Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Benefit of Doubt

For an interactive/visual representation please use this Prezi originally prepared for a jr.high audience. 
You may be interested in this short review of a recent book on doubt.

Perhaps the most famous Doubter in Christian thinking is so-called Doubting Thomas. But Thomas the Realist is by no means the only one. In fact, nearly all the disciples doubted the resurrection of Jesus before they saw him. And what about Job who doubted the justice of God? The psalmists and prophets who doubted the favor of God? David who doubted his anointing? And what of John the Baptizer who doubted Jesus’ Messianic claim? In fact many of the believers in the early church doubted the truth of Jesus’ proclamations; for this reason, the apostles wrote concerning them—to know that Christ would return, to know that sins are forgiven… in fact every corrective statement in Scripture is a rebuttal of doubt.

You see, doubt is a struggle, a fight, at the very deepest levels of belief: it is not a rejection of what is believed, but rather it is a bout—entering into the ring with opposing thoughts and fighting for the prize.

Really this happens countless times a day, but most are quick skirmishes easily settled with a powerhouse right hook because you’ve been trained to believe something already. So if I made a statement, your warrior mind is prepared to knock it out almost immediately, or to put its arm around him as a good friend.

The world exists.

God has created you.

Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity.

The goal of life is to make money.

Jesus was married.

Salvation is about me.

The chief end of man is loving others.

In the former examples, I know how I hope you responded. But if American Evangelicalism is your religion, I also know that making money has a certain pull to it, ‘salvation is about me’ is pretty good, and ‘the chief end of man is loving others’ sounds like truth.

If on the other hand you’ve been trained in biblical Christianity, you likely immediately killed the belief about money and that salvation was about you; while you beat up the final statement then held it up—since the chief end of man is bringing glory to God by enjoying him forever, and loving others is a primary method for accomplishing this goal.

We typically only recognize doubt as doubt when it is sustained for more than a few minutes. It’s then that our minds are drawn to the battle and we focus on every blow laid upon each. These issues vary from person to person, but there’s a social sphere too: what’s popularly debated in the world today. Things like euthanasia, homosexualitymarijuana, gun laws, young/old earth & evolution.

Doubt is the necessary means to disregarding false belief and embracing true belief.

What is truth?

Truth is that which is properly aligned to God.

Get the ‘objective’ language out of your vocabulary, and the same with ‘absolute truth,’ because chances are you’ve been taught to use them incorrectly. And especially stop saying ‘subjective truth’ because you simply do not understand what “those Postmoderns” actually mean.

So even though ‘gun laws’ don’t seem like a faith-issue (unless you are an American Evangelical Republican worshiping God-AND-Country), if God really created all things then all must be rightly aligned with him for it to be considered true (or at  least purely-truly good). What you believe about God shapes the way you view guns. And laws. And circumstances. So it may not be a ‘doubt’ discussed in church because it doesn’t seem to cause people to leave/join the church, but that does not mean your belief of God has no bearing upon it.

Doubt is beneficial because you and I are wrong about things. And the only way to become correct, or more true, is to doubt former beliefs, reject the false, and embrace the true. Sure this calls into question things you were taught all your life, but that’s okay. A refusal to subject your beliefs to questions reveals that you believe your God (or god) is not capable of sustaining true faith through different understandings.

Everybody believes something all the time. ‘Unbelief’ is simply ‘Belief’ in something else. But doubt is not ‘unbelief.’ Doubt is the battleground, ‘Unbelief’/’Belief’ is the world order afterwards. Who is in control? What are they doing? How do they interact with the conquered?

Doubt is the headline match: will you believe God who is the revealer of truth, or will you believe a truth mis-defined by your gods?

The god you worship will shape the way you view and interpret the world.

The way you view and interpret the world will give you a set of values.

Your values will determine your actions.

If you reject God, it’s because you lost the battle long ago too many times.

The doubters in Scripture wrestled with what they thought they knew and what might be true. That's why the Psalmist always returned to what he was certain he knew about God, his character, and his past actions. That's why Paul reminded believers of the truth that was handed down to them (and which was attested to throughout the world): Jesus incarnate, living, dying, resurrecting, ascending, seating, giving, interceding, returning. That's why John the Baptizer sought reinforcement of belief; why God responded to Job; why God confronted Sarah; why God convinced Thomas.

After the doubt, if you lose your former belief, then may the new be the true victor. And I hope it wasn’t because you fixed the fight.

After the doubt, if you maintain your former belief, then may you have it with new appreciation and joy; may it be stronger for the next time. And I hope it wasn’t because you fixed the fight.


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