With Mother’s Day a few days away I’ve been thinking about my mother. She is a compassionate and wise confidant. A compliment from her means more than some from others because she understands what I’m trying do, what the objectives are. But mostly I’m thinking about an insight that she passed on to me from Dr. Henrietta Mears. Dr. Mears, or “Teacher” as she was affectionately called, the Christian Education Director at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, CA., introduced both of my parents to Jesus Christ and shared a home with our family for about 10 years.
Alright, you’ve waited long enough for the insight. During one of our discussions about my struggles with Christian faith and my sense of tormented meaninglessness, my Mother passed along these words from Henrietta Mears: “Never doubt in the darkness what you’ve seen in the light”. I took this to mean at least: trust what you thought when you were rested and thinking clearly. Also: when you are going through circular thinking and struggling with doubts in the fog, wait. You’ll think clearer later.
There is a healthy questioning which is helpful to our faith. It keeps us growing and learning. Presbyterian writer Frederick Buechner has said: “Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith”.
There is also a kind of doubting that torments and stunts Christian faith, the kind that James writes of in his letter: “The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (1:7). I take comfort though, that people with any non-Christian world view will also struggle with doubt. C.S. Lewis commented once that “the young atheist can’t be too careful about his reading”.
In the last couple of centuries, our culture has added to the ancient pattern of human doubting a new pattern: systematic doubt. The rule is that nothing may be believed if it can be doubted. We must find what cannot be doubted and then make valid inferences from what is indubitable. However, no one in practical matters can or does follow these rules. The rules began to look arbitrary and are used selectively against Christian belief. So I say why torment ourselves; let’s break the rules!
Another way of expressing this wisdom: “Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts”. The way we expressed it on one of our coffee house cards was: “The devil gets no space on my hard drive!” I believe that God gave me a mind and furthermore that he has given me access to the mind of Christ. So I will spend my gift for the Church and for the Kingdom of God. I will be engaged with culture and with hard questions toward that end. However, I will not do the devil’s thinking for him or get bogged down in “systematic doubt” or throw “flaming arrows” (Eph. 6:16, NRSV) at myself!
May you know joy and peace in believing,