The Fidelity of Doubt
In the movie “Doubt,” the priest played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman is targeted by the nun played by Meryl Streep after preaching the sermon on “doubt.” Streep is convinced that anyone who doubts must be hiding something.
If you were raised in the church like I was then you’ve known your share of Christians like the sister played by Streep.
In the 7th Chapter of John, we read that Jesus’ own family didn”t believe in him (John 7:5) even though they’ve known the sinless, son of God all their lives.
The people of Israel didn’t believe in him either (John 7:14-31) despite the fact that he performs one messianic sign after another.
The religious leaders didn’t believe in him (John 7:32-52) despite his obvious command of the Hebrew Bible.
Yet, despite all of this, Jesus doesn’t give up. He continues to teach, preach, heal, etc. Why?
We tend to view doubt in the church as a fault, even as betrayal but should we?
As N.T. Wright has pointed out, the Greek word for faith doesn’t mean “belief” as in “I believe in everything in the Bible like I believe that water is wet and the sky is blue” but means trust in- and loyalty to- and one doesn’t need to place their trust in a certainty. We must trust that which is not completely certain. Thus, doubt is intrinsic to faith.
In fact, doubt actually deepens faith. A person who simply accepts everything they are taught as it is taught in church may be an ego boost for the teaching minister but is usually pretty shallow and a broken world doesn’t need a cold splash from a puddle but access to a deep well of truth. A person who doubts is a person who takes his or her faith seriously enough to do so.
I freely admit to my own doubts…what about you?
This week at Revolution everyone wrote down their doubts (myself included) and then we took them up in offering plates and laid them on the altar before God.
Revolution must be a community where doubts can be openly expressed without any fear.
It is unfortunate that this isn’t the case in every church. Christians like the character played by Meryl Streep in “Doubt” also suffer from unbelief, they just don’t want to admit it and they strike out at others who do. Maybe they do so because they fear doubt and our unnerved when they see it in others.
One of the reasons Revolution is committed more to orthopraxy (following Jesus) than orthodoxy (believing the right things about Jesus) is that we believe one cannot truly know Jesus unless he or she follows in Christ’s footsteps by going to where and to whom he would go but it also reinforces our belief that once you state “here is what we believe” that there is a risk that the statement will become something to be defended rather than something to be lived out.
Not buying this? Take a look at the man in Mark 9:24? That’s where I live–somewhere between belief and unbelief.
How about you?