Faith = Doubt

Without doubt, there can be no faith.

Webster’s defines the word “Faith,” as follows:

1a: allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1): fidelity to one’s promises (2): sincerity of intentions 2a (1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b(1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust 3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction ; especially : a system of religious beliefs

I hadn’t looked up this definition when I started crafting this post in my head. I was hoping against hope that there would be something like the, “Firm belief in something for which there is no proof,” statement. I was immensely gratified to read it, as it props up my little thesis.

Without doubt, there can be no faith.

Near the very end of the last Gospel, in John chapter 20, we find the story of Doubting Thomas. Thomas was the Apostle who wasn’t buying the news that Jesus had been resurrected. He was rational, cool, and frankly, pretty well reasoned in his statements.

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Downright reasonable, if you ask me.

A week later, Jesus shows up, and has Thomas go ahead and get a nice, long feel on those scars. Thomas falls to his knees and exclaims, ”My Lord and my God!” Jesus, being Jesus, has this awesome little zinger for him.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I haven’t seen Jesus. I haven’t put my hands on his scars. I didn’t see Him forming the foundation of the earth. I don’t know how it will all shake out in an end times scenario. I am not certain that every Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Atheist, and Democrat will all burn in eternal damnation. I have a sneaking suspicion that God is greater and kinder than our little, offensive value judgements. I have also, in my darkest moments, been terrified that this whole Jesus thing is just a big sham, a human construct to give some meaning to our random, miniscule existence.

But still … I believe.

At the end of the day, I cannot shake the feeling loose that the words and teachings of this Jewish carpenter are not from this world. At the end of the day, I calculate my doubts, and I calculate the evidence, and realize that this equation will simply not balance out, and I take a deep breath, and make a choice to hold some things in a state of unresolved tension, and I simply… believe.

Jesus of Nazareth, The Lion of Judah, the Alpha and Omega, said that I will be blessed in the presence of my fully reasonable doubts, for I am a man of faith.

26 thoughts on “Faith = Doubt

  1. Chad Post author

    Perhaps I’ve made Baby Jesus cry with my post, as I cannot figure out why I cannot get paragraph breaks into my post.

    Perhaps Mike, the giver of every good and perfect HTML code, will fix it. I’m word-faithing here.

  2. aly hawkins

    Great post, Chad. (And the fixer will have to be Mike—I took a look and couldn’t figure out how to help. I think you imported the formatting from Webster’s and it gunked up the works.)

    I think it was Anne Lamott who said, “The opposite of faith is not doubt; it is certainty.” Or it was Paul Tillich, but I’m pretty sure I get kicked off this blog if I quote Paul Tillich. Whoever it was is pretty smart.

  3. Bobby

    in HTML view get rid of those ridiculous , , , and tags (all of them in pairs) and you should be in luck.

    Also I think this post is brilliant.

  4. Bobby

    and as html is stripped out of the comments, what I am trying to say is the span, /span, div, and /div tags in pairs (brackets included).

    Mike you are welcome to delete this.

  5. michael lee

    Ninja edits completed.

    Aly, there’s nothing you could ever do to be kicked off of this blog. Even starting your own blog and putting all of your awesome writing over there doesn’t keep you from being first, last, and always a Roadie.

  6. JC

    Chad: Thank you for speaking for so many of us. I am incapable of saying it that well and that succinctly, but you really captured it.

  7. michael lee

    Chad (and other person who are raising up litle tykes), how candid are you with your kids about doubts and gaps in your theology?

    I left a comment over at Aly’s blog that is pretty much on target with this:

    I’ve noticed in myself how much I want to shield my kids from my own process of doubt. Our daughter will ask things that, frankly, I used to have a ready answer for, and now no longer do. I often find myself reverting to the answers that the church has proclaimed for generations, even if it’s not where I am right at this moment.

    I guess I don’t know how to introduce young children into a faith woven through with doubt and questions. A huge part of me feels like my job is to introduce them to the “believe” part of it, and then be ready to help them walk into the “doubt” part of it when it comes into their own life later.

  8. Chad Post author

    I don’t bother them with things above their pay grade.

    Zion wants to know where God lives. That’s his new thing. We both keep telling him… “Well… He lives in Heaven, pal, but we don’t know exactly there that is!”

    That’s seemingly enough for him right now, in the given moment. I don’t think he’s really asking the question. He asks it in the same sentence as when he wants to know when his new Lightning McQueen car booster seat will arrive from the magical internet.

    We don’t know the answer to that one either. We just know that it’ll eventually show up, and we love him in the meantime.

    I refuse to make shit up… let’s put it that way.

  9. Leonard

    Thanks for the post Chad. For the record John doesn’t have 29 chapters. But then you probably know that and in your musical genius that is considered the bridge.

