Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Doubt It

The above is a recent video from Peter Rollins - saying a lot of the same things he typically says in his books (which I really appreciate and enjoy a great deal). One of his contentions is, essentially, that certainty and one's belief system can, in themselves, become an idol and a barrier to belief. He's calling people to embrace uncertainty and doubt and really to embrace a picture of the world and its workings that's more complex than traditional Christianity has made it.

In the video he mentions briefly the difference between intellectual and existential doubt. I appreciate this articulation, as it may be the most straightforward acknowledgement of such that he's made so far.

I can handle the difference between intellectual and felt doubt - the idea that Rollins presents of Christ addressing his doubts on the cross to God. I can appreciate and support the idea that our worship needs to include more embrace of pain and doubt. What I have trouble discerning from Rollins writing and speaking is whether he intends for this doubt to be separate or divorced from a more intellectual belief in God.

I have always and continue to believe that most of the value of gospel of Jesus Christ is in its ability to bring hope and beauty and peace and love out of the complex web of emotions and events that make up life. When we gather to worship, we do so, at least in part (many would argue in whole) to be formed into the kind of people who live in and embrace this gospel vision.

I do appreciate Rollins' emphasis on the reality of pain, confusion, anguish, and doubt in the world. We don't live in a neat little box with easy answers, nor do we serve an entirely scrutable God. We do need to be content with ambiguity at times and discontent with certainty at others. We also need to extend our belief from the purely intellectual to the experiential - there needs to be a real, felt, physical engagement with the gospel that is beyond belief. It is essential to transformation.

Perhaps Rollins is focusing on the areas we generally lack to highlight their importance, but often his statements come off as dismissing the intellectual affirmation of God's existence. I believe God exists, that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world. At the same time, it doesn't always feel like those are true, and I have certainly experienced moments (and seasons) of life when I truly doubted they were true.

I recognize the importance - really the necessity - of those experiences for all people. I support what Rollins is trying to do; it would just be nice to have a bit of clarity as to the relationship between intellectual understanding and existential doubt. I would love to hear more of his thoughts on the matter.

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