23 September 2009

A few pithy thoughts on doubt

by Dan Phillips and homeboys

[Note: I am using "doubt" as a kind word. There are others that would fit.]

The meta of the post I discuss here led me to a few thoughts about doubt. I shared those thoughts with my betters here, and Phil and Frank added some of their own. It's collaborative, it's an ensemble! Like Seinfeld... only with a point.

Have you ever noticed...
  1. ...everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as heroic?
  2. ...everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as tragic?
  3. ...everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints his doubt as different doubt from every other doubter who has ever doubted and come to a bad end from it?
  4. ...everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine insists that his path won't end up where every other doubter's path ended? Which is to say...
  5. ...everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine hates it when the historical and logical progression of doubt is pointed out?
  6. ...everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as smarter, deeper, less lazy, and more honest than people who don't share his doubt?
  7. ...everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as humble, while those who point him back to the Word are arrogant?
  8. ...everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as nice, while those who point him back to the Word are mean?
  9. ...everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as academically sophisticated, carefully nuanced, and wonderfully insightful, while those who point him back to the Word are unenlightened hacks and drooling theological troglodytes?
  10. ...everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as courageous, while those who point him back to the Word are bullies and ruffians?


Dan Phillips's signature

41 comments:

Martin Downes said...

Very good, and so true. I half wondered whether "drooling theological troglodytes" would be a good name for a group blog.

Lots of bad arguments gain traction on the basis of good rhetoric.

Zaphon said...

I'm sending this post to a sister in Christ...assuming she really is in Christ, who has become bitten with the Emergent chameleon.

She called me "arrogant" for claiming we can know the truth. Of course, she failed to see her own self-defeating hypocrisy in that she was ARGUING against my view.

Speaking of a bad end..."Communion" is now bacon and eggs. Hey why not???ANYTHING GOES!

DJP said...

Martin, if not a blog-name, certainly a blog-motto. I think a vote of our Board of Directors would be favorable.

Bruce Mills said...

Excellent! Those who are in error always portray themselves as "truth-seekers" who are being persecuted by the "Neanderthals" of orthodoxy.

Gimp said...

"Everyone...." Reminds me of advice for taking multiple choice test questions -- be leery of absolute answers.

If there are no exceptions, the observation is either trivial or untrue.

stratagem said...

This is excellent. I'm printing this out and framing it.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Martin Downes: "Lots of bad arguments gain traction on the basis of good rhetoric."

Brilliant!

And this is a post that has a good argument with good rhetoric!

DJP said...

Gimp, hm; so you feel that our readers are so dim and cavebound that they aren't aware of the overwhelming common use of the word "everyone" to denote a large crowd, without denoting mathematically exhaustive comprehensiveness?

Maybe you're new here. I think you underestimate our readers.

I think they're perfectly able to get that, and deal with the actual content of the post without obsessing on trivial periphera.

In fact, I think everyone gets the point of the post perfectly well.

R. D. Bailey said...

I think "doubt" is too generous. It almost lets one off the hook. One of the smartest men I ever met labeled it "incredulousness."

Frank Turk said...

I have actually noticed this.

huh.

DJP said...

RD, as I said, I was being kind in my word-choice.

Everyday Mommy© said...

Spot. On.

Thank you for articulating this so precisely and clearly.

Chad V. said...

Or, question everything except the doubter. Don't you dare question him.

Everyday Mommy© said...

Ditto @Chad V.

Willem Bronkhorst said...

Come on! Really? Naw! Surely not!

Stefan said...

Number 9 is the one that amuses me.

It's so unsophisticated to think that skepticism = sophistication.

stratagem said...

Doubt - today's euphemistic phrase for unbelief.

NoLongerBlind said...

Regarding doubt, I'm wondering if this verse has any application:

"For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23b)

Sir Aaron said...

What??? You mean you didn't mean every person everywhere that ever existed when you said "everyone???"

Now why would you intentionally deceive us? ;)

DJP said...

LOL

Solameanie said...

Honest doubt is one thing. Convenient doubt is another. The former I want to help. The latter I want to slap.

Sir Brass said...

TU&D, kind of like what Ravi Zacharias means when he says that a deeply-rooted Stigma can whip a good Dogma.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Two good aphorisms for the price of one!

Danke, danke!

(A) "Lots of bad arguments gain traction on the basis of good rhetoric."

(B) "kind of like what Ravi Zacharias means when he says that a deeply-rooted Stigma can whip a good Dogma."


Grrrrrr. Dat durn Deeevil, he be a sweeet-talking, seeeductive Feller. Ah hates him.

Mike Riccardi said...

What??? You mean you didn't mean every person everywhere that ever existed when you said "everyone???"

Now why would you intentionally deceive us
?

Now that's good.

Stan McCullars said...

That list is the perfect complement to your post (and the resulting comments) on Tremper Longman.

Perfect.

Joshua said...

My "favorites" are those who, when accused of breaking from sound doctrine, defend themselves by saying, "Christ was unorthodox, bro! I'm in good company!"

jmb said...

