Teaching Doubt


I am a big fan of doubt—- because, in part, I am a big fan of faith. I believe faith is empowered by doubt. As such, faith is damaged by dogma— not in the sense of holding onto core beliefs, but dogma in terms of training people to conform to beliefs without allowing them the right to (public) struggle with their beliefs.

I have written a lot on doubt in many of its forms. I certainly would encourage you to read some of these posts if you wish. However, I will link to just five:

Belief Versus Doubt Versus Disbelief.  Part I

Belief Versus Doubt Versus Disbelief.  Part II

Belief Versus Doubt Versus Disbelief. Part III

Belief Versus Doubt Versus Disbelief. Part IV

Leading Cause of Atheism?

The last article is a short post that links to a longer article by Jackson Wu who says that religious groups not allowing dialogue and disagreement is a leading cause of people moving to atheism.

I teach in a seminary. Most seminaries embrace a certain amount of freedom of thought… at least within some bounds. But not all. Some teach doctrine and seek to crush thoughtful questions and disagreements.  Needless to say, I hope, one should avoid that type of seminary. Some schools purport to be open, but are closed-minded simply in a different direction than the seminaries that they seek to distance themselves from.

The seminary I teach at comes from a denominational and faith tradition and we hold to basic religious faith statements in line with these traditions. That being said, there still is quite a bit of room for different views.

I like to say that my favorite answer in class to any question given to me is “I don’t know.”

I like to give such a statement because:

  1.  It is honest. My knowledge and wisdom is pretty limited. Even if I believe that I know the answer, I may not KNOW that I know the answer.
  2. It is dialogic. I don’t stop at “I don’t know” but try to give some thoughts on the issue. I try to encourage others to proffer responses as well. Sometimes I am successful at this and sometimes not.
  3. It is explorational. Seminarians are seekers of God. They are explorers of the great existential mysteries of life. They are moving forward into a world that is ever-changing, and ultimately unknown. They need to have the tools to do this exploration. They need the wisdom of the past and the tools of the present, but also an openness to the new.

Of course, doubt in itself is not a total good either. As I noted in a prior post, doubt can be pathological. It can be nihilistic. Doubt, in its best form, says “I don’t know everything that is out there. If I want to know, I must explore.”

Faith, to me, then gives us the tools (compass, sextant, timepiece, chart) to use to help us not simply getting lost and going in circles.

The Christian life is meant to be an adventure.

Fair Winds and Following Seas…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s