

For a while, I felt proud and defiant. I stopped going to church and I and argued with believers (“But how do you know?  You can’t know.  There’s no proof.”).  Then I went through a period of envying other people their certainty, wishing I still had mine.

But, over the years, I’ve learned to let my love of Christ live comfortably in the same house with my doubts as to whether there is any God at all.  It’s not that I don’t think it matters whether or not the Christian story is objectively true.  It matters very much.  If it’s true, it changes absolutely everything.  I just don’t expect to ever know whether or not it is objectively true, at least not in this life.

It may be that certainty is a form of Grace that is given to some and not to others.  It may also be that doubt is a form of Grace that is given to some and not to others.  A person who doubts is thinking about faith, not taking it for granted.  Concepts like “God” and “Salvation” seem to me to be too mysterious, too enormous for the human mind to comprehend in a lifetime.  They warrant constant questioning and contemplation.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  People who are absolutely certain about the objective truth of their faith’s stories are those who have “seen.”  Those of us who believe without that certainty of having “seen” are, I think, blessed in a whole different way.  We cannot take any pride in our own tiny faithfulness, so we must stand before the Cross and humbly rely on Christ’s unlimited faithfulness to us.  We dwell in awe and mystery, always  – in Rilke’s words – “living the questions.”

Note:  the graphic included in this post is the Pillars of God nebula, an image that often comes to mind for me when I contemplate God’s unfathomable power and glory.