  10. michael lee

    He numbers the chapters using the Septuagint method, which broke John into 48 chapters, and also they called it “Ezekiel” instead of John.

    And it was about the exile instead of Jesus.

  11. aly hawkins

    Obviously, I don’t (yet?) have kids, but I’ve thought a lot about how I might talk about faith, doubt, theology, etc. to hypothetical children. One important factor in my considerations is how I was raised — what I would do differently, what was a good call. What worked and helped my faith to stick: the opportunity to put faith into practice by helping others. What I would change because it exacerbated later confusion: how Bible stories were presented. Instead of understanding that Scripture is one big Story in which all the characters are connected, I thought of it as a storybook with a bunch of isolated tales, like Grimm’s Gigantor Book of Completely Unconnected Fairy Tales. Too much of the teaching I was exposed to was based on the “and the moral of the story is…” model. Sure, individual stories from the Bible can be powerful teaching tools for character growth — but that’s not the point of Scripture.

    I actually have some ideas (surprise!) for how faith communities could do Sunday school differently. Why not structure biblical training around themes rather than individual stories? “Exodus” is a good one, as an example: God’s liberation of the Israelites from Egypt is, like, totally meta for the arc of Scripture — and very much in keeping with how Jewish families have taught and still teach their children about their Story.

  12. michael lee

    I was very pleasantly surprised the other night when I was telling Sophia her “Brushing Story” (I tell her stories while I brush her hair at night). We talked about Moses and Aaron turning the Nile ‘red’ (yes, I do censor still). She picked up the story from there, and took Moses and his band of bitchy jews from the nile, through the Red Sea, to the law-giving, to the Battle of Jericho, and then jumped over Judges straight to David and Goliath.

    It wasn’t perfect, and parts were a little jumbled, but I was thrilled to hear her articulate something approaching your idea, Aly, of the big story, rather than the small stories. I don’t know how her mind is processing all of those things, but I hope that it is, “God is doing a big thing that involves the lives of lots of people over a long time.”

    Also, did I mention that she’s 3 1/2, and a Freeking Genius™?

  13. Leonard

    see the difference between our kids faith at that age and our faith at this age is they are not struggling with doubt.

  14. Chad

    Yeah… I’m with Leonard, with the exception of his obvious legalism when it comes to how many actual chapters there are per book of the Bible. Go back to Kansas, ya fundie!

    Ok… so not really.

    I’m with Leonard in that I don’t think it’s necessary to plant doubt. Doubt will take care of itself. I guess I just want to be able to look back and be somewhat certain that we didn’t feel the need to cover over some of the blemishes and sharper edges of a life of faith.

    I think this will be important for my kids, as well. I don’t want them going back and saying, “But you told me…” and me having to say, “Well, we really didn’t mean it, but we did it for your own good…”

    I think that sorta thing is destructive.

  15. Leonard

    I found when I tell it like it is true, my kids do better with the gaps than when I pass on my own uncertainty. When they were little we simply told it as though it were 100% true. Now they are teens and the gaps to not shake them.

    This does not mean hiding the gaps but simply saying …”I have no idea how this works” but I believe it does… For me doubt is an emotion and faith is an action, often times in the face of that emotion.

    On the legalism charge:I did go to LABC which became liberal when John MacArthur came on board and changed it to Masters. So as I sign out… I bless you in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son and the other guy… (don;t want to become a charismatic)

  16. Chad Post author

    Editors note:

    After thinking about it, I decided to go back and correct the Scripture reference. I like my little post, so the idea of having such a silly error living on the intertubes for all eternity was eating at me.

  17. Anthony

    My heart is warmed when I hear that parents are wrestling with how they pass on the stories of their faith.

    and… I’ll stop there before I say something that upsets the almighty Chad and his molten words of fury.

  18. Leonard

    Chad, in all seriousness I want to say thanks for caring about this stuff. Your kids are already better off to have a parent who chooses faith over doubt.

    Nothing I have ever done requires more faith than parenting does and yet nothing I do is more filled with doubt. My kids are now 13 and 15 and nothing good in their lives has happened on accident. It is what we do on purpose that causes our kids to thrive.

    One piece that has been essential in our home is affirmation. This has been used by God as the primary door to faith in our kids. But along with than that, it has been used by God to help our kids become confident, it has helped us keep open doors for the other forms of communication, it had made our home a joy to be within.

    Affirmation is simply letting other people know you are glad to be in their life and glad they are in yours touch and by telling them and showing them why. My kids have heard this phrase from me about a million times…

    I Love Being Your Dad! They believe it and that is huge in how they handle uncertainty. Not trying to get all preachy, sorry about that.

    Thanks again for the honesty you portrayed in this post. God’s best to you today.

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