Archive for April 8th, 2010

Our Uncertain Faith

I’ve never really understood why people of faith get so nervous about doubt.  Faith and doubt go hand-in-hand. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe,” says Thomas in response to the disciples’ testimony of actually seeing and meeting the risen Christ. There is a Thomas in each of us.  We’d all like a little proof.  We’d all like to touch Jesus’ wounds with our fingers and our hands in order to confirm all that we have been taught to believe.  But we don’t have that luxury.  We have to believe without seeing.  And that’s near impossible to do without a measure of doubt.

According to 20th century theologian Paul Tillich, the very act of faith requires that we believe in someone we cannot fully know.  We are finite human beings.  God is infinite.  We can have a relationship with God and we can experience God, but there will always be a gap between us as finite and infinite.   In the midst of this gap, in the midst of this anxious place of limited knowledge, faith will always be somewhat uncertain. Therefore, Tillich says, it is impossible to accept our Christian beliefs without some questions, some concerns, and some hesitation.

So why are we so nervous about our doubt?  And why can’t we be more honest in sharing it?  As I drove home after last Sunday’s fabulous Easter worship service, I saw all sorts of people who were not celebrating Easter in church.  As those commissioned to spread Jesus’ Good News (“As the Father has sent me,” Jesus says in this week’s text, “so I send you.”) how can we reach those for whom the church is irrelevant?  How can we reach those outsiders who question our sanity because we believe in a man who rose from the dead?  Well, perhaps we can reach them by being more honest about our faith and our doubt.  Perhaps we can be more relevant by honoring their questions and by admitting that we have questions of our own.  Perhaps we can be more inviting by admitting that we are not certain in faith, but hopeful in faith.  And that we’d like to share that hope with them.

May the words of my mouth, the meditations of my mind, and the feelings of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

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