The Beautiful Uncertainty of Faith

By   •   May 13, 2009

The release of its sequel, Angels and Demons, brings with it a new series of theories and mysteries about the inner workings of the Catholic Church, the Illuminati, and even the CERN facility in Geneva, Switzerland. And in keeping with its predecessor, it’s a film that’s primarily a conspiracy mystery with religious trappings.

Ultimately, Angels and Demons is a briskly paced movie, but one without a whole lot of depth in terms of actual plot. However, given that it takes place within the realm of belief, it does touch on some interesting topics for discussion. One of the most compelling elements of this story is its willingness to show the struggle between faith and doubt.

Perhaps “struggle” is the wrong word. Maybe “tension” is better. You see, so much of what we believe as Christians has to be held in a sort of faith tension. Jesus is both man and God? God is both loving and jealous? We’re both perfect in God’s sight through Christ and yet still being made perfect throughout life? We have eternal souls that are trapped in temporary, decaying bodies?

See what I mean? The Christian walk is often one of tension, holding two truths that are seemingly paradoxical in equal balance. I think we often run the risk of forgetting that. As believers and witnesses to a hurt and needy world, we want to be able to put a brave face on everything, to offer just the right answer at just the right moment.

But I have to wonder if that impulse to never outwardly acknowledge our own struggles and doubts results in shortchanging Jesus. After all, it is He, not ourselves who saves. In the equation of faith, we are simply to point the way, not be the Way. That’s what it means to bear witness.

And speaking of witnesses, have you ever thought about all the doubters and arguers in Scripture? Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Job, Martha, Thomas…all of these individuals (and many more) disagreed with God and doubted him. Thomas walked with Christ himself and still questioned his resurrection! Jacob, the father of Israel, physically wrestled with an angel (or depending on the interpretation of the Hebrew, with the Son of Man himself).

Throughout the Bible, we’re presented with images of raw, true humanity…met by a real and sometimes bracing Divinity. These encounters between God and the people he calls to himself reveal a depth of character within Yahweh that allows for questions, even in the midst of following.

In the words of Frederic Buechner, “If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.” Faith would not be faith without the risk of “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). In the same way that our love for God would mean nothing if it didn’t come from a place of free will (rather than being automatically mandated), faith would be empty if it left no room for doubt.

Perhaps the greatest joy of taking that risk of faith is that God begins to meet us in it, once we take those first tentative, ever-hoping steps of belief. He meets us and welcomes us with the open arms of a loving father. If you’ve spent any amount of time following him, you know that there will be times still, years on, of wrestling and questioning. But he is always there, loving you, in and through those doubts. So take courage in the knowledge that our Creator knows and loves us. And remember that we have a brother and Savior who has walked the path before us:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16