Recently I’ve read 2 books on the faith and doubt issue. In this post, I’ll briefly review one of them: Faith & Doubt by John Ortberg, Zondervan, 2008.
This book is written in a conversational and down-to-earth style. I’d recommend it for Christians in the earlier stages of doubt, or as an introduction to the faith and doubt issue. There are some believers who have never struggled with doubts personally, and just don’t grasp what a problem this can be for some of us. Christians can also incorrectly think of doubt as the opposite of faith, yet the very nature of faith requires the presence of some uncertainty. If we have 100% certainty, then there is no need for faith. (Note the title of the book is Faith & Doubt, not Faith or Doubt.) Rather than say much more, I’ll share some excerpts or sentences from the book that will hopefully give you a “feel” for the book and provide some food for thought.
When people of faith are not willing to sit quietly sometimes and let doubt make its case, bad things can happen. Sometimes people of faith can be glib. Sometimes they respond with bad answers… Sometimes people want to believe but find they can’t.
Doubt is a good servant but a poor master.
Writer Michael Novak says that doubt is not so much a dividing line that separates people into different camps as it is a razor’s edge that runs through every soul. Many believers tend to think doubters are given over to meaningless, moral confusion, and despair. Many doubters assume believers are nonthinking, dogmatic, judgmental moralizers. But the reality is we all have believing and doubting inside us…
The idea of a leap of faith (a term often associated with Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard…) has frequently been misunderstood. It does not mean choosing to believe an impossible thing for no good reason. Sometimes people talk about it as if it is the “leap” in which you ignore evidence, give up on reason, and embrace fantasy. But leap was Kierkegaard’s term for a genuinely free action. Any freely chosen commitment is a leap, such as the choice to marry or have children….The leap of faith is a leap because it involves making a total commitment. It can be for good reasons – reasons we have carefully considered. But it is nevertheless a leap, because we have to commit in spite of fears and doubts…Certain fundamental decisions in life require 100% commitment – passionate engagement. Kierkegaard spoke of faith as a passion. Certain decisions require intense commitment – for example, to live by certain values, to get married, to raise a child (there are no guarantees the child won’t break your heart), to have a friend, to follow God. And some decisions, generally the most important ones, require total commitment but do not give any guarantees.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (11:6). That troubles folks sometimes. They wonder why we have to have faith. It’s true that without faith it is impossible to please God. But without faith, it is impossible to please anybody. Try making a friend without having faith. Try getting married without faith…
We all think we want certainty. But we don’t. What we really want is trust, wisely placed. Trust is better than certainty because it honors freedom of persons and makes possible growth and intimacy that certainty alone could never produce.
God seems to present himself to us in such a way that people who want to dismiss God will be able to dismiss him. He seems to leave space for them. People who do not want there to be a God will find a way to believe that there is no God. Blaise Pascal said that there is enough light for those who want to see and enough darkness for those of a different persuasion. [And from that comes the title of my blog!]