Thursday, October 02, 2008

Healthy Doubting

Recently my daughter became aware of the differences between Muslims and Christians (one of her best friends is an Egyptian Muslim boy). So she used to ask her friends if they believed in Jesus, of course Ahmed, the boy, said yes. In fact he was convinced all Egyptians believed in Jesus (I won't tackle that one or his declaration one day that God gets angry with us if we eat pork). So in order to discriminate she started asking her friends if they were Christians. One of her friends was curious about that, so I love the respect Elyssa showed when she asked that girl to ask her parents if they minded her sharing about Jesus. But I loved even more her approach to sharing Jesus. Once she got to tell her friend about Jesus she relayed the story to her mom. One of the things Elyssa shared was sometimes she wondered if the Jesus and God were just something the devil made up.

Now at first that was incredibly funny (and still is). But I also think it is quite profound. She has been hanging out with some more fundamentalist Christians at a kids club, and we've had many deep conversations. I encourage questioning, I think it is very healthy. I also am greatly encouraged that she does not feel obliged not to doubt! Doubting is very natural and even reasonable. Especially in light of the injustice of this world. One has to be quite callous to not suspect God is a rich man's invention when you witness the abject poverty experienced throughout much of the world. The question of theodicy, or how can God and evil co-exist, is the fuel for much of the best theology in our time. And well it should be.

Doubt should lead us to wrestle. What do we know that we know? Doubt is the tool that most adequately reveals true faith. Doubt peels away the layers of surity we use to insulate the fragile core of our faith. I find that evangelicals, in particular, do not deal well with unsurity. But an honest assessment of life reveals contradiction, injustice and suffering. To pretend otherwise does not strengthen our faith any more than believing through sheer force of will. Folks who dismiss doubt are not interested in truth, they are interested in self-security which they are convinced only surity can bring. Those are the folks who have the most to lose when their faith is challenged.

Doubt does not mean giving up your faith, but recognizing that faith is what calls us to conversion. Conversion is not about repentance (although repentance is often the fruit of conversion) but rather about changing the way we understand life. Conversion is the beginning that we continually return to, like Job whose view of humanity is forever altered when he names his new daughters. Conversion is prompted by the need exposed by doubt, especially when doubt raises a cry for hope in the real core faith of ones heart. Doubt is the friend of faith as much as surity is faith's enemy.

Last night at supper Elyssa was keen to offer up her prayer of thanksgiving for the meal. Her prayer was filled with both faith and questions, she asked God to reveal if Noah was a real person, because she "really wants to know." Her maturing faith delights me all the time.

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