Some of you may know of Daniel Taylor‘s small but evocative and influential The Myth of Certainty, a book that helped me so much at one period in my life. He’s got a new set of ideas about doubt and faith in The Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist, and I’m having a hard time to put it down. He’s not just a great writer; he’s writing from the depth of his soul and anguish and faith — all at the same time. This series of posts on The Skeptical Believer will spread out over some weeks and months since too much can be too much.
How often does doubt emerge in your church’s teaching, preaching, and thinking?
“The Skeptical Believer. No, it’s not a contradiction in terms. It’s a simple, everyday reality for many people of faith” (3). And, he contends (and I agree), “it’s acceptable to God.” Doubt happens to faith and to believers, not so much to unbelievers. It’s struggling with faith and in the midst of faith, not denying faith. It’s seeking to make sense of faith. Taylor’s book is about “internal apologetics” (the battle within) than “external apologetics” (the battle to convinced others). Doubt is misgivings about truth claims, in this case about Christian truth claims.
Another point he makes in his opener: “the suspicion that anyone who claims to know most anything with certainty is Blowing Smoke” (4). “There’s a lot of Smoke in the world. Always has been. People of faith often Blow Smoke. Scorners of faith are often big time Smoke Blowers too. Smoke, Smoke, everywhere Smoke. How can you help but be a skeptic with all this Smoke?” (5).
The Skeptical Believer — if you don’t know one — is among the many who “ask uncomfortable questions when everyone else is smiling vacantly” (7).
Daniel Taylor invites us to consider the inside of doubt as an element of the inside of faith. “I remind myself that I have been invited not into an argument but into a story” (7). But the “real test of any story is what it asks me to love and what kind of life it requires me to live” (7).
With this he closes down the intro: “All evidence is resistible. All arguments are assailable. … All Arguments… leak” (8).