Friday, September 10, 2010

The Skeptic in the Sanctuary

On Wednesday I posted about my own journey that has both challenged and and strengthened my faith. Like many who were raised in the church, we discovered a disconnect between the Bible, Faith and reality. I suggested that for me, doubt is what leads to faith.

It must be the week for self-disclosure. Robert Cargill is a guest blogger on Jason Boyett's beliefnet blog today and he describes his own struggles with faith. He goes into far more detail than I did, but I think you will find his story encouraging. Like many of us, he is struggling to live on top of the divide of faith and reason. If this is where you are currently living, then I think you will find it a piece that you can identify with as well as draw encouragement from.

Robert Cargill is a fellow blogger and biblical scholar. He was also the host of the National Geographic special on the Dead Sea Scrolls that I posted earlier.


  1. Maybe it's just me, but I found this post confusing. How does doubt lead to faith? I mean, it sounds good, but how does that flesh out? How can the author reject parts of the Bible as unhistorical, while at the same time, find encouragement by placing faith in other parts of the same book? I think the author is being inconsistent. If the evangelists were not reliable in their testimony about Jesus, than we cannot meaningfully or historically assert his character or even his goodness. Jesus' goodness is completely untestable and unverifiable. With a skeptical view of the Bible, we cannot truly KNOW if Jesus was good or not. While I agree that there is a sanctifying work in doubt; I do not believe it should be celebrated as privileged spirituality. The world needs answers and I don't think Christians help the matter simply by relating to their confusion (the blind cannot lead the blind). God is knowable and the world needs clarity.

    "...while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you." Acts 17:23

  2. Phil,

    Is doubt a sin? Does not Abraham doubt God yet still choose to put trust in God? I do not define faith as that which exists because we have empirical evidence. Faith is required when it does not exist.

    Is it not better for Christians to admit when they have doubts and struggles then to pretend to the world that everything is ok?

  3. Here's how I understand it, Phil.

    "Maybe it's just me, but I found this post confusing. How does doubt lead to faith?"

    In some sense, real faith means having the courage to acknowledge your doubts and pursue the truth, wherever it leaves. If God is real, surely his existence can survive whatever revelations we uncover about the world and the Bible.

    Conversely, a "faith" that is so fragile, its believers must avoid all doubt, all controversy, and all inquiries that have the possibility of overturning deeply held convictions, is no faith at all. It's doubt with a whitewashing of faith meant to look like the genuine thing.

    "How can the author reject parts of the Bible as unhistorical, while at the same time, find encouragement by placing faith in other parts of the same book?"

    By studying each book and each chapter one by one, and studying using our minds and the tools God has put at our disposal.

  4. Thanks for the healthy challenge. Let me say that I also believe that honesty is paramount, and that doubts are part of the human condition. I do not think that doubt is a sin per se. What I do think is that God desires to, like Abraham, move us past our doubts (not build a religion out of it). Abraham doubted, but he later learned that God was who He said he was. Our western and academic culture wants to be comfortable with doubt, because often (in my opinion) it doesn't want to be accountable. We may doubt the truth, and whether or not the scriptures give us the whole truth, but the truth won't change because we don't see it. In the end, I believe that we will find that God is who he revealed himself to be in the Bible. I don't believe that the Bible is that confusing, our divided motives confuse our understanding of the Bible. Of course, I understand that this makes me look like someone who thinks his interpretations are mostly right... I'm OK with that. When it's all said and done we only need to be ready to answer for what WE believe and teach. I think that sometimes we overturn "deeply held convictions" because it boosts our academic image. An example might be accusing Christianity of "Jesusolatry", because we think we know more about the early church in 2011 (thanks to our modern objectivity and critical methods) than the church fathers knew. That can only be the result of a boosted academic ego... in my opinion.