The Age of Doubt

Perhaps this period of time will become known as the age of doubt.  We’re told that the economic crisis is largely about attitude and lack of belief.  When an economic system is built on paper assets, it is easy to see why people may become doubtful about the value of that paper.  The doubt is obviously at work in economics but perhaps now doubt should examined, discussed and understood now on a more universal scale.

My Pastor Ray Johnston spoke on the topic of doubt this past Sunday.  He told us about Thomas, the Disciple of Jesus, who is best known for his doubt about the resurrection of Jesus after the Crucifixion.  Thomas said he needed to see Jesus for himself and to touch him to know that he really had risen from the grave.  The Pastor spoke about the difference between faith and knowing and he used a simple example of holding a 20 dollar bill in his closed fist.  Nobody in the building knew for sure if he had a 20 but he asked a man and the man said yes he thought so and sure enough there was a 20.  Then we all knew. 

But with faith you aren’t ever in a state of knowing.  The Pastor explained that doubt is inevitable when belief is based on faith.  He went so far as to say that doubt-free living is not possible and he explained that the roots of doubt are complex.  He noted that there are at least four categories of reasons for doubt including intellectual doubts, emotional doubts, psychological doubts and willful doubts.

“If you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep.  Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith.  They keep it awake and moving.”  Fredrick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, P. 20.

So how do we respond in the age of doubt?  Will the era bring more events and circumstances that raise doubt about human supremacy and about the supremacy of technology and science to solve problems?

We humans are still subject to the whims of chance and the forces of nature, the Swine Flu is a good example.  Where did it emerge, how did it evolve, how do we solve it.  The best advice given by the virology experts. the researchers, the leadership is to “wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face”?  (Is that all the billions spent on research have yielded?  What Moms have known since the dawn of time?)

Who can blame the human race for doubting the supremacy of technology and science with floods and earthquakes, volcanoes and wars, disease and drought, poverty and homelessness?  All we get from the experts is “wash up” and “duck and cover”.

So if this is the age of doubt where will we all find our footing again, where is faith that things will be better again and what is it that we will be able to find faith in?  To me that’s the scariest part.  The Pastor talked briefly about the dangerous avenues that humans in doubt can be tempted to follow.  He talked about ideas and how ultimate ideas can lead to ultimate solutions.

When people are in doubt, they can sometimes find faith in ideas that alleviate their fears by placing blame.  People can latch on to ideologies that give them or their group power and thereby illusory control over the seemingly uncontrollable whims of fate and events that brought on the doubt.  So many times in history, there have been political movements born in times of disaster and hardship and just like the Swine Flu virus are created out of the ether to build clouds of doubts bringing fear, sickness and death.

The age of doubt may yet visit more disasters on the human race because of the many political and environmental circumstance that are in evidence today.  The cloud of doubt over the world may further darken it causing many desperate people to look for a light, any light.  I pray that in the age of doubt, people will look for a light in places of light rather than in ideologies that can offer only darkness.