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Doubt as Virtue 4 January 2017

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Life, Ponderings, Theology.
Tags: , ,

Although, if I am honest, our Staff Team Meetings cannot be described as the highlight of the month, we do sometimes have some interesting discussion arising from our opening devotional item. Today was no exception.

One of our team, a Quaker, long-retired, but still mentally and physically active (teaching yoga in his early 80s) is writing about faith and cognitive dissonance, particularly the inability to settle on any course of action and be satisfied with it and the tension that arises from it. You know, the tendency to see a better possibility in a different place or manner of living, that once undertaken turns out to be no better, and just as unsatisfactory as the one you left behind. That inability to settle and find peace. However, as conversation wound on, we found a value in this dissatisfaction. It’s a common enough human experience. It can be disturbing, when all we want is to find stability and a release from questions and doubts. And yet, to question, to be open to examination, doubt, self-doubt is healthy. Surely to have all the answers, to be beyond doubt, is the inflexibility of fundamentalism, the reduction of everything to certainty?

question-markFrom the analogy of the creation of humanity in Genesis, the state before the Fall was one of certainty and simplicity. A state incapable of growth and change. A state not far removed from that of fundamentalism. Without the openness to doubt (and with it, admittedly, self-will and disobedience) there is no growth. In fact there is no maturity. Not for nothing did St Augustine speak in terms of a “happy fall” and of something greater coming out of failure. Following a path from free will, rather than simply because “I told you so”, a path of growth and faith, rather than stasis and rock-like certainty. To quote one of my favourite singer-songwriters, Martyn Joseph, “maybe to always keep asking is part of the plan”. Faith is the manner in which we rise above both the questioning uncertainty and the unquestioning certainty. The decision of movement.

Doubt is not the enemy of faith. Doubt is a companion in the voyage of discovery and growth. The temptations that faced Jesus highlight that questions are not sinful, not forbidden: to be tempted, to consider other ways, is permissible. The enemy of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Justice is expected to be blind, but faith is about seeing, and seeking.



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