A note from the Vicarage...

From the Vicarage

Someone said to me recently, “You’re a man of faith.”

Well, yes.  I suppose I am.  But – does that mean that I never have any doubts?

It’s a hot topic.  During these trying times I seem to have been having more conversations than usual with people who are struggling with faith – and doubt.

Now, in this month of July, – on Friday the 3rd, to be exact – the Church celebrates the feast of St. Thomas.  You know, the famous ‘Doubting Thomas’, who wouldn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ until he’d actually seen him in person and touched his wounds.  Bit of a failure, then, we imagine.

And we might think that St. Thomas is a failure because, when it comes to faith, we seem to have been taught to fear Doubt.  In our minds, it’s clearly a Bad Thing.  Particularly as Christians, we should, apparently, Avoid It At All Costs.  And, whatever we do, we shouldn’t be anything like Doubting Thomas, who is (evidently) there in the Bible as a Warning and a Terrible Example to us all.  Because Doubt is the opposite of Faith, isn’t it?

Well, actually, no, it isn’t.  The opposite of faith is fear.   ‘Doubt’ is what you have to work through to get to faith in something – or to decide that you can’t have faith in something.  It’s a word that describes a personal process.

And the important point is this:  You can’t have real, authentic faith in anything (and particularly in God) without working through questions and doubts.  Doubt is a necessary thing in the process of coming to faith, and in deepening faith.  Working through doubts strengthens and builds real faith.  Doubt isn’t something to be feared.  Blind faith, on the other hand, which urges acceptance of things without allowing any questions about them, or denies reality, is something from which we should all run a mile. 

So, yes, I sometimes have doubts regarding matters of faith.  But, rather than being negative things, they encourage me – drive me, even – to go deeper into my faith.  St. Anselm, a mediaeval Archbishop of Canterbury and one of the most important theologians of the Western Church, had as his motto, “Faith Seeking Understanding.”  That was his motivation – to work through his questions and doubts to come to a deeper understanding of God, and a deeper faith.   I’ve made his motto my motto, too.  I have faith – but I always want to wrestle with the questions and doubts that life throws up, to come to a deeper understanding of a living God, and strengthen my faith.

So I’ve got a lot of time for St. Thomas, and for anyone who takes faith seriously and wants to be honest about his or her doubts.  Because, like Thomas, those people are engaging with the realities of life, both physical and spiritual.  And, also like Thomas, who went on to found the Church in India, those people are working on a real, authentic faith, which is strong enough to sustain and inspire them in this world of ours – and in the next.

No doubt (!) you’ll have a happy St. Thomas’s day!

With every blessing,

Nick

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