Faith & Doubt

It has been said that "A thousand difficulties do not add up to one doubt."

This may be very well true, especially if we make a clear distinction, between faith as an act of the will, on the one hand, and belief as an exercise of the mind or intellect, on the other. In that case, to have difficulties with various articles of belief like how God could be both three and one (a "Trinity") I s not the same as withholding our willingness to trust God or to hesitate to commit our life to him.

Unfortunately, the life of faith is not always that simple. People, often very good religious people, still often wrestle with real doubts, worried that the commitment they have made to God or the trust they have placed in divine providence may be nothing but an illusion. They sense that faith, in a way, is a gamble. It is something like a marriage, in which we place all our trust in another person, and such trust, to be untroubled by doubt, must assume that the other partner is equally trustworthy and devoted to our well- being. And as sad experience too often proves, such human trust and faith can be misplaced.

But should not faith in God be different? One might hope so, but it is not always that easy. Elie Wiesel, like Viktor Frankl, another survivor of the Nazi death camps, said he never once ceased to believe in the existence of God in the midst of all the horrors he witnessed, but he did continue to doubt for a long time the goodness of God, even for years after the horrors had ended: otherwise, how could God have allowed such terrible things to happen?

So too, quite aside from the many difficulties people may have, real doubt about the God we cannot fully comprehend struggles with our need to trust in God and make sense out of this often senseless universe. But should this not be? If we could fully understand God, would God be God any longer?

In fact, we might even go so far to say, as did the theologian Paul Tillich, that faith that is untroubled by doubt is suspect. For while it is possible that some persons may be blessed with a simple, or even naive, faith, one which suffers from no disturbing doubts, it is more likely that such faith is the result of belief in a God who has been reduced to an idol of our own imagination. Like "cheap grace" a blessing that demands nothing in return a faith that is without doubt may involve no real faith at all! After all, when something is a "sure thing", what need is there to make a commitment to a foregone conclusion?

R W Kropf 5/21/00 Doubt.doc 00-05-21.html