Doubt, I think, is the sign of a healthy mind. See, I’m not even sure. But that is exactly why it is healthy, because if I doubt my own ideas it at least means I’m not so foolish to think my own ideas are always right, and at most it most encourage me to find the right idea.
So, it’s a pity doubt is so frowned upon – particularly in Christian circles, where I think a good bit of doubt could do some serious good. Doubt is the soil out of which knowledge grows, and if you take away the opportunity to doubt, lo and behold you are brainwashed.
I doubt everything. I doubt myself. I doubt whether I am good, and I seek to find reasons why I am not, and reasons why I am. It lets me see myself in perspective. I doubt others. I doubt whether anything they say is true; and I seek reasons why what they say is false, and why is it not.
In the end, I find what they say is true about as much as what I say is true – and that we are both entirely prone to error… errors of logic, errors of discernment, errors of character… so many errors. Which is why I doubt myself so much, because if other people are often mistaken – what makes me think I would be any different?
We have limited knowledge and so should have an appropriate caution about what we do with that knowledge. At most, we are only doing what we think is best given what we know. Even the worst criminals and most rebellious teenagers are doing what they consider best given what they think. What they think is based on their experiences. The problem is that their thoughts are often unhelpful to themselves or to others.
And that’s where a good measure of doubt would be useful, because doubt encourages us to seek out more information on which we can base our ideas – and that makes us wiser. As an example, Jesus didn’t criticise Thomas for doubting, He simply filled in the gaps of his doubt by showing him his hands and feet. Thomas was being careful about what he believed, and that, I think, is a good lesson.
So, needless to say, I think little of the idea that doubt somehow has no place in Christianity. I have heard of “blind faith”, and people quoting “we walk by faith, and not by sight”. They conclude we must not doubt anything about God or Scripture, for real faith does not doubt – and I can well understand why they’d think that. Most Bibles use ‘doubt’ for a Greek word which means “to waver”, with reference to the word for ‘faith’.
As discussed previously on this blog and on Andrew’s, this word for ‘faith’ means not belief, but carries ideas of devotion and faithfulness. So, really, being unwavering in devotion is really quite different to having doubts. In fact, true devotion is being committed in spite of doubts. It does not mean we as Christians should not have doubts, but that we should remain committed in our devotion to God.
I question whether God even exists, although such doubt is vastly outweighed by the reasons I have to believe He does. So, I decide, based on my limited knowledge, to believe He exists. Thus, I choose to devote my life to Him, who is my rightful King. But that doesn’t mean I have no doubts – it simply means I am devoted in spite of them.
In the same way, perhaps the landlord of my flat does not actually own the property, and so does not actually deserve my rent. Yet, I believe he does, and so I faithfully pay. Perhaps the account number I was given to pay the rent was incorrect, yet I believe it was correct and so I pay it.
I suppose the conclusion is this: that what we believe is never certain, but that we must believe something whether we want to or not if we are to do something about it. If something is true and right, it should withstand as much doubt and sensible questioning as we can throw at it, while if it is not it will be revealed as such. And so, I am comfortable to question everything, including myself, because I know it will shed light on what is real and dispel the shadows of what is not. And, as what I see is of a God who deserves my devotion, I will be devoted to Him, even though I still have unanswered questions and things I do not know for sure. As I grow up I am more and more convinced about a loving God, and so I am confident questioning things will reveal Him more.