Faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin, two legs of the same body. I can hop around on one or the other, but to really make forward progress, I need to use both, equally and in rhythm.
(I am broadly defining “faith” and “doubt” here. Faith – a sense of the transcendent/spiritual. Doubt – questioning/deconstructing.)
As with the rest of life, it’s easy to rely too much on one leg or the other. For much of my life, I hopped on my faith leg, jumped up on emotional worship songs and connect-the-dots life applications for Bible verses. For the past few years, I’ve been hopping on my doubt leg, cynical, skeptical, defining myself by what I do not believe.
Faith without doubt gets stuck. Faith’s transcendent visions, pursued without the push and pull of doubt’s probing questions, harden to ideological certainties, trading sails on ships on the sea for flags on poles in cement. Dreams and imagination and a hunger for the infinite are replaced with creeds, convictions, and a compulsion to hold tight to the “faith of our fathers.”
Doubt without faith can become equally inflexible, moving from honest engagement and open questioning to meeting every newborn idea with a certain cynicism. Doubt can become an intellectual and emotional posture of “no” that forgets how to play, imagine, daydream.
When I find I would much rather wash the dishes than play make-believe with my children (even if there are no dirty dishes to wash), then I start to wonder how well I’m using both of my legs.