What exactly is doubt? And how is it related to faith? People who like to play games with words and where straw men are built in every paragraph for the sheer joy of dismantling them, have an interesting conception of doubt. That is, the “true believer” should doubt everything and allow all sorts of things to challenge faith for the sake of growth and coming closer to the Truth (which I take, in conversations with Christians, to be Jesus Christ). Nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. If we really do have a God who is the Truth, then no amount of falsehood or semi-truth (which is, in the end, the same thing) can shake Him. He simply Is, and there’s nothing we can do about that.
So, the argument goes, anyone who is after certainty is “inauthentic” (you can smell the emergent buzzwords coming a mile away). There’s nothing certain for finite believers. And, anyone who is after certainty must, of course, be so afraid of troublesome questions that he or she takes refuge in fideism (or “faith in faith”). This seems to me to be the position of David Dark in this essay. He begins by stirring up his students from the safety of their sheltered Christian upbringings (which will always happen to any believer who reads a book, has a TV, surfs the internet, or watches movies, I contend) by telling them that it’s okay to read people like Nietzsche, Kafka, and Camus. Really? You mean, they’re not on an official Christian Index of Banned Books?
But there seems to be one glaringly unexamined twist in the line of argument Dark pursues: that because humans (even human believers!) naturally experience doubt and uncertainty and confusion, that those things are to be embraced. This is the way I am, so it must be good. Again, God can handle doubts and questions and arguments and even shouted disagreements; the question is, can you? I am not convinced that every Christian can handle even the weakest challenge to the Faith, let alone their faith, even if their Christ can. Dark cites Chesterton, perhaps where he speaks about doubting your doubts, but he does not cite Chesterton on the virtue of coming to firmer and firmer conclusions (see here). There are Christians (they don’t like to be called that) of a certain stripe who see doubt as a good thing per se, which seems to mean that they want to come to fewer and fewer conclusions.
And far from being a tradition in which doubts and questions are suppressed in favor of an uncritical, blind faith, Christianity is a robust culture in which anything can be asked and everything can be said.
That’s true, as far as it goes, but it is not always true that the opposite of “doubts and questions” is “uncritical, blind faith.” In fact, one might (this might be hard to believe for some people) have come through doubts and questions to a firmer and more robust faith in Christ, who is Truth. I can’t help but get the feeling that people like Dark revel in the doubts and the questions, and have no desire to stand firm on anything. In fact, what if the faith that always and everywhere embraces whatever doubts and questions it can find is only a different sort of fideism? Perhaps it is a “dubeism.”
Of course Jesus does not drive away honest questioners, but if they are truly honest, then they want the answers, or at least, if the answers cannot be had, an assurance that Christ is bigger than the question. Clearly, there are all sorts of things to which finite beings will never have the answers this side of the new creation (maybe not even then); but there are the revealed things. There are, as much as Dark’s sort of questioner might not like it, things that are hard and fast. There is, as far as the Scriptures are concerned, right and wrong, and they are non-negotiable.
So should Christians be afraid, lest God be made “angry and insecure,” in Dark’s words, by a “good film about homosexual cowboys”? I’m sure it’s a negative to the insecure part, but the anger part might be another thing altogether (something about “abomination” comes to mind). Christians have nothing to fear for God’s sake; but it’s another thing altogether whether they should fear for their own sake. All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. Someone who could use the words “I am fully convinced” said that.