In which doubt is the touchstone of faith…

by Craig on December 3, 2010

I once only doubted my faith and believed my doubts. I have learned, and continue to learn, to doubt my doubts and believe my faith.

My faith is as strong as it is because my doubt was as strong as it was.

In the continuing study of James we pause for one more day, on one word…

…doubt.

This is the third day of this story, part one is here, part two is here, just in case you’d like to see.

He walked into the dimly lit room and noticed, next to an overhead projector, on a stand, a book. It was a Jewish book of meditations and prayers. Picking up the book, and feeling close to something important, he headed toward the front of the room — to where the Torah stood encased in gold.

He sat down in the front row. He prayed to the Father, letting Him know he was interested in His thoughts. For his part, he had one thing on his mind.

…doubt.

He felt what he was about to read was important enough to record as he read. So although he can’t say which meditation this was, or which book of Jewish meditations it came from, he can say that the words are quoted verbatim. He opened the book, and the first words he read were:

“For doubt is the handmaiden of truth.”


Yes it did happen, and yes this is what the book said:

Doubt is the key to the door of knowledge; it is the servant of discovery. A belief which may not be questioned binds us to error, for there is incompleteness and imperfection in every belief.  Doubt is the touchstone of truth; it is an acid, which eats away the false.  Let none fear the truth, that doubt may consume it, for doubt is a testing of belief.  For truth, if it be truth, arises from each testing stronger, more secure.

Those who would silence doubt are filled with fear; the house of their spirit is built on shifting sands. But they that fear not doubt and know its use are founded on a rock. They shall walk in the light of growing knowledge; the work of their hands shall endure.

Therefore, let us not fear doubt, but let us rejoice in its help.  It is to the wise as a staff to the blind.  Doubt is the handmaiden of truth.

I read that book two decades ago. And yes, “he” is me. It wasn’t the day all my doubts were answered. It was just the day that I was told it was OK to doubt. I was reassured that I wasn’t alone in the doubting.

It took another 20 years to address every doubt. For there were legions of them. I say this with humility – a humility borne out of crushing. There are few questions of faith or doubt that someone could ask me, that I cannot answer. Not because I’m smart, or special. But because I doubted so much, and didn’t rest until I found an answer for each one.

Truth be told. One of the reasons I never became a pastor, was that I doubted the existence of God well after graduating Seminary. And although it’s fine for someone to be sitting in the pew, in doubt – I didn’t feel it was right to stand in the pulpit – doubting.

I believed,

but I doubted.

I no longer doubt.


I keep coming back to this battered angel print.  I know. I can’t help it. But as I leave this little trek into doubt behind, she has left an imprint on my heart. I will save enough money to buy this print. It’s not cheap. But it’s feels mine. If God sends guardian angels to help us – then I think mine looks like this.

I’m sorry angel.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymuss December 3, 2010 at 2:15 am

Craig, I awaken in the middle of the night after yet more heavy accusations today that my doubting certain ‘biblical truths’ proves that I am a daughter of Eve, not to be trusted, full of error, etc. Much of my own family even raises ‘knowing eyebrows’ at me, now. I cannot begin to tell you how much your writing has been an encouraging beacon in my life just this week. Anonymous people are like nameless shadows, many times lurking in the dark and never even coming out as unnamed ones, but watching, listening, learning, even receiving critical encouragement and sustaining hope at times.

That doubt can be legitimate, and even the path to truth, is very validating when so many voices are condemning.

“Those who would silence doubt are filled with fear; the house of their spirit is built on shifting sands.” I see this when it happens to me (and others) and it is so true!! When doubters are misunderstood, they are often attacked out of fear. “But they that fear not doubt and know its use are founded on a rock.” I will stop. I realize I am taking this in a bit of a different direction than you are writing. Just know you have been throwing out a lifeline this week and tonight you threw out a flashlight and an anchor with it. As a ‘doubter’ of a particular subset of beliefs, I have been accused of being ‘unsteady in all my ways’. That has hurt, but I knew the alternative, trying to act as if I believed something I couldn’t, was somehow worse.

I am very, very glad you never gave up your own search for the truth. For your own sake, first and foremost, and for the sake of all those whom you will most certainly be helping. We shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free. You are helping people with that search for truth, not the least by releasing them from the guilt of the doubt that is a handmaiden of truth. Thank you, from the depth of my own searching and the dark and painful place that can be.

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Craig December 3, 2010 at 9:32 am

A.

Your comment touches my heart in more ways than you know. Thank you.
But you are (and I was) in for a ride. Every doubt must be challenged, left alone they eat away at faith. I found I had to use doubt, not let it abuse me. It leads, in the end, to a rock strong faith – a faith with good reason – but the road is the more challenging one. So good luck on the road, I’m with you all the way,

God Bless You A.

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Anonymuss December 3, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Craig, I like that, too: ‘to use doubt, and not let it abuse me’. Thank you for sharing your insights-they are weighty yet simple.

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Melissa December 3, 2010 at 10:06 am

Wow. Powerful. Profound! Thank you! I have chills reading this piece. And it is true–I never saw it before, but lived in condemnation most of my years. (And know well the opposition from others who fear–like Anonymous.) This is so freeing–my doubts are what make me a seeker of Truth. “I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Father of possessed boy in Matthew 9:24) And I am discovering, like you, the Author and Finisher of my faith. He is a person, real and awesome and full of mystery. His very mystery is what challenges my unbelief. As the doubts arise, so I seek. And find–He promised!

Beautiful writing, Craig. (What book did you find this passage in?) And who says you aren’t a poet? What you wrote on my sight is lovely. I love it–how it tells another perspective of the story that was in my heart.

Like you, I am writing today the third installment of Days of Light. I am behind since I was summoned for jury duty yesterday. I praying this morning for inspiration. God just answered. Come visit later and see what your words triggered in me? Blessings.

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Craig December 3, 2010 at 10:45 am

Melissa,

I am completely moved by your words. Thank you. And I wish I could say who wrote the passage, but it was a “random” event. A one time thing. I read the book, the building had already closed, I left the book there – it was at Skirball Museum in Los Angeles – at Hebre Union College – but the book and the author I’m afraid will always be a mystery.

Can’t wait to see what you write next.

God Bless

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Debbie December 3, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Thank you for helping me see doubt differently and to not be afraid of it in me or others. What a stone you moved in this! One that rolls on to the truth. :) God bless you and keep you close. deb

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