(Owen Strachan – For The Church) Doubt is back in the news. We’ve all heard a great deal about postmodernism over the years; one of the ways it continues to influence us as a culture is to make us prize uncertainty and distrust certainty. It seems more authentic, more truly human, even more virtuous, to live in gray areas than it is does to traffic in certitudes. You could sum up the spirit of the age like this: we’re being encouraged to have faith in doubt.
People who make this argument will say that it is human to not understand things in full. They’ll emphasize that being human means being comfortable with finitude. It’s natural, we hear today, to doubt. There is an element of truth in these statements, so let that be clear. None of us knows as God knows, after all. Though the Reformed tradition is sometimes maligned as the Party of Unblinking Certitude, no less a theologian than Cornelius Van Til (following Bavinck) distinguished between archetypal and ectypal knowledge. Here’s how one source summed up this distinction, quoting Van Til: “God “interprets absolutely” while man is the “re-interpreter of God’s interpretation.” This is a fascinating and important point. We never cease to be a creature, even as a born-again believer indwelt by the Spirit. We know truly, but we always know as the creature knows, in other words. Also, sin will always impair our understanding in this life; even our best attempts at study and intellection will not meet a perfect standard.
But we must take care here. Doubt is not a virtue. Doubt is not part of faith. I was reminded of these truths when I read excerpts of a sermon given by Steven Furtick. Here’s what Furtick said from the pulpit (and here’s a longer clip) after he heard that a staff pastor encouraged people to pray a prayer of repentance that explicitly swore off doubt: