“Be merciful to those who doubt” these are powerful words, words with the power to give hope to those who naturally tend to question.
Now, after long years of demonizing doubt, many faith communities are finding that doubt has an important role in the life of faith.
As modernity and its obsession with certainty crumbled under its own weight, and we began to wrestle with what it means to be a Christian in the post-modern post-Christian West, doubt was welcomed back through the doors of the church.
In retrospect that was something of a mixed blessing.
Those who tended to ask hard questions, who often were seen as rocking the boat, suddenly found a new freedom to ask these questions, and the comfort of knowing they were not alone their doubts.
For many of us, the initial attraction to the emergent/emerging church movement was that it offered a place to ask the questions we never felt free to ask in our churches or schools.
The rise of emergent authors who spoke openly about their doubts, and who publicly challenged the (often wrongheaded) assumptions of evangelicalism, was like a fresh breeze blowing away the accumulated dust of a fundamentalist past.
To this day I believe that this shift was important, even necessary, to the health of the church and particularly my own faith.
But along the way something happened.
Doubt became a virtue.
Questioning became an end unto itself.
Instead of encouraging us to question our fundamentalist (or liberal, or…) baggage, instead of simply challenging the ways the church had been co-opted by partisan politics and other unbiblical narratives, doubt became the very substance of our faith.
Whatever the topic at hand, we could quickly question the assumptions, second guess the motives, and deconstruct the story – usually without offering anything of substance to take its place.
In other words, we became cynics.
But here’s the thing, cynicism isn’t an end worth pursuing. Questions need to be asked, and for many of us doubt is simply a part of faith, but the Scriptures never speak of doubt as a virtue. Doubt should no more be demonized than it should be deified.
You cannot build a faith on cynicism alone. Deconstruction must be followed by building something new.