Thursday, November 6, 2008

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue.

I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Do faith and doubt both have a place in Christian spirituality?


harry coe maynard said...


Doubt can be a friend if it leads to the right thing.

A poem from the end of a great old movie, "A Mortal Storm", Jimmy Stewart resisting the Nazis.

I said to a man who stood at the gate.
Give me a light that I may tred safely into the unknown.
And he replied, go out into the drkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.


Greg said...

Harry coe,

Agreed. Love the poem.

Anonymous said...

In the Old Testament we often have poeple who seem to doubt but it is more like a struggle - not understanding how they could harmonize Gods goodness with something horrible happening on earth. (for example Habakuk). It is not doubting Gods existence.
The New Testament actually gives the impression that doubt is something negative and true followers just believe

(Mt 14,31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. You of little faith, he said, why did you doubt?
Mt 21,21 Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig-tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.
Mt 28,17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.
Mk 11,23 I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.
Lk 24,38 He said to them, Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? - Joh 20,27 Then he said to Thomas, Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.)

It seems that doubt is something negative.
I guess living in a fallen world is the reason why we doubt. We fall and sin ... and doubt.
So maybe for those who doubt, who always question their believes, it should be their aim to be transformed more into the Image of Christ and stop doubting (whereas for others who have other problems they should concentrate on their transformation).

The problem is that I (as a doubter) believe that doubt is necessary for epistemology; that it is the first step to change your mind and to learn things and "find truth". And I often despise those who dont doubt (cause I ask myself whether they were Christians if they hadnt been born in Christian families)
So my opinion is twisted - I appreciate my doubts and have to condemn them (and me) (when I read in the New Testament against me).

(by the way I shall send greetings from Ford)

Greg said...

Welcome to Living Spirituality. You make a good comment.

I wonder if the english word "doubt" is always representative of the NT context? It may be, but there also may be something, in some cases, of confusion, or being puzzled. A number of times Jesus is speaking to his disciples who should believe. Perhaps, doubt and unbelief are not the same thing, and if so the contrast in some of these verses may be between belief and unbelief - and not so much therefore of doubt within the circle of belief.

John said...

Hi Greg,
I agree with Harry Coe. As one who is prone to doubt often, and to question everything, I have come across both healthy and unhealthy doubt. Healthy doubt is doubt that leads to further discovery and exploration, and ultimately hope if what we find is indeed true.
Unhealthy doubt leads to despair, which I have also experienced. Luckily there are places we can go and books we can read, and God is faithful to draw us back and hold us near as we deal with the rollercoaster of life that usually accompanies unhealthy doubt.

Blessings. I trust you're well, my friend.

Susan Barnes said...

Yes I also think there is healthy doubt and unhealthy doubt. Healthy doubt can lead to a greater faith if we are prepared to wrestle with the issues.

Sometimes i think we doubt God because we don't know Him well enough to trust Him.

John said...

Or, we don't think He cares, or that He's big enough to care or do anything about it.
That's how my thinking goes sometimes.

But normally when I say "doubt", it's an intellectual thing, a theological hangup.

I guess there are different ways to doubt! Maybe it depends on what you're doubting...

harry coe maynard said...


Without doubt we could never be surprised by God, Just wish there wern't so many close calls.

Peter sinking has always ammazed me, and Jesus saying Oh Ye of little faith, I mean no one else got out of the boat and he did make it a little ways.

Greg said...

Good way of putting it. Thanks.

Do you think it's possible to say that there is positive and negative doubt, and if so, how does this connect up with Micha's view that the NT seems to portray doubt as only negative?

Greg said...

Thanks. What kind of doubt would it be if we don't know God well enough to trust him?

Same question to you as to John.
Do you think it's possible to say that there is positive and negative doubt, and if so, how does this connect up with Micha's view that the NT seems to portray doubt as only negative?

Greg said...

Harry coe,

Same question to you as to John and Susan.

Do you think it's possible to say that there is positive and negative doubt, and if so, how does this connect up with Micha's view that the NT seems to portray doubt as only negative?

Susan Barnes said...

I think the NT appears to present doubt in a negative way because Jesus was here in the flesh. They should have had more faith because they saw Jesus' compassion, his care, his love, his mercy etc. I think Jesus was often disappointed that they didn't have more faith. They had more evidence then anyone had ever had previously.

I think we doubt because we don't have child like trust that God has our best interests at heart.

Some have a distort view of God thinking he is only interested in their comfort. So they get disappointed when God doesn't answer their prayers the way they want or expect. They end up doubting his existence or doubting his love etc. All because they don't really know God.

Greg said...

Good. Having Jesus' presence in flesh, and resurrected flesh at that, may imply that those who were with him, saw his deeds, and heard his teaching, should have had greater faith, but can we rightly distinguish between us and them?

I agree that our misconceptions about God can cause much doubt. Not knowing God revealed as he is often turns into making God who we want God to be, and ultimately this will take so much faith that is loses its credibility, or end up in pressing doubt and perhaps eventually unbelief.

John said...

I agree with Susan, but I also think whether doubt is positive or negative (so my answer to your question, Greg, is yes) depends on what you are doubting and how you deal with that doubt.

Doubts about the character of God, whether He truly cares about us, etc are pretty big doubts, and those, while sometimes necessary and definitely not wanted, are the ones that we must watch out for, because they can lead to disenchantment, bitterness, and eventually unbelief if unchecked, I fear. Also brings in the need for community and a place where you can question and be encouraged to seek truth, and be pointed that way.

But other things are good to doubt! Different theological perspectives that look good on paper, but don't hold water for real life ("reality"). The effectiveness of the American church. Then again, this may be better labeled "questioning" than doubt. I doubt the veracity of Calvinism and I question it. Is this doubt?

Doubt, in the passage that Micha shared (hi Micha, by the way!) seems to be looked down on because, as Susan said, Jesus was there in the flesh and had proven himself. Peter did not believe that Jesus was who He was, or that Jesus was powerful enough to do what He said He could do, when Jesus had proven Himself time and time again to them. Do we do the same thing today when we question God, when we think He doesn't care? Maybe. And that's convicting.

Greg said...

Good response. Thanks.

You wrote, "Peter did not believe that Jesus...."

I wonder if not believing is the same as doubt?

I fully concur though that there are many things not worth believing and many others that are worth doubting.