Monday, August 1, 2011

FAITH AND DOUBT uncertain.. note to Edward Fudge

Hi Edward. Regarding your theme what comes to my mind is that ' trust and doubt' are like all 'opposites', one has no reality or existence without the other. It is a mistake to think of any of us in mortal life as true humans having and experiencing only faith  .. and ridding ourselves of doubt. To never doubt would simply be to never allow ourselves to think freely, to never truly  weigh conflicting ideas and possibilities. Yes, faith and trust have their moments  in the sun and  it is a blessed state of mind but it can never exist without their faithful opposite- doubt. " I believe, help my unbelief."  True faith always asks itself, 'What if I’m wrong?  What if I’m wrong?"  And  faith entertains such doubt knowing full well  that 'to be wrong'  is a necessary, very real and possible tragedy. We, nor was Jesus I am confident, are ever freed from this aspect of being human made in the image of God. The central aspects of human life are always a 'two edged' sword as is any 'Word of God.'  And Western humans are forever trying to eliminate half of it all.  We have been programmed by our recent history( several hundred years especially) to say, " I want this but not that."   We even convince ourselves with cliche  that we cannot and should 'not have(anything) both ways'....not ' have our cake and eat it too.'

Accepting and experiencing fully any pair of opposites, and there are many, is a necessary discomfort that is part of growing and maturing spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. It is that tension alone which makes such development even possible. I doubt  the apostles were forever 'bold' after Pentecost.  The one who wins, the hero of faith and life, must also continuously live with doubt.  That is a part of his/her story that has often been covered up.  If they had only been people of faith we would not now be influenced by the  interpretation of their lives that has so influenced our present day- for good and bad.  Abraham Lincoln is one such person that comes to mind. There is much in accounts of his life that speak of his confrontation with strong personal doubt as well as of confidence.

It is no simple thing to know what it means to 'follow Jesus of Nazareth.' It may take most of  a lifetime to reach a genuine confidence that we are on the right track. Jim

Edward's Essay:       The statement seems so out of place . . . unexpected . . . counter-productive. Yet there it is, immediately before Matthew reports Jesus charging his original band of disciples in the words we sometimes call the Great Commission. "The eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee," Matthew writes, "to the mountain which Jesus had designated. And when they saw him, they worshiped; but some were doubtful" (Matt. 28:16-17). Who was doubtful? Some of these eleven men, hand-picked by Jesus to be his student-apprentices, to live with him for three years. These men who saw -- up close and personal -- his awesome ("wonders") power-events ("miracles") that indicated his divine identity and mission ("signs"). Mary Magdalene tells the eleven disciples that she has seen the Lord. They refuse to believe it" (Mark 16:11). Two others encounter Jesus, then tell the eleven, who do not believe them either (Mark 16:13). Jesus himself appears to the eleven, scolds them for their unbelief, and instructs them to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing and teaching all that Jesus has taught them (Mark 16:14-16; Matt. 28:18-19). Signs will follow those who believe, Jesus says (Mark 16:17-18). Hopefully these doubting disciples will come to fit that description.
Within weeks, the apostles will be among those who receive the Holy Spirit in a special way at Pentecost and their doubt will give way to new and holy boldness (Acts 2). But for now some of them are not at all sure. Our weaknesses do not disqualify us as God's agents. Nor do our occasional doubts. The same Spirit that worked through Peter, Matthew, John and the others then will also empower and work through us. The risen Jesus will be with us every new day that comes, until the very consummation of the age (Matt. 28:20). Do you believe it?

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