Belief vs Doubt vs Disbelief III

42, The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Lif...
42, The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life according to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Русский: 42, Ответ на главный вопрос жизни в произведении Автостопом по галактике. Deutsch: 42, die Antwort auf die große Frage nach dem Leben, dem Universum und dem ganzen Rest, bezogen auf Per Anhalter durch die Galaxis von Douglas Adams. Italiano: 42, La risposta Fondamentale alla Domanda sulla Vita secondo la Guida galattica per gli autostoppisti. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summarizing. Doubt is a necessary and healthy part of faith. Doubt is necessary because faith is necessary. Faith is necessary because we are finite and no knowledge or logic is, in itself, compelling. At some point in time we have to bridge the gap from “reasonable” to either belief or disbelief (at least in some things). Faith that is not empowered by doubt will not likely stand the test of intellectual or cultural challenge (if it would even be correct to call it faith). Loss of faith in God often comes when doubt is squelched instead of addressed openly.

A challenge here is obvious. If faith is necessary, even a common part of human existence, how can it be the determining eternal existence? One challenge is that we are dealing with faith on two levels… a logical level and a Biblical level. Biblical faith includes the logical level but goes further.

Faith, as a logical concept, is the necessary bridge between a reasonable idea and a personally compelling idea. Of course, faith has to have an object. One does not simply “have faith.” One must have faith in something. For example, one might consider using their credit card on an Internet purchasing site. There is clearly a risk of sharing information that can be abused with strangers. Yet there are reasons to trust the system as well. In the end, one must decide one side is compelling. This is faith. The object of that faith is belief in trusting or not trusting a website for financial transactions. There is clearly an active component to faith. Faith gives direction.

So far then,

  •      Faith is universal. It bridges reasonable and compelling
  •      Faith, in its essence, is volitional rather than cognitive
  •      Faith must have an object.
  •      Faith demonstrates itself in action.

This is logical faith. Biblical faith is built on it, but…

  •      The object of faith is trust in God

So Biblical faith is the reasonable (but not undeniable) conclusion that one can live a life trusting God, as God is revealed in History and the Bible.

One should never apologize for faith. Everyone has faith on one form or another. In “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” by Douglas Adams, we discover that the Ruler of the Universe, is a man in a shack who has no faith. He comes to essentially no conclusions about his own thoughts or sensory inputs. A very difficult way to live.

Faith in God has been found reasonable by lots of people throughout history. Faith that is unprepared by doubt to handle the rigors of opposing beliefs and arguments is a weak faith. Such a faith, perhaps, one might feel a bit apologetic about.

Religious leaders should never seek to instill that type of faith in its members.

Belief versus Doubt versus Disbelief I

People always like to contrast Faith and Doubt. I think that this is in error. I believe (and I am not alone in this assessment) that faith is empowered by doubt. Doubt is simply honesty… and honesty is not bad. We are limited in knowledge (we don’t know everything). We are  limited in time and space (we have not experienced and cannot experience everything). We are limited in wisdom (we lack the software to unerringly process what knowledge and experience we do have). We should doubt. Not to doubt is simply self-delusion, self-denial, or hubris.

If doubt is not bad in itself… perhaps even unavoidable… what is the result? In truth, the result is our choice… to some extent.

Doubt can empower belief. Is it even accurate to say that one has belief if one does not doubt (or if one is blind to the doubt)? Belief is volitional, doubt is cognitive. Personal experience, analytic statements, and syllogistic /deductive logic can only take one so far. As Lewis Carroll noted via Achilles and his friend, the Tortoise, no logic can ever be truly compelling. Such an attempt would result into an infinite number of logical steps. At some point in time one has to step back and say that they find the evidence they have to be compelling. This is faith. Obviously, pretty much everything in life requires faith of one sort or another. Belief requires faith that is empowered by doubt.

However, doubt can also empower disbelief. The process is not essentially different. One may be faced with the same evidence, the same concerns, the same experiences, the same logic. However, in the end, one finds the counter-argument to be compelling. This is still faith, but faith that leads to disbelief.

In missions, one should not seek to squelch doubt. Rather one should work with people to come to terms with their doubt. In my case, my father helped me process my doubt. My father was the head deacon of our church. Even though we came from a very conservative church, my father did not mind questions that evidenced doubt, or challenged set thoughts. My dad would let me come to my own conclusions (I would anyway) but would do his best to give his own opinion, thoughtfully, and fairly. My dad was also a very smart man. Years ago, when people talk about something being easy, they might say “It’s not rocket science.” My dad actually was a rocket scientist, along with mechanical test engineer, and ‘human computer’ (back before electronic computers were available). This was helpful. Because when I went to High School and some of the teachers challenged my beliefs, I remembered my dad. He was the president of the school board, so why should I be bothered by teachers. When I was in college and in the Navy, I was also challenged by others, encouraging me to have my doubts be channeled towards unbelief. Again, my father helped me direct my doubts towards belief.

Not everyone is so fortunate.