Doubt means we are thinking something through. We are grappling with it. We are trying to process and understand it. Doubting is not necessarily sinful. Unbelief is an act of the will, while doubt is born out of a troubled mind and a broken heart. And even the great apostle Paul was discouraged. He wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 1:8: “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.” So if you are struggling with doubts, you are not alone.
Likewise, people sometimes describe a doubting posture as a scientific attitude. However, whereas most working scientists will not be embarrassed about their skeptical attitude, indeed may even vaunt their questioning modes in many contexts, religious thinkers, especially as theologians, tend to underplay the faith component in their religion, arguing instead that there are logical and rational modes by which faith can be justified.
In fact, there is a respectable branch of theology, called apologetics, whose avowed purpose is to defend the doctrines and dogmas of a religion on the basis of reason and rationality, either to combat opposing and dissenting these, or for persuading uncommitted souls to join a particular faith community.
We board a plane, trusting the pilot’s skill and sobriety. This is essentially what we call trust. In many instances, we simply don’t have a choice. Nothing happens all by itself, i.e. every observed event has a cause. Yet, the scientific enterprise accepts them as true. These too fall under the category of faith.
People who take note of deaths from natural disasters and unanswered fervent prayers may find it difficult to accept this assertion. However, we must understand here that in the scientific realm seeing refers to all the convincing data one can get through the sensory faculties, and through reason; whereas in religion it means recognition through intuition and deep conviction.
Some have suspected that it is due to some genetic coding. Conversely, ardent religionists have analyzed the mindset of unbelievers. Their explanations are often quite simple: The deluded unbelievers have succumbed, they say, to the temptation of the devil or have fallen under the spell of some evil spirit; that the poor creatures haven’t yet received the Grace of God, or that the inability to sing God’s glories is a consequence of evil deeds perpetrated in past births.
Many positive things have arisen in human history by belief as well as by doubt, that there have been great scientists and thinkers who have been men and women of deep faith, and many horrible acts have been committed in the name of Faith.
Quite the contrary effects have resulted in these cases.It does not seem to occur to either group that essentially they both share certain common features: Both are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that their own understanding of whatever may or may not lie beyond the world of perceived reality is the right one, that there is an implicit arrogance in their attempts to analyze and explain the innermost beliefs of the opposite group, that if one is obsessed with explaining everything, the other mistakes experiences of hopes, ecstasies, and transcendental visions with physical reality.
These are people who unsympathetically reject outright all the religious narratives about the distant past or its prognostications about what is to come in the very distant future, let alone about God and angels and such.
In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any consideration. Do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. Corporal punishment for wrong doing, however unfortunate, is understandable. But to burn fellow beings on the stake, sever their heads or maim their bodies because they had different notions of what constitutes God or afterlife, the executors not having the slightest evidence as the incontrovertible correctness of their own contentions: this is incredible to those who have advanced somewhat from medieval mentality.
A concluding thought, as along as skeptical unbelievers who tend to think they are the only scientifically enlightened members of the human family, regard traditional believers as misguided, irrational, and worse, there really can’t be a healthy dialogue between science and religion.
We risk something essential when we put our faith in it. We risk ourselves. Welcoming doubt into my faith lets me experience again the magnitude of Christ’s gift, invites me to say again, “My Lord, and my God,” and demands that I risk it all again, allowing myself to be made over in the image of Christ.