AFL Blog Week 5 Part 2: Doubt And Meaning

Tuesday’s reading come from another popular theologian in Christian Academia, Paul Tillich, in which he touches on the place and importance of doubt in one’s faith.

He critiques mysticism a bit saying, “Mysticism does not take seriously the concrete¬† and the doubt concerning the concrete. It plunges directly into the ground of being and meaning, and leaves the concrete, the world of finite values and meanings, behind. Therefore it does not solve the problem of meaninglessness…Eastern mysticism is not the solution of the problems of Western Existentialism, although many people attempt this solution.”

To me, this is crucial for today, because I think that more people are concerned with things like suffering in the world, and wondering what the point to anything is, more so than they are aware, or concered with their own sin. The average secular Kiwi doesn’t know what sin is, nor are they concerned with it. What do they need saving from? Not sin. But maybe depression, alcoholism, abusive relationships, themselves – all things caused by sin, but not that they’d know it or see it that way.

Instead we’re dealing with doubts. People, even Christians, struggle with human¬†and animal suffering. When faced with such things anyone could begin to doubt what they know about life, existence, and God.

I think that’s what Tillich is getting at. Mysticism tries to escape the real, or “concrete,” in order to commune with God on a supernatural spiritual level that renders the real world meaningless. However, when you come back (if you are even able to get there) you’re still faced with the real world. Western existentialism is a leading cause of depression and suicide, and he argues that escaping it, or attempting to, through Eastern Mysticism (whether that be Christian mysticism, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or something else) isn’t helpful for the Western person who will still be dealing with the same issues of suffering or doubt, in the variety of ways those two things appear.

However, he offers that, “the Church under the Cross, which preaches the Crucified who cried to God who remained his God after the God of confidence had left him in the darkness of doubt and meaninglessness” is the Church we are called to be, and the Church that can speak into the lives of those who experience doubt.

In this way, doubt isn’t something to be afraid of, or ashamed of. It isn’t something that means you’re going to lose your faith if you question. Instead, it may lead you to a stronger faith.

I’d suggest you read through the Book of Job and/or watch this short clip (you’ll probably want to watch the short clip instead of read one of the longest books in the Bible, but perhaps you’ll venture to do both. And maybe even watch the full movie from which the clip comes.).

the clip comes from Academy Award nominated film, Doubt (2009). It’s a really good movie. And although it comes from a Roman Catholic perspective and setting, the theology is strong. I recommend it.



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