The Third Rail – Doubt

Posts in the Sermon Prep: Doubt series

  1. The Third Rail – Doubt
  2. Digital Art Photos
  3. 7 Days of Doubt
  4. From Descartes to Indiana Jones

A week from this Sunday, Chad and Erica will be leading worship at our little dutch chapel in Orange County, and I will be bringing the bible-thumping fiery rhetoric from the pulpit. You should definitely come check it out. Or, if not, you should at least help me plan my message.

I think I’m going to talk about the third rail of the life of faith: doubt.

Here, let me make it a little spookier:


Topics on the table:

Doubting Thomas
Mother Theresa
Mark 9:24

So – hit me. If you had to put a percentage on is, what’s the ratio of belief to doubt for the things in your personal creed? How influential is the belief of others in reinforcing your belief? Do you feel the freedom to express honest doubt about fundamental things (scripture, resurrection, omnipotence) when you’re in the company of other believers? And most importantly, Doug, will I still have a job waiting when I get back? For that matter, Phil, will I still have a job waiting when I come before the faith interrogation high council?

Next in series: Digital Art Photos

6 thoughts on “The Third Rail – Doubt

  1. aly hawkins

    We count omnipotence as a fundamental? I need an updated list…

    This is slightly unrelated, but does anyone else feel like “Doubting Thomas” was misnamed? Like maybe we fastened on one, maybe less important, aspect of him (“Brown-Haired Aly”)? I mean, the guy was awfully brave and loyal at times to ALWAYS be Doubting Thomas (see John 11). I feel bad for the guy.

    As to the topic at hand, I like Anne Lamott’s reminder that the opposite of faith is not doubt; it is certainty. We are blessed, according to Jesus, when we believe even when we don’t see. Personally, faith is not something I’ve ever struggled with very much (so far)—I’m pretty credulous, as a rule. That’s not to say that I don’t doubt . . . I do. I just haven’t had the experience of sitting up at night worried that it’s all bollocks. I think this may have something to do with the difference between belief and trust. Occasionally I don’t believe a lick of orthodox Christianity, but I trust God. I don’t know why. I just do.

  2. michael lee Post author

    Originally Posted By aly hawkins
    We count omnipotence as a fundamental? I need an updated list…

    I’ll get you a copy. As an alumn of Biola, I have access to the secret vault where the original is kept.

    I think omnipotence is pretty tough to get away from as a fundamental of the faith, although there is a lot of discussion about what that means (i.e. is omnipotence compatible with open theology, what about illogical possibilities, how does this relate to divine command ethics, stuff like that). Kind of like “inspiration”, I think acknowledging the special inspiration of scripture is fundamental to being a Christian, and then the discussion about what that might mean (fallible, infallible, verbal, narrative, etc.) kicks in.

    This topic is very personal to me right now. I’m a rational person by nature (I would argue all of us are), and there are some aspects of the faith that I am having a hard time reconciling. Working my way through The Bible Podcast, I find myself saying some things in the voice of God that are just plain awful, and cannot be reconciled with the nature of a God that I can believe in. What does that mean for my perspective on scripture? I’m not sure.

    It’s all coming to a head, of course, because my wife and I have started a little side hobby where we raise two kids, and pass on every important thing we know to them. I’ve talked about that a little bit before here, but I’m not at peace with my own creed yet (ever?), and when I look into the trusting eyes of my kids, I find myself saying things with certainty that I am maybe only 70% reconciled to. Sometimes less. Sometimes much less.

    So, at the risk of jeopardizing my immortal soul, I feel like I need to get into this and ask what our obligation is to honest discourse, and honest questions, with our fellow believers. I think the church is petrified of doubt, like it’s some kind of pin that will prick the bubble and bring down the whole illusion. Ironically, that perspective betrays a very substantial lack of faith, if God and his kingdom can be brought down by a little bit of doubt.

  3. Gretchen

    Aly- the pastor at my parent’s church in WA was just talked about the misnaming of Thomas too. He says he likes to call him “honest Thomas” . And how would we like to have one of our (many) moments of doubt recorded for all time?

    I agree Mike, that I continue to grapple with the certainty of what I believe or why I believe certain aspects of our faith. Particularly after answering “why?” for the fourth time in a single subject. Continuing to break down an idea to a four year old level, makes me wonder why I believe such a thing, or more often, “does this even make sense?” And at the same time, having to break down complex theological ideas to a four year old level, reminds me of how our faith is also rooted in some pretty basic beliefs. Love, compassion, devotion.

  4. aly hawkins

    Stanley Fish on reason, faith and doubt. Lots of good stuff, but this, I think, is a key graf:

    The religions I know are about nothing but doubt and dissent, and the struggles of faith, the dark night of the soul, feelings of unworthiness, serial backsliding, the abyss of despair. Whether it is the book of Job, the Confessions of St. Augustine, Calvin’s Institutes, Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding to The Chief of Sinners,” Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling” and a thousand other texts, the religious life is depicted as one of aspiration within the conviction of frailty. The heart of that life . . . is not a set of propositions about the world (although there is some of that), but an orientation toward perfection by a being that is radically imperfect.

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