Monday, July 21, 2008

Blessed Doubt

A brief essay briefly exerpted at the Episcopal Cafe is on Doubt:

"Peter Steinfels has a provocative column in the New York Times that discusses the importance of doubt to our modern faith. The question he raises is this: is our doubt a transition to a life without faith? Or is modern faith simply more comfortable with doubt? While inconclusive, the data seems to point to the first option:

“Belief in God isn’t quite the same thing in 1500 and today,” writes Charles Taylor in “A Secular Age” (Harvard University Press, 2007), his formidable exploration of how the conditions of religious belief — and of unbelief, too — have changed for modern Westerners."

COMMENT: Sigh.... Such a false dichotomy. I have come to love my bouts of doubt. Doubt has proved to be the work of the Spirit in my life--to make me aware of the pitfalls of romanticism, narrowness and the darkness of deadly assurance.

Doubt is not an obstacle to faith nor the transition to un-faith, but is the doorway to a deeper and broader revelation of the eternal mystery. In the discussion of the above article, faith and belief are used synonymously. Faith, for me, is not belief.

Belief is confidence in answers to questions. I have no belief. Belief is a place of confidence and no mystery. But I have faith. Faith is a place of mystery.

Faith dwells where there are no answers, but only the opening up of vistas for which there are few words. Faith is trusting even utter devastation and death. Faith is not a state of mind, but a way of being.

Doubt is faith with an imagination that leaves belief at the door of the Sunday school classroom. Yes?

Also, Jim Naughton at the Episcopal Cafe provides this bit of news from the opening Eucharist of the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury:

"While talking to the press on the green I learned that Bishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone and some others had not taken communion at the Eucharist. This strikes me as very poor theology. I’d take the Eucharist with a congregation full of murderers, not as an endorsement of their worth, but as an acknowledgment of my need. To willfully reject an opportunity to receive the body and blood of Christ because you have theological disagreements with other members of the congregation seems an act of incredible spiritual pride. In pursuing the strategy, Venables asserts his right to pass judgment on the guest list for the Lord’s Supper, a meal at which he himself is a guest."

COMMENT: So, if +Venables is refusing communion at Canterbury, why the hell is he even at the conference? --the whole basis of being a member of the Anglican Communion resides in the idea that one takes communion with the See of Canterbury.... and here he is refusing to do so. If this is true, I'd say he had excommunicated himself. --someone ought to finish the job he has begun and kick the wad-head out.... Stupid. Stupid. Mean. Stupid.

Obviously, Venables has no doubt... and therefore perhaps a very strong belief, and little faith....


jr said...

Doubt as the portal through which we move to a faithless life? I don't think so. How in the world, who in the world ever can or has experienced faith without doubt? Without some moment of uncertainty? Without wondering why it must be as it is in that moment? They are certainly inexorably interwoven in our life & in our journey. To set up this false dichotomy does a disservice to both doubt & faith. You landed on it "spot on."

Jane R said...

Doubt is not an obstacle to faith nor the transition to un-faith, but is the doorway to a deeper and broader revelation of the eternal mystery. In the discussion of the above article, faith and belief are used synonymously. Faith, for me, is not belief.

Bingo. Thank you.

Michael M said...

John Westerhoff has said, "The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty."

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Yes, yes, to you and to the other commenters.

Doubt is so often the precursor to growth for me.

Father David Heron said...

It's time someone pushed Venables' Southern Cone up where the sun doesn't shine

FranIAm said...

This is so good Margaret. I am a real lover of doubt in the sense that it is integral to the whole. I have written about it twice over at my churchyplace, both old posts, not trolling for comments.

As for the whole Venable thing, I have really struggled with that... How do you refuse the table of the Lord?

I don't get that at all.

jr said...

As to the refusal to come to the table...hmmm. I seldom refuse an invitation for a scrumptuous meal in someone's home (and that could explain any number of things, but is a different matter entirely.) Be that at it may, I can honestly say that I don't recall ever accepting an invitation, arriving as a guest and then announcing to the host that I wasn't too keen on the other guests and would therefore not be dining with them that evening. Bad theology not withstanding, it is simply poor manners & we here in the South would not look favorably upon such as that.

What to "do" with the poor fellow seems to be another matter altogether and dog gone it, my suspicion is that the "answer" to the question is no where near as fun as some responses I can imagine. At the end of the day, the only true, response I can envision is that we ask him to come back time, anytime. What he did was perhaps at best foolhardy and rude,but in doing so he is merely revealed as a sinner in need of grace. Hardly a news flash in my life, home, parish, or world. If I am not invited to the table any or everytime I am a bonehead I will most certainly starve to death.

God have mercy on the Southern Conehead.

johnieb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
johnieb said...

I believe the explanation is called "Donatism", Fran.

Crimson Rambler said...

I thought the erstwhile Presiding Bishop ++Frank said it best in his sermon at the LAST Lambeth...does anybody else remember that one? It makes my spine tingle just to remember reading about it, even yet...

it's margaret said...

jr --you are right. As frustrated as any of us may get, we cannot refuse him the constant invitation. Damnit!

And, crimson rambler --no, I don't remember what ++Frank said. I do remember the conference and its consequences. But that is all. Please, tell more.

Franiam --we are sisters in doubt! no doubt about it!

Grandmère Mimi said...

If this is true, I'd say he had excommunicated himself.