Mike Whitenton notes that James McGrath (whose blog is one of the very best biblioblogs out there, in my opinion) has posted some excellent comments on the presence of doubt in individual and communal faith. I found these words particularly poignant:
Others… object by pointing out that they know many people who have ventured into the tunnel of doubt and have never made it out the other side. To this I respond with a question: Have you ever considered that so many who lose their faith never recover it because they are forced to go through that tunnel alone?
As an instructor in both academic and ecclesiastical settings, I’ve seen numerous individuals suffer from doubts and concurrent feelings of shame (“if my faith were stronger, I wouldn’t feel this way”) and isolation (“no one else seems to have these problems, so I don’t know where to turn for help”). Whether I’m teaching at school or at church, I try to emphasize that feelings of unease and uncertainty are natural occurrences throughout the course of many, if not most, spiritual journeys. Moreover, as someone who has experienced such feelings on numerous occasions, I am eager to serve as a guide, a resource, or simply a companion for those struggling with the implications of an honest and searching examination of their faith—in other words, to ensure that no one is forced to pass through “the tunnel of doubt” alone. I suspect that similar issues play a significant role in the crippling divide between church and academy; the majority of congregations, fearful of the probing questions (and potentially unorthodox answers) of critical scholarship and lacking sensitive leaders with whom they may fruitfully engage the relevant material, simply ignore, obscure, or refute it. While these strategies may prove effective within the physical and psychological walls of the church itself, they cannot permanently immunize congregants from the encounters with disparate people and ideas which will inevitably occur in the ever-shrinking, information-laden global village. Indeed, they tend to diminish the ability of their practitioners to comprehend and cope with unfamiliar or potentially contradictory views.
Take a few moments to read James’ thoughts in their entirety, and be sure to contribute some comments of your own.