Monday, December 29, 2008

I have such doubts

Ever since I was a little kid, I was fascinated by the testimonies that would say "I know X, I know Y and I know Z." I wondered what it meant to KNOW that something was true. Was there some sort of empirical test for these supposed eternal truths? If there was, I wanted to know about it. They talked a lot about prayer, scripture reading, fasting, paying tithing, pondering on the deeper matters of the gospel. But how did people come to a knowledge rather than an understanding of the truth? I was puzzled. As a person who likes to see answers right in front of him, I doubted. I still do. But it is now just a matter of definition.

This week I saw the movie Doubt. I loved the play for its rich ambiguity. The movie was less ambiguous, but several quotes from it stuck with me.

"You have no proof Sister!" says Father Flynn "No but I have my certainty" replies Sister Aloysius. At another point, if I remember correctly, there is discussion of certainty being an emotion. I tend to agree with this definition.

Frankly, despite our best intentions, we cannot know much of anything for certain. Sure we can know that the first person present indicative of the verb hablar is hablo but in a religious context we cannot know much of anything. That's why I walk by faith with doubt alongside me. Doubt is not something negative, despite what people say. I tend to think that in the Church we fear doubt because we think it divides us. In reality, as Father Flynn attests, Doubt binds us in a way that faith cannot. We all have doubts. We have doubts that we will make it through the day, doubts about the future. But isn't this the greatest way for us to bond? Share our doubts and sorrow and rejoice together, remember the promises in which we walk.

So at this time, for those of you who call me a heretic for espousing doubt I leave you with this quote.

We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts- Hugh B. Brown


Catherine said...


Madd Town said...

"Sure we can know that the first person present indicative of the verb hablar is hablo but in a religious context we cannot know much of anything." Oh, pure Jacob. Hahaha. I miss you oh so much little pal.
This post of yours really spoke to me. I do agree with you that doubts are a binding thing, and not necessarily bad. They are a weakness given to us to make us desire to pursue the truth more, and in some cases, to humble us and bind us with those around us. But, like any other weakness, we musn't dwell on on the doubts or let them consume us, but seek to replace them with faith and, sometimes, knowledge. I have difficulty knowing things too, Jacob, but that's what the mighty struggle is all about, right?
Missing you more every day.

daine said...

I don't think doubt is a weakness, rather a tool for figuring things out and coming to grips with our inability to ever really "know" anything in this life. So glad you liked Doubt, I too loved it. Great post, Jaap.