Friday 6 March 2015

Who is better - the Christian of solid faith (who never doubts), or one who has doubts?

In liberal-ish Christian circles, there has long been a cult of the doubter being superior to the man of untroubled faith.

(CS Lewis wrote of this some seventy years ago.)

There is a superficial appeal in this idea, especially for intellectuals, since not to doubt can be portrayed as unthinking, dumb, dogmatic fanaticism; and because after all nearly everybody has doubts and nearly everybody wants to be admired - so having doubts is made to seem admirable.

But doubts are analogous to temptations. Temptations are bad in themselves, but we can't help having them (even Christ had them). To yield to temptations is bad. But to be tempted and to overcome without yielding is best of all (again, this is what Christ did).

So - it is better (so far as it goes) to be faithful than to doubt; because doubts tend to lead to loss of faith (equivalent to yielding to temptation).

But to have doubts and to overcome them is better than never to have doubts - because it leaves us stronger than before. (This being equivalent to being tempted and resisting temptation.)

The faithful believer who has overcome doubts is therefore better than the believer who was never troubled by doubts; better because he has been tested and passed the test.

But that does not, not, not mean that the Christian believer should seek-out temptations or deliberately entertain doubts; because when doubting is mistakenly given positive encouragement it turns-out that there are innumerable doubts, which will then mutually-reinforce, and feed-off each other, so multiplying faster then the capacity to overcome them.



Luqman said...

I dont believe there is such a thing as a man with truly unshakeable faith. Faith is not knowledge and though it may be matched with conviction room always exists for doubt. That is why there are no heights one cannot fall from, no spiritual station that is guaranteed. The believer who has no doubts is more of a partisan than a man with true faith.

Bruce Charlton said...

@L - I disagree; although you may simply be saying you don't believe that nobody could not be made to doubt.

But untroubled, undoubting faith in the religion of the tribe has been the norm throughout most of human lives and most of human history - and probably still is.