Good portrait of McLaren, Spong, etc., except that they "doubt" pretty much all doctrine. I love it when McLaren writes things like, "I'm uncomfortable with the idea of Original Sin." Alright, that's it, take it off the table!

Mike B. said...

I don't think that everyone who doubts is like this. I think that you have this impression because the ones who do fit your descriptions are those who sound a trumpet before them about it.

The reason they are so popular is because there are many, many more quiet and conflicted doubters to whom the stronger, more public voices (those who, as you say, portray themselves as heroic) give a feeling of legitimacy.

I know what kind of people you are trying to describe, and they are caricatures of a conflicted faith, not exemplars of it.

Stefan said...

It's interesting. I've been reading about a phenomenon called "religious melancholy," which was pervasive among Evangelicals from the Reformation through to the Victorian era.

It arose when someone (especially a believer) was overcome with the fear of God, confronted by the depth of their own sin (in the manner of Isaiah 6 or Romans 3), and even though they knew the Gospel, inconsolable that God would have mercy on them, or that they had any hope of salvation. Both Luther and Calvin lived through it; Spurgeon preached on it.

This was a real struggle with God, a real wrestling with oneself, a real sense of "no one knows what I'm going through"; but the key point of difference is that what the believers went through was premised on their sure belief in God and conviction of their own sin in light of that, but a (temporary) inability to believe that the good news of the Gospel could really be for them. The doubt was of their own salvation: that God's promises and assurances were really for them.

Compare that to "struggles" with "doubt," where the authority to be feared and struggled with is not a holy and righteous God in judgment over sinners, but a scoffing world in judgment over Scripture.

Paula said...

Good portrait of McLaren, Spong, etc., except that they "doubt" pretty much all doctrine. I love it when McLaren writes things like, "I'm uncomfortable with the idea of Original Sin." Alright, that's it, take it off the table!

At some point, "doubt" becomes a euphemism for "reject." Or a cover.

donsands said...

"..while those who point him back to the Word are mean?"

Those who don't deal with "plucking the eye out", and love to simply be with sinners, do think it's mean to share the truth of hell, condemnation, and sin as the only really direct cause for death, and the second death.

(Of course there are those who are like Fred Phelps, and may even be a medium to light Fred, but are yet preaching a self-righteous gospel.)

Another very good post.

DJP said...

Mike B., I don't doubt you're right.

But here's the thing: the big mouths with big names feed and falsely legitimatize doubt. They stand with the Serpent, egging Eve on. They "betray the generation of [God's] children (Psalm 73:15), as Phil and I both pointed out.

'Tain't transparency. It's treachery.

Rachael Starke said...

Yeah, boy. Pointing someone to life-giving words from The Word?

What a terrible thing to do to a sincerely questioning, humble and hurting person.

Love this.

Chad V. said...

I have doubts about doubt..........

Sir Brass said...

Now that's something I'd like to see addressed sometime: dealing with "religious melancholy", especially when it comes about not JUST through seeing one's own sinful nature and struggling, but when it arises because of a particularly-persisting indwelling sin that one truly does hate (and causes spiritual misery). This is with the context of happening to a believer who knows sound doctrine and knows the gospel.

Now that would be a good contrast between this phoney "doubt" that the po-mo pogos advocate.

Francesca said...

I can reverse everything on that list and it would still be accurate.

Becky, slave of Christ said...

If there are no exceptions, the observation is either trivial or untrue.

Are there no exceptions to this absolute assertion, Gimp?

zostay said...

DJP, thanks for clarifying the previous post. I think initially misunderstood what Spurgeon was getting at, which confused me. I also liked what Stefan has to say on the subject.

I tend to think of "doubt" in terms of doubting myself rather than doubting the teaching of Christ and the Bible. I know we're called to take hold of "full assurance of hope," but I feel like to do so must involve some amount of doubt of oneself coupled with reliance upon Christ.

This self-doubt is what brings me to my knees to say, "Lord Jesus, if you don't save me, who will? Save me!" In that sense, I think about doubt as a good source of humility and even assurance. I should doubt myself, but not my God or what He says in the Word.

On the other hand, doubting the Word of God is selfishly asserting that my own lusts are more important than God's will. Christ had some sharp words for Peter on one such occasion when he expressed that kind of doubt. (Matthew 16:23)

Stefan said...

Zostay wrote:

"I know we're called to take hold of 'full assurance of hope,' but I feel like to do so must involve some amount of doubt of oneself coupled with reliance upon Christ."

"I should doubt myself, but not my God or what He says in the Word."

Yes and amen. Or as Spurgeon put it in a sermon of his:

"...Whilst thou dost not distrust the Saviour, learn to distrust thyself more and more every day." (Five Fears, on Eccl. 8:12)

Christ is our only hope!

Respectabiggle said...

Ditto Sir Brass' 5:19 comment.

rockstarkp said...

Is the rainbow colored background some sort of intentional subliminal point too or something?
That was the first thing that I noticed...