Is Doubt Making a Comeback?


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

A Newsweek article entitled “Moderates Storm the Religious Battlefield” caught my eye this week. In it, Lisa Miller hails what she perceives is a shift from the aggressive, militant attitudes of both staunch atheists and religious fundamentalists to an overall mellowing of tone in the theism debate. “Both sides,” she says, “seek to elevate the thing they have in common: doubt.” 

She referred to several new books to support her thesis. In The Reason for God, (to be released in February), Rev. Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, writes “I urge skeptics to wrestle with the unexamined ‘blind faith’ on which skepticism is based, and to see how hard it is to justify those beliefs to those who do not share them. I also urge believers to wrestle with their personal and culture’s objections to the faith. At the end of each process, even if you remain the skeptic or believer you have been, you will hold your own position with both greater clarity and even greater humility.” 

The article also quotes from a book by Bart Ehrman, due out in March. In it, Ehrman, a biblical scholar and seminary graduate, concludes that he can no longer believe in the Christian God because of all the suffering in the world. In God’s Problem he writes, “some people think they know the answers or they aren’t bothered by the questions. I’m not one of those people.” 

I’m not one of those people either. Problems with Christianity have bothered me since I was a kid. However, I’ve not experienced the same sort of “mellowing” in my own Christian community. My experiences with raising questions about religious pluralism, heaven and hell, biblical inerrancy, and the creation account have not been pleasant ones to say the least.  I’m often told that these are questions that atheists and agnostics ask of believers in order to “corner” them, not questions any self-respecting Christian would pose herself. 

However, if books like these gain popularity within conservative Christian circles, if doubt becomes regarded as a more acceptable (if not necessary) element of faith, then perhaps we searchers will finally have a voice…or at least a safe place to land. 

The article concludes that “what’s dangerous about the world today is not belief in God--or secularism or unbelief--but ruthless certainty. If 2008 is the year when we can begin, in private and in public to concede that we don’t know all the answers, then let us say amen.” 

Here’s a link to the full article: http://www.newsweek.com/id/81388. It was published in the Dec. 31, 2007/January 7, 2008 edition of Newsweek

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