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Theology Crawl - Nature of Faith and Doubt Discussion Guide

July 11, 2022

Welcome to Theology Crawl

Yes, being in a conversation with drinks is fun, but we need some guidelines as you enter into conversation with one another:


Everyone is not right, and that's a good thing.

The concepts we talk about in theology can have multiple interpretations, but that doesn't mean they're all right. A lot of theology is investigating the words we use to see if they make sense and are if they're adequate for God. Being wrong is how we improve our theology, not by having all the answers.


Pay attention to how people are using words.

We all use words like “love,” “God,” and “grace,” but the the reality is we often mean vastly different things. Try to listen to how people use words and if they're using them the same way you would.


Ask for people to define what they mean.

We can't have a good conversation if we are all talking past each other. It's not embarrassing to ask people for a definitional a new word or concept, it's just how you have a good conversation.

Make this work for you.

Have someone in the group keep an eye on the questions and try to make sure you're staying on topic. At the same time, it's fine to go down the rabbit holes. Sometimes, the rabbit holes can help us clarify something that we missed.


Have fun.

You won't solve world hunger, you probably won't even convince that person in the group you disagree with. Relax, be respectful, and when the questions run out, enjoy yourself and talk about something that isn't theological. Hanging out can actually be pretty important for good theology too!

Nature of Faith and Doubt

KEY QUESTIONS

What is the source of doubt? How does it arise and why is it important?


What is the role of “doubt” in one’s faith life?


Can doubt be a good thing? Is there a point at which doubt is not a good thing?


Can doubt “paralyze” one’s faith? Can it “paralyze” our actions?


Can/should doubt be incorporated into our conception of God? Does it subtract anything from it?


Is total skepticism enough to create a well-lived life?

KEY CONCEPTS

Apophatic Theology:  

also known as negative theology, via negativa, is a type of theological thinking that attempts to describe God, the Divine Good, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God. An example occurs in the assertion of the 9th-century theologian John Scotus Erigena: "We do not know what God is. God Himself does not know what He is because He is not anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being. / Wikipedia


Cataphatic Theology:

also known as positive theology, via positiva, is a type of theological thinking that uses "positive" terminology to describe or refer to the divine – i.e. terminology that describes or refers to what the divine is believed to be, in contrast to the "negative" terminology used in apophatic theology to indicate what it is believed the divine is not. "Cataphatic" is a portmanteau of the two Greek verbs cata ("to descend") and femi ("to speak"), making a rough translation of its meaning to be "to bring God down in such a way so as to [be able to] speak of [Him] / Wikipedia

BIBLICAL TEXTS

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. / James 1:6


“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” / Mark 9:24


Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. / Mark 11:23


And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. / Hebrews 11:6

KEY THOUGHTS

“The affirmation that Jesus is the Christ is an act of faith and consequently of daring courage. It is not an arbitrary leap into darkness but a decision in which elements of immediate participation and therefore certitude are mixed with elements of strangeness and therefor incertitude and doubt. But, doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. Therefore, there is no faith without risk.” / Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. II

“Doubt is conquered not by the system but by faith, just as it is faith that has brought doubt into the world.” / Søren Kierkegaard, Journals, IV B 13

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” / Bertrand Russell, “The Triumph of Stupidity”

“Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned.” / Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality

“To 'choose' dogma and faith over doubt and experience is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid.” / Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great

“Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.” / Miguel de Unamuno

“I doubt, therefore I am.” / St. Augustine, Against the Academicians

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