Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Doubt Predicament

Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind.People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways. -- James 1:6-8

confession time - i have doubts. i struggle daily with finding the balance between the idyllic biblical worldview that i am expected to adhere to and the widely-accepted "common sense" explanations of science and reason. the bible is full of absolute statements written at a time when, it can't be denied, there weren't many rational certainties in our world. back in those days, before dinosaurs were unearthed it was probably much easier to accept without wavering that creation went down just as it is described in Genesis. It also must have certainly been easier to consider oneself part of God's chosen people before anything was known just outside of cultural borders, much less the rest of the world.

i do want to be clear - because i can almost see your head shaking (or nodding) - i'm not saying that i don't believe. the subject of doubt is taboo at best in our modern church because of the heavy emphasis on the ideal immovable faith. Jesus spoke clearly about the necessity of faith. it isn't optional. i understand that. i take issue, though, with the idea that faith has to look like certainty. i do have faith but my faith more closely resembles hope and belief. hope that my revelations, insights, and experiences are pointing to truth. having to apply the same level of belief, to the point of absolute infallibility, while looking through the filter of unprecedented knowledge isn't as simple as James has stated. it seems that the metrics of faith are either sinful doubt or righteous certitude; the popular consensus is one cannot live in or between both states or you are certainly deceived.

my awkward dance with my faith has never been pretty. i have doubted pretty much all things that are taught as doctrinal pillars in this western evangelical culture i find myself tightly sewn into. i have talked myself out of believing on many occasions. i have also been drawn back by an indescribable and irrational force. i think that is the beautiful part. i have stumbled and fallen my way through this life; reasoning and reckoning my way along a clumsy path from brokenness to redemption and back again. yet here i am - waltzing my way along this tangent line. i don't always look at my invisible and whispering partner who holds my hands while i focus on the ugliness of my steps. but when i do, i do not consider the instability of my reason and thought. none of that matters in those moments. i do not regard the arguments and philosophies of men, even my own, as they confuse and arouse anger and frustration. what i know is of no more importance than what i doubt. that moment is spiritual. it is separate from the mind. it exists in a higher plane of reality, outside of my perception or understanding. that is the experience that carries me through doubt. that is my sacred sanctuary that transcends my own thoughts and shifts my gaze to the holy, those moments of sweet intimacy with the Father God and His beauty.

maybe that's not necessarily an explanation of my faith. it isn't sensory or corporeal. i cannot prove God through describing the experience. i sometimes think that maybe i am fooling myself with some rudimentary instinctual need for there to be a god and that my experience is nothing more than a collection of hallucinations meant as a mental defense mechanism against monumental disappointment. but i am just man; weak and strong, wholly broken and this is one of my struggles. ultimately, i subscribe to the idea that in order for faith to endure it must walk the coals of doubt. we cannot tangibly interact with God in such a way that stimulates our physical sense so experiencing Him must take place outside of understanding. the nature of that sentiment is such that we can never know or operate under a certainty unless we simply ignore the world around us as it testifies to the inconsistencies of our system.

consider the words of a father who desperately sought help for his ailing young son. he heard of a miracle worker who had healed sick and dying people all over his country. he found this Man one day and begged for mercy for his beloved child. this Man simply said "if you believe, all things are possible". in the presence of God himself, after seeing with his own eyes miracles performed, the father cried out "i believe... but help my unbelief". we might do well to learn from this father's broken words. in being honest with ourselves that we are prone to both doubt and believe, facing the truth that only in crying out this confession will our hearts be freed.

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