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We often think of doubt and faith as opposites. Either you have one or the other. The presence of faith means you’ve victoriously shoved doubt aside. The presence of doubt means your faith is on the verge of crumbling.
We think doubt means taking the stuff you once believed and erasing it.
We’re wrong about that.
Today I finished reading The Hopeful Skeptic, an excellent book by Nick Fiedler about re-evaluating his childhood faith and not being afraid to ask hard questions of it. Fiedler, who is the cohost of the popular Nick & Josh Podcast, wraps his discussions about Christianity in the metaphor of taking a long journey. He has to decide what he keeps and what he throws away. What essentials are worth saving? What gets left behind? What things are most valuable and what things are just cultural baggage?
He walks the reader through his personal process of asking and trying to answer those questions, and it’s a revealing book about finding the core of Christianity — and true faith — using honest doubt as a tool. Acknowledging doubt isn’t the same as erasing. It’s not abandonment. It’s simplifying and uncovering the truth from within a lot of external packaging.
Fiedler comes to the conclusion that faith and doubt are not exclusive. One doesn’t erase the other. Why not? Because “we have options,” he writes.
Not only do we have many options on what to believe, we have many great, logical and scripturally based options as to what to believe. There is rarely, if ever, a single perfect belief on our planet. So when you get to that snag in your personal beliefs, you don’t have to jump to the polar opposite position. If you find an error in your version of Scripture, you don’t have to declare Scripture to be worthless. If you find that you doubt the complexities of God, you don’t have to become an atheist.
Faith and religion, as most things in life, do not always come down to a simple either-or conclusion — even though there are plenty of bumper stickers and sermons that would have you believe that.
You can be skeptical and hopeful at the same time. You can believe and doubt. In fact, those two things — faith and doubt — tend to work together.
Thanks, Nick, for the reminder.