HERE’S TO A THIRD YEAR OF “FAITH CHALLENGES”

Now two years old, this website is especially for people — within and outside of religious communities — who are struggling with questions and doubts about faith. Two assumptions have been basic to its blogs.

The first is that every religion has accommodated very diverse opinions across the centuries about what its followers should believe and do. Therefore, we have available to us more than one answer to most of our questions and more than one way of resolving most of our doubts.

The second is that the best way to deal with our struggles is to explore as many of these opinions as possible in order to discover which make the most sense in the here and now.

Most readers seem to agree readily with the first premise, but not all agree with the second. Some continue to express quite forcefully that for a true religious believer there can be no uncertainty. A questioning or doubting spirit is an unfaithful spirit, of which one must repent.

A less extreme version of their point of view insists that when questions and doubts about faith arise, they should be referred immediately to religious authorities. From these will come approved answers with which we should promptly bring ourselves into confident conformity.

I respect the integrity with which many clergy and lay colleagues in ministry, across our many years of thinking and worshipping together, have defended this way of looking at things. Nevertheless, I must continue to disagree with them.

If we are to have a faith that is truly our own, we must be willing to raise questions and entertain doubts that our own experiences require us to do.

For many people, this approach may appear initially to be, as a student of mine once put it, little more than an “anything goes approach.” For me, it reflects a deeply felt concern to balance, in matters of personal faith, the saving truths found in religious traditions with the promptings of individual conscience, whether religiously formed or not.

I also believe, though, that when we put our minds to the task of resolving our deepest questions and doubts about faith, it helps to have someone available who knows how to listen encouragingly and to refrain from trying to answer our questions for us. It isn’t necessary to go it completely on our own.

And now, the journey continues.

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2 Responses to HERE’S TO A THIRD YEAR OF “FAITH CHALLENGES”

  1. Congratulations on beginning your third year, Leroy!

    Also, I completely agree that doubt and uncertainty aren’t anathema to faith, but that they can enrich faith when answered with a love of Truth that engages “all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.” To me, this formula doesn’t prescribe substituting the traditions, doctrines, and decrees of religious authorities for our own responsibilities as whole human beings.

    Keep that light shining, brother!

    Agape,
    Chuck

  2. Jim McConnell says:

    One doesn’t have to look very far to see examples of all the horrible things that happen in our world when persons who rely only on “religious dogma” to guide their actions act with total disregard for “the promptings of individual conscience”.

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