Foolishness and Doubt

Doubt lays in wait, like a well oiled trap, ready to spring and catch us. When we get caught the response can be to fall back on faith and experience, and yet, in times of doubt, this may not be enough. At these times, we realise what the apostle Paul meant when he said that the Gospel was ‘foolish to the Greeks’.

Faith can be hard to define and often just as difficult to find when you need it. Sometimes all you can do is take a leap and choose to believe. We choose to place ourselves within the Christian story and experience it from the inside, waiting for the experience to confirm our decisive act. It is the experience, however, that remains key. It must follow, or we should seriously question the choice we have made. At times of doubt it is important that we remember that experience – the dramatic events, but also the accumulation of countless small events. The trouble is, that when hit by doubt, even the most dramatic experiences become open to question. You saw someone raised from the dead? Maybe they just feinted. You saw a cripple walk? Maybe it was a trick. Experience is an anchor, but on its own it is not enough.

I have tried to think of a better response to doubt, but I cannot escape the fact that our Gospel was once described as foolishness to the Greeks. Since the Enlightenment we have lived in a world dominated by Greek thought, a world of the material and the rational. We may have become cynical of the Enlightenment’s utopian promises, yet we still remain its children. When we try to pretend the Gospel is no longer foolishness, then, just maybe, we have lost sight of what the Gospel really is.

Yet, if we reject the Gospel, do we really enter a less foolish narrative? Our more secular narrative caries its own folly. It is adamant that what is reality is defined by what can be observed, measured and deduced. But where does this confidence come from? If it cannot be observed, then all we can really deduce is that it is unobservable, not that it does not exist. This point has been argued ever since Plato but is easily seen in the film The Matrix. The matrix was an illusion, but you could not tell from the inside. You just don’t know what you don’t know. Yet, when cracks show, we should at least get a little suspicious. When we speculate of matter we cannot see, that even the densest of matter is mainly empty space, and that things on the quantum scale are seemingly random and bizarre, we should at least begin to challenge our basic assumptions. The truth is, the world is not what we thought it was, and we do not have the certainties of previous generations. The secular narrative of our own culture has its own foolishness too.

So, the Gospel may be foolishness, but so, in its own way, is our modern culture. Indeed, the assumptions of modernity are already giving way to a greater openness to the unseen. It seems as though there are doubts all around now. So, in the end, I have no answers. Which is perhaps why we are encouraged to rely on the power that is in the Gospel to break through. A power that is beyond our understanding and maybe that is just as it should be.

Written By Ken

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