We interview the Rev. Brian Smith about doubt. Is it really necessary? It seems counterintuitive that often-painful times of doubt and despair can serve to build our faith, and yet Brian describes three ways doubt can help us. This is a first for us, a two part episode. Tune in next week for Part II!
New Church Perspective is an online magazine with essays and other content published weekly. Our features are from a variety of writers dealing with a variety of topics, all celebrating the understanding and application of New Church ideas. For a list of past features by category or title, visit our archive.
As a bonus entry in our series on doubt, Owen offers an almost poetic exploration of tensions and conflict inherent in doubt. Previously in an essay called "The Atheist Perspective", Owen shared thoughts on the tough questions a theistic thinker must consider about disbelief and atheism. -Editor
I love doubt. Doubt makes things that are not real, real. Doubt is also the reason for the most painful times of my life. I hate doubt because it separates me from God.
Do I love doubt, or do I hate doubt? Does it matter? Of course it matters. Of course it doesn’t matter. Too many questions. Too many more answers.
Honestly, I love doubt inside myself and hate it inside those I feel apart from. That last statement was true, except for the first part.
“After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them-the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.’” Joshua 1:1-3
I have been meditating on this scripture for a few days now. I began listening to the sermons given by David Millar on the book of Joshua, and they have enriched my perspective greatly. Millar describes the transition of consciousness that takes place within the individual who begins to bring attention to the quality of their inner landscape. This is represented in the Word by the shift in leadership from Moses to Joshua. Now that Moses has died, Joshua represents the Lord. It says, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you.” The sole of Joshua’s (the Lord’s) foot is the literal sense of the Word. I have been thinking about the word ‘tread’. It evokes a certain pressure and contact. Every place inside myself, or every state that I find myself in, that I bring the Word to bear upon, the Lord has already given me. It gives me a sense of the Lord’s real power, and I am enjoying witnessing that power in the infinitesimally small way that I can. But, I must arise, wake up, and engage the Word in my inner life to witness anything at all.
Can anyone be certain that what they believe is empirically true? Is a belief simply a narrative, a fabrication, to contextualize innumerable experiences? Kristin pursues these questions. She hopes that this article be received in the spirit it is shared: as supportive of those pursuing religious faith, but not inviting a heated debate. This is the second essay in our series on doubt. Look for the previous essay [here] and for the following essay [here]. -Editor
I don’t feel much pressure to stifle all doubt when it comes to my belief in God. In fact, my community has been very supportive of doubt as a useful step in the process, leading (hopefully) to a fuller and more personal faith. The area I more often feel pressure in is the burden of intellectual honesty. It’s been suggested to me that some people might come to their belief in God because of a kind of intellectual negligence, or because they are choosing a belief system that seems comfortable and safe, rather than true. Believers may be unwilling to be as rigorous with themselves as they could be, because there is a conflict of interest. Why engage with a painful, messy, violent re-evaluation of your beliefs when you are blessed with the sense that everything happens for a reason, you are being well taken care of, and that everything in the end is going to be okay?
In this episode, the Rev. Dr. Andy Dibb describes his religious upbringing and concept of God. Influenced both by his New Church mother and Anglican schools, he came away with conflicting ideas. Was God a trinity or unity of Persons? Andy later found resolution and peace in the idea of a single, loving, Human God. Andy discusses the impact a person's view of God has on the rest of his or her life. With that in mind, how does one discuss religion with an atheist or agnostic?
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good.
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
The Lord is calling everyone to come to ‘the waters.’ I interpret ‘the waters’ as his very being, but more specifically his complete expression in the Word. Although I don’t completely understand it, I love how it somewhat nonsensically encourages those who have no money to come and buy without price. I am given an image of over abundance: an open market in early November at the peak of the harvest. This is a picture of what the Lord is offering to us all the time. It is a picture of who he is. I read ‘eating‘ as accepting and assimilating, and thereby becoming one with what is offered. In this case it is the Lord’s goodness. This is corroborated by the word ‘listen,’ which I associate with obedience. Spiritually speaking, if we do his will- if we eat what is good - we will never go hungry. In fact, if we let ourselves, we may even delight in abundance.