I was thinking earlier today about doubt and the different roles it can play in our lives. As I recently learned in my Church History class, some of the great theologians of our history have discussed the value of doubt. Pierre Abelard, specifically, said that doubt is part of the process of truly understanding things and ultimately coming to a position of faith. In fact, he says, faith is the product of doubt being resolved (if you want more on this specifically, you’ll have to read his work, Sic et Non).

In some ways, I agree with this. Doubt is necessary for our spiritual maturity; without it, we are simply the product of blind belief in something. Doubt is a sign that we have really thought about something, struggled with it, and come to an understanding with a greater sense of clarity and purpose. I used to tell my high school students, “Don’t believe all things things because I told you to, or even because you learned them from your parents or your church. Test them out for yourself. Sit with them. Wrestle with them. Because when that faith gets tested, you will have already established a relationship and dialogue with it. You’ll know why you believe something instead of just believing it.” I told them this with the hopes that they wouldn’t just ditch their faith once the first crisis away from home hit, as so many young people seem to do these days.

Yet doubt can also play another role. It can poison. It can deceive. Doubt can cause someone to second guess or even redirect their God-directed path. This kind of doubt is quite dangerous, and something that every human being has to face in the dark moments of  desolation.

So how does one know the difference between healthy and cancerous doubt? I think it goes back to the “fruits of the tree” notion. What does the doubt cause within you? Does it inspire you to continue to move outward, excite you, motivate you to know more? Or does it contract you, pull you darker inside yourself, and even spill over into other parts of your life with its permeating darkness? You will know the tree by its fruits.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by ProudHusband on February 2, 2009 at 11:31 am

    A wise post by a woman who has both struggled with and benefitted from her doubts.


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