The Beauty of Doubt
Almost four years ago to the day, I wrote a piece titled “Truth takes a beating …” In it, I lamented the rise of “fake news” and the new category of “alternative facts.”
Not much has changed. If anything, things have gotten worse. Truth finds itself more under assault than ever before. That said, I still have faith that while truth “might lose a battle or two, it always wins the war.”
Over the years there has been another casualty. And that is the vilification of doubt: the belief that doubt is weakness, that doubt is unprincipled, that doubt is evil.
I believe in the beauty of doubt. I’ll go one better. I believe in a God that embraces and works through and with our doubt.
Consider this. In the book of Matthew, Jesus said that “among those born of women there is no one greater than John the Baptist.” Wow. That is a pretty high complement from the Son of God. Yet only a few pages later in Matthew’s same account, this same “no one greater than John” guy asks whether Jesus is “the one?” That is, he doubts.
He asks through his buddies “are you the One or should we be waiting for another?” This is John the Baptist – the same John who baptized Jesus in the River Jordan, the same John who heard God’s voice, the same John who saw the “Spirit descending like a dove.” Still, despite ALL that, John had doubts.
I wonder. Could John’s doubts have been one reason Jesus considered him so great?
I believe there is beauty in doubt. Doubt elicits the winsome qualities of humility, modesty, and open-mindedness. By contrast, the absence of doubt brings out ugly elements of cocksure self-righteousness.
I believe there is community in doubt. Doubt’s questioning, it’s hesitancy, encourages re-examination, inclusion, openness. Doubt’s absence invites isolation, segregation, and discrimination.
Finally, I believe there is wisdom in doubt. Doubt keeps our minds open, inquisitive, wondering. Without it, there is no exploration, no inquisitiveness, no investigation.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we not stand firm in our convictions – that we not stand up and speak out in defense of the beliefs, principles, and morals we hold dear. No. Not at all. Stand tall. Stand strong.
Rather, I’d say we follow St. Peter’s advice to “always be ready to give a logical defense” of our faith but to do so “courteously and respectfully.” Indeed, other Greek translations of that last phrase admonish us to do so “with meekness and fear.”
Not quite, doubt, but close.