Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Doubt Your Doubts (an orthodox rebel responds to David Dark)

In my previous post, I mentioned how there is a movement amongst many young Christians to break out of what they perceive to be the confining and dead systems that defined the Christianity of their parents' generation. Sometimes that's a good thing, leading you out of a cramped or shallow mock-Christianity and into the real fellowship of the real God and real Christ. Other times, however, and more often than not, it becomes an excuse to dissolve every central doctrine of the Faith and erect your own private edifice instead. Rebellion is a good thing when it leads to the truth, but a horrible evil when it becomes a cloak for your own will.

If you're wondering where this kind of thinking came from, rebellion's as old as Adam. If you want to know where the current kind of thinking amongst most young Christians came from, then go do some research (this is a blog, not an encyclopedia). However, if you want a starting point for understanding this kind of thinking, then I recommend reading this article (and maybe even the book advertized in it). Author David Dark, aside from having the coolest name ever, lays down what he believes to be the foundation for a true Christian faith: the sacred duty of doubting.

I'm not sure what you'll think of that article, but it absolutely frustrates me, for two reasons.

The first is because I actually agree with its surface assertions. God has not called us into a holy bubble. There is a place for mystery as well as a deep sense of the "incomprehensible" (as some church fathers put it) in God and His activities. There is no reason to simply discount something outside of our preconceived parameters (e.g., if Nietzsche says something legitimately true, then it is true regardless). As I've argued multiple times before, God regularly smashes our preconceived notions and parameters to pieces so that we may draw closer to the real Him. The foundation of all Christian thinking and living is humility, i.e., the recognition of my smallness before God's bigness. On these points, I am in agreement utterly and without question or qualification.


The second reason that it frustrates me is because of what's underneath all of those agreeable assertions. I cannot help put sense that they are simply a veneer hiding something, something that not even Mr. Dark may see. But I do see it, because I've seen and heard it plenty of times before: he attempts to convince us that doubt is not a "dirty word" by making "certainty" into a dirty word.

Yes, absolute certainty can be "corrosive" (as he says), but does Mr. Dark really not see that absolute skepticism is equally corrosive? If you claim to know everything, doubting nothing, then you cannot have community (except with those who agree exactly as you do). But if you "question everything," doubting all, then you cannot have community either, for community requires something around which we can unify. Much to Mr. Dark's chagrin, you cannot unify around doubt. It is impossible, because doubt is fundamentally fragmentary: it holds to nothing but its questions, and to question is to pull apart, to dissect the whole, to deconstruct the structure until it spills its secrets. In short, doubt can never build. It only destroys.

Sometimes such destruction is necessary. Take the Socratic Method, for example. The whole thing is based on questioning and questioning, on leaving no interrogative stone unturned. Yet the point of such questioning (and this is key) was to arrive at, or at least approximate, some kind of answer that would satisfy. It was destruction that was a precursor to construction. It was going somewhere, somewhere real and solid, somewhere that could be reached and not endlessly deferred. I find it odd that Mr. Dark would quote Chesterton to back up his claims, the same Chesterton who believed in "drawing the line somewhere," and who said, "I open my mind for the same reason that I open my mouth: to close it again on something solid."

Of course, the Bible is full of people who had "doubts and honest questions." Just look at the Psalms, right? But then again, really look at the Psalms. Every time God's goodness is questioned or His sovereignty doubted, it was always reasserted by the end. Every time honest doubt was expressed, there was always a return to the sacred certainty that God is who He says He is. That is real solid ground and not just a bubble. But if you elevate questioning to a "sacred duty," then there can be no solid ground, because there is no answer that ought not to be questioned and questioned and questioned and questioned and questioned and questioned and questioned....

If I could meet Mr. Dark, I would actually like to ask him a question:

"To where is your so-called sacred questioning leading us? Where can it go if it doesn't want an answer? Isn't endless questioning without desiring an answer merely babble? Isn't journeying without seeking a destination merely being lost? Are you not opening a void before us, one that can never be filled, not even with the infinite substance of God? You say you want to lead us closer to God, but how can that be possible when all there is is questioning? What's to keep God Himself from dissolving in your acidic doubts? Shall we doubt that He is love? That He is holy? That He came in the flesh? That He is even there at all? Why shouldn't we? After all, the only sacred thing is questioning, which means that the only sacred thing is that nothing is sacred."

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

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