I enjoy listening to a radio program called On Being every Sunday morning on our local NPR station. I began listening many years ago when the program was called Speaking of Faith. Despite the name change, the format has remained fairly constant. The host, Krista Tippett, interviews people from a wide variety of backgrounds and vocations and academic disciplines about truth and faith and their general philosophy of life. Most weeks it is fascinating, stretching, and stimulating.
A few weeks ago Krista’s guests were two scientists—astrophysicists, I believe—who were also Jesuit priests. I found their conversation unusually informative and enlightening. I thought I would mention it here, since the theme—belief and doubt—ties in well with the post I published yesterday.
Here are the two main thoughts I took away from that discussion:
- The opposite of faith is not doubt. It is certainty.
- Spirituality does not begin with faith. It begins with experience. Faith is our response to that experience.
Faith and doubt are not opposites. They are two dimensions of the same reality. Doubt is uncertainty marked by questions. Faith is uncertainty marked by hope. Honest doubt is essential to healthy faith.
Too much of contemporary Christianity is based on unwarranted certainty. That yields pride instead of humility and prejudice instead of love.
George MacDonald, the nineteenth century Scottish minister, was also an author and poet whose influence was acknowledged by writers such as C. S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll. On the subject of doubt and faith, MacDonald wrote:
I cannot say I never doubt… nor… can I wish not to doubt. For doubt is the hammer that breaks the windows clouded with human fancies, and lets in the pure light.
But I do say that all my hope, all my joy, all my strength are in the Lord Christ…; that all my theories of life and growth are rooted in him; that his truth is gradually clearing up the mysteries of this world.
To Him I belong, heart and soul and body, and he may do with me as he will.
Amen. Soli Deo Gloria.