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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Jepsen

Is Doubt Virtuous?

I've been thinking about doubt, lately.

Partly because I am getting more annoyed by the certainty-mongers.

You know the type. They have all the answers, and they really, really want to share them with you. They have certainty, and clarity, and by golly, you can have it too.

If only you pay attention to them, and fall in line with their opinions.

These people really bug me.

Maybe I'm just envious, because I don't have near the amount of certainty that they do. I'm sure that is their take on the situation. For them, a lack of certainty means either a weak mind or a weak character.

And they despise weakness.

But maybe certainty is not as virtuous as some suppose. Maybe certainty is both blinding and spiritually debilitating.

Blinding because it closes your mind to another way of thinking regarding whatever it is you are certain of. You only listen to prepare your own argument.

Spiritually debilitating because it also quenches faith, the crucial ingredient in a life before God.

Here is my thesis: Doubt is the true friend of faith, not its enemy. Or, to change the analogy: doubt is the only soil in which true faith can grow.

It takes no faith to believe that 2 plus 2 equals 4. This is obvious and certain.

But to believe in the existence of a good God, who yet allows evil to exist (for a while) to achieve a higher good; to believe in the idea of a God who also chooses (and is able) to incarnate as a human being; to believe that this God, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, voluntarily endured the most horrific death that cruel Rome could devise...for my good...

These things can certainly be doubted.

And when this Jesus says:

  • It is better to give than to receive

  • That the point of life is love, and the meaning of love is sacrifice for another

  • That He offers the true way to the Father

  • That He guides me, like a Shepherd, for my good (even when it seems the opposite is true)

Well, all of this can certainly be doubted as well.

It takes no faith to believe in what is obvious and certain. Faith comes into play when certainty ends.

Kant, the great German philosopher, when setting forth a revolutionary theory of knowledge that seemed to undermine objective certainty about religious ideas, said this:

"I am destroying knowledge to make room for faith".

He believed, as a Christian, that having certain "knowledge" about the things above was inimical to true, religious faith. The true man or woman of faith, he says, would have this attitude:

"I cannot prove that God exists or not. I cannot know with objective and absolute certainty that Jesus is the One sent from God, and that when I see Jesus I see God, and that when I follow Jesus I follow God. I may be wrong about all this. But I am choosing to believe this, and will give my life to this belief".

Kant may have been wrong in much of his philosophy; but I think he got this part right.

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