The Benefit of Doubt
Doubt is an uncomfortable condition,
but certainty is a ridiculous one.
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
believe me, than in half the creeds.
Alfred Lord Tennyson
I heard someone talking about doubt the other day and it set my brain into motion thinking about it. We often think of doubt as a negative thing — revealing our lack of faith, showing a character flaw, or ripping the veil from a deep-seated hopelessness that we tend to hide under a false bravado. And while those things may be true to various extents, they certainly don't tell the whole story.
I believe that doubt serves a great purpose in initiating and spurring on all manner of positive things in the world. Without questioning the world around us and what we believe about it, most scientific inquiries would never happen. Without wondering what else could be in store, most of us wouldn't pursue a lot of personal growth. And how could we come to any knowledge of a deeper spiritual truth without putting to the test the things we've been told all our lives.
I've heard some people point to verses like James 1:5-8, which says
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
with the claim that they shouldn't ever doubt Christianity. Or more to the point, their understanding of Christianity and what they've been taught all their lives. They honestly believe that it weakens their faith to ask the questions. So they blindly accept what their pastor teaches and every word they ever heard in Sunday School.
But that's not what it says. Rather, what it says is that, if you ask anything of God, ask believing that He will answer. Don't ask with a half-hearted, wishy-washy belief that isn't steadfast. That sort of belief has no foundation and can be torn down by the slightest adversity.
The Bible also says that "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." (Psalm 118:8) Humans are fallible and our best understanding will always be flawed so we always — ALWAYS — have to be open to the possibility that we're just plain wrong. Because we usually are.
Which reminds me that this book is on my list. I think I need to move it up to the front of the queue.
No. With apologies to Gwen Stefani, the only possible result of having no doubts is stagnation — personal, professional, and spiritual. The God I believe in is more than big enough to handle a little questioning. And, frankly, if your faith can't stand up to a little honest doubt and come through it stronger, then it isn't worth believing in the first place.