Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Doubt or "Why I Don't Feel Safe in Church"

This is a short one, because I don't want to come off as a cranky old curmudgeon, but be warned, it is a rant.

//Rant Initiated

It's not because I doubt that I don't feel safe in church, it's because I fear how the church will react to my sincere doubt and honest questioning.

I have been called a skeptic, cynic, heretic, rabblerouser (my personal favorite) and all kinds of other names.  I have been asked to leave churches, asked to keep quiet, and more often than not, censored myself in "church settings" and around "church people."  I have lost friends.  I have alienated others and been alienated by yet others.

All for the "sin" of doubt.

In the tradition I was raised in, doubt was seen as the antithesis of faith.  When I asked questions, both as a child and an adult, it was implied that even asking the questions themselves was "sinful."

"Why would you ask something like that?"

...because I don't find your answers to be consistent with the message of Christ.

"It would break Jesus' heart if he heard you say that."

...actually, I'm pretty sure His heart would break if He heard you say that.  Jesus encouraged the asking of questions, and asked many questions himself.

"Don't be a doubting Thomas."

...I read the Thomas narrative a bit differently, in that it was only when Thomas fully embraced his doubt that Jesus came to meet him in the most radical way.  Jesus empathized with the doubt Thomas felt, so much so that he chose to reveal himself to Thomas in the most intimate way.

I look at it this way:
Sound moves through the air.
Waves move through the water.

Doubt is the medium through which my faith moves, so stop calling me a sinner for it.

Doubt is how the Holy Spirit-in Her gentle, nurturing and comforting way-leads me into deeper relationship with God.  So, when you discourage me from doubting, you are discouraging me from engaging God in a deeper, more meaningful way.  When you try to turn doubt into a sin, you're trying to silence the voice of God in my life.

Here's the bottom line:

This is how I work out my own salvation. 
There is much fear
There is much trembling
But in the end, there is always peace.

//Rant Complete.


  1. amen. just because people feel threatened by questions doesn't mean God does. jesus rarely wrapped his messaged up tidily and it's misleading that the church is so inclined to.

  2. @suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} Is that what drive the instinct you think? That people feel threatened? I've tried to put my finger on what it is that drives people to be dogmatic/reactionary, but I've never really been able to nail it down. Ultimately I think it boils down to fear. Fear of being wrong themselves. Fear of deviating from the herd. Fear of hell (Americans are great at fearing hell). Fear of looking weak.

    So much fear...that just doens't feel like faith to me...

  3. I was created to ask questions. I think that the day I just accept the status quo...I die.
    I am sorry your honest questioning led to alienation. They lose.

    Visiting from Joy in this Journey. I may link up if I can figure out how. ;-/

  4. I resonate so much with what you've written, Luke. And I confess, I've been meaning to read your blog for quite some time (at the Twitter recommendation of dear sweet Joy).

    Thanks for the encouraging (yes, they are encouraging to me) thoughts today.


    PS: When I read your post, I was thinking about this one I wrote some time back... not quite on the same subject, but on the same matter:

  5. @freebieI think I'm just wired to ask questions too. That's not to say everyone is, and I would never denigrate the experience of someone who finds their way to faith in a different way. I just wish people would afford we doubters the same courtesy. :)

  6. @Lindsey Talerico-Hedren Thanks for stopping by Lindsey, and I'm glad you're encouraged; I am too. I write things like these because I often feel alone, but I'm always surprised at how quickly I find solidarity with teh interwebz after I put them out there. :)

  7. Yeah, doubting isn't handled well by much of the Church. People become offended when we ask questions for which they don't have answers. So, rather than admit and embrace their own ignorance (and at times, I'm part of "their"), they ask us questions about why we don't believe everything we're taught.

    Some of it isn't consistent with Jesus. Some isn't consistent with logic.

    But they...we...tend to forget the man who cried out to Jesus "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!"

    More tragic still, we often forget the Savior who so mercifully showed grace to the man who lacked "enough belief."

  8. I found you liked up at Joy´s lifeunmasked and I am sooo glad I did!
    I believe questioning our faith is the fire process, whatever gets through that fire was and it will be real forever. And what gets burn (or lost so it does not sound as hell for not doubting people) was not real in the first place. As long as the fire is coming from God´s word (not necessary the pastor or church point of view) it will guide us to God and it will help our faith to grow.
    Been constantly transformed is just passing through this fire ever step of our faith holding on tight to God´s hands and promises. Churches need to hold on tight to these too, so they are able to take us to Christ in the deepest questions they can´t answer.
    Keep questioning but go to the real answer giver, if you know what I mean.

  9. I'm a question-asker, too. I think that's why I like Rob Bell so much--he asks compelling questions, isn't afraid to ask them, and isn't afraid to ask questions without straight answers.

    I also appreciate you referring to the Holy Spirit as a she - I haven't seen anyone do that in a while, but very much appreciate the intentionality behind that!

  10. @Don Sartain I've always loved the tension in that statement. Such honesty. Yes, I believe, but my beliefs also run up against reality that seems to contradict them. Show me the answers, and help me to continue to believe, and to believe more deeply.

  11. @Calie&Daniel I love that you bring up Rob Bell, because the church's reaction to Love Wins is a perfect example, at the macro-level, of how the orthodoxy inappropriately responds to challenges.
    In Love Wins, Rob Bell asks some probing questions about our orthodoxy, and instead of addressing the questions, many simply wrote him off without even exploring the questions he brought up.
    That, to me, says more about the beliefs of those doing the writing off than those being written off.

  12. I started out reading this post feeling a-ok and by the end I was weeping.

    You're right. There is much fear. There is much trembling. And the thought that my doubt is the Holy Spirit leading me, that it's been Her all along, is precious to me.

    Thank you.

  13. I wonder if some of the push-back on doubt from church circles comes because we've seen so many people allow their doubts to take them away from faith - at least, those are the publicized ones. I know three people - two very close friends - who I attended Bible college with. They doubted. Their doubts were responded to gently and appropriately by professors. And they still walked away - one as a raging atheist. Seeing that, why wouldn't parents and pastors respond with fear when they hear a new wave of doubt coming from someone?
    The odd thing is - I noticed in their lives and in my own that it's not necessarily the doubting that leads people away... it's the refusal or the laziness in seeking answers that sucks people away from the truth. If we allow the inertia of doubt to carry on - then yes, we're led astray. If we allow the doubt to carry us towards questions about truth - then as you so eloquently stated, they become what draws us to Christ.


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