The Wisdom of doubt
March 06, 2012 by Pastor Jeremiah
Let me share with you a quote I read the other day. “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” (Bertrand Russell) Rarely will you ever find me agreeing with anything Bertrand Russell says, but I have to admit that when I read this quote of his the other day I wasn’t so quick to dismiss it.
Bertrand Russell was an agnostic and doubts were a central part of his worldview. As a Christian, I also wrestle with doubts. I have many questions that are still left unanswered. It’s a struggle to know how to deal with doubt. Somehow it feels as though my faith is weak. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not confused about the essential truths of the gospel – Jesus Christ and him crucified, the resurrection, eternal life, etc. However, I’ve noticed that as I progress in this journey of faith the more I know, the more I come to find out there is to know. The more questions I have are answered, the more new questions I have to ask. I’ve come to discover that a relationship with God is an infinite journey – a never-ending pursuit of truth. Along with this recognition comes humility. A Humility that says I haven't figured it all out yet. I haven't arrived. I haven’t even come close.
I think most people in our day and age think of Christians as close-minded. No doubt, Bertrand Russell was of this opinion. I assume that he is referring to people of faith as the fools and fanatics in his quote. They are so certain of themselves. Ironically, faith is open to endless possibilities. It is the faithful who recognize that this life is not all there is. It is the faithful who are open to eternity and believe in a God who is infinite. It is the hedonist, the atheist who believes in only what his eyes can see, in what his hands can touch. Which worldview would you say is more close-minded? Maybe people think Christians are close-minded because we are so uncomfortable with doubts and questions. We would rather pretend as though we had everything figured out. But how do you figure out the infinite? How do you wrap your mind around eternity? There is a reality to face here - our knowledge of God has limits. We don't have it all figured out yet. Maybe we never will. That's the bad news.
Here's the good news. Expressing doubt and asking questions of God is a rich part of our heritage as believers. Abraham questioned God's righteousness when he was informed that Sodom and Gomorrah were to be destroyed. Job had serious questions for God in the midst of his suffering. David put his doubts on display throughout the Psalms. Jonah completely disagreed with God and ran the other way when God wanted to give Nineveh a second chance to repent. Even Jesus himself hanging on the cross questioned "my God my God why have you forsaken me?" Questions, questions, questions.
Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge ourselves in the midst of doubt, or feel guilty for having so many questions. It’s all a part of the journey. Without doubt faith would be unnecessary. Think about it. If we had proof, why would we need faith? Faith is that action that we take in the midst of our doubts. Trust is leaning on God’s wisdom even when we can’t make sense of it, even while we still have questions left unanswered. So, may you discover more and more of Jesus and may your doubts and your questions fuel your journey.