Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Certainty, doubt and faith.

Who was it who said 'The older I get the more and more sure I become about less and less'? Whoever it was, thank you! I have quoted that on many occasions. I began my Christian walk some 38 years ago, and I started off being pretty certain about most things. As time has gone on I have become much more sure of a few of these things and much less sure about most of them!

Dave Tomlinson (author of 'The Post-Evangelical' and Anglican clergyman) speaks of the need to discover a second naivety (I think he too is quoting someone there!) and I whole-heartedly agree. Once we have gone through the questioning of cherished beliefs, the various doubts and a re-framing of the faith (which many - but not all - seem to do) we need to move to a new engagement with our faith in God and our following of Christ which is 'child-like'. That means being willing to live with questions, not always be looking for 'answers' to everything, but does involve what Dave calls (in his new book) a 're-enchantment' with Christianity.

I do not agree with Dave Tomlinson in every respect, but I like that idea of 're-enchantment'.

I have no problem whatsoever with asking questions, expressing doubts and re-framing doctrines... it has been my own journey. But it saddens me that some who take this route get stuck in a place of cynicism, or assume a smug intellectual superiority, or lose their love for God and their passion for the faith, and who having 'climbed the ladder' from their simplistic earlier faith, effectively pull that ladder up behind them and may prevent others beginning the journey.

So I'll raise a glass of decent red (or an 18 year old malt) to a second naivety and a re-enchantment with Christianity. Cheers!


  1. I find that after trusting God for nigh on 30yrs (some years short of you David) I have no doubts in his sovereignty and love but my faith in the 'church' has often wavered - by church I mean established groups or denominations of believers - rather than the world being the 'lion's den' I think that the church visible can be the place where one's faith is tested. Or that has been my experience.

    I have found more of Christ in the world - in the acceptance and forgiveness, in the sharing and caring - and this has strengthened my faith in God. It's a paradox but for me a truth, and maybe for others too.

  2. Chrys, I fear that many might well agree with you re negative experiences of church. I have heard many people say something similar and describe a level of grace, love, acceptance, forgiveness etc which they have experienced in some of what many church folks would consider the least expected or likely places. I love the church and have little patience with those who routinely knock it. I have had so many very positive experiences of care and love and forgiveness IN church... but nonetheless I know that you are not alone in your experience. Strange and sad, is it not?

  3. I don't find it strange David. For those of us who have been excluded by the church (or not included) we are in good company. Jesus in his three or so years of ministry on earth was not just excluded by the church of his day - there were attempts made to bad mouth him, stone him and eventually of course crucify him. But God was in control. It's the same yet and we are only seeing the wrong side of the tapestry, I think, the bits with the knots and threads hanging out. God sees the finished article from the right side and I am happy with that.

  4. I was in conversation with someone today re the number of Christians (and I mean here genuine, believing, praying Christians) who have totally given up on anything that seems to us like church. I suspect that this is a growing phenomenon to which the 'established' church is either blind or indifferent. Time we woke up to it!