Allowing room for doubt as a spiritual exercise; day 14 of Ramadan

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“The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.” – Anne Lamont

There was a time in my life when I read my Bible and I took the entirety of it literally. From a 6 day creation found in Genesis to end times imagery found in Revelation, if it was in the Bible I thought…believed…it had to be completely true and literal.
But I didn’t account for several things; context, audience, hermeneutics, literary techniques, different writers, figures of speech, historicity, etc.
I admit, when I started reading the Bible through a lens that wasn’t completely literal, it shattered me and I was somewhat distraught, because I thought that’s how you had to read the Bible, that’s you had to deem it infallible and inerrant- the classic ALL or NONE fallacy…

But nowadays I examine and read the Bible through the lens of Jesus, in which I do think that is how it meant to be read. I also read it with the mindset of “it being written by real people in real places in real times.” (hat tip to Rob Bell for that terminology)
I think that because I do hold this stance of the Bible, and even my faith, I am at a place where I’m healthier for it. I’m not hung up on parts that I once deemed necessary to my faith; yes I do find myself doing what I can to emulate Jesus in my life in my doing as well as my being, but sometimes you gotta eat the meat and spit out the bones and fat, sometimes you have to take portions of it seriously but not literally.
My church covered this a few months ago as to what a healthy stance looks like when it comes to reading the Bible:
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I agree with all those statements, and so while I might align myself as a Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist with theistic evolution thoughts and ideas, I hold it with an open posture that says I might be wrong…and you know what, that’s okay if I am wrong, my faith is one that’s okay with the challenging that comes from the inside as well as the outside.
Lately I’ve been commuting and listening to the podcasts of Drunk Ex-Pastors. Their views, one of an atheist and the other of a Catholic, are refreshing and encouraging because they too have a nuance of being subjected to scrutiny and the possibility of being wrong and it sure trumps the views I grew up hearing about it’s all about right beliefs, right practices, and saying the right things. I’ve been alive for 30 years and I realize more than ever that God’s bigger than our beliefs, our dogmas, and our doctrines.

I think that’s why all of our religious and non-religious beliefs should be put under the microscope of healthy criticism and skepticism. It’s one thing to say well I believe X because of Y and it’s another that says well I have faith about X and Y, but…I might be wrong. On a human level this works immensely because while we can subjugate ourselves to tribalism, to one view, and to one thought, there’s a bigger world outside of our churches, our synagogues, our mosques, our temples, etc!
Somewhere down the line we’re going to run into people who think and believe differently (gasp!) than ourselves, and rather than retreating to our worship places and our sacred texts, perhaps the healthiest thing to do is get to know those individuals better and dialogue about it all. I wouldn’t be surprised in the midst of such dialogue we’ll find that the commonalities will outweigh the differences we have.
This is also applicable to our brothers and sisters who are atheists and agnostics, because they too experience life like we do, they’re just not bound to a set of religious beliefs and texts. Even in my own life I am thankful to God for the atheists and agnostics in my life, for while there are differences there are more commonalities to be shared.

So with all that being said, doubt was my keyword on this 14th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God for allowing us space to have our beliefs but to accept our doubts as well. May we put our beliefs to the side and allow room for doubting and take things at faith value. May we learn to appreciate the value of our commonalities with everyone we meet and put our differences asunder for the greater good.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

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6 thoughts on “Allowing room for doubt as a spiritual exercise; day 14 of Ramadan

  1. That’s very interesting – I didn’t know you wouldn’t take the bible as a literal text because that’s quite different to the Quran where we take the words to be literally the word of God (Allah).
    Are there any sections which you would take as literal or do you believe that there was a copy that used to be the word of God but has changed over time?

    • First off, thank you for commenting, I appreciate you for doing so. second, it’s not that the Bible has changed over time, apart from being translated from the Greek and the Hebrew to Latin into English and so on and so forth… It’s just that when we do the hermeneutics, that is the interpretation of the Bible, we realize that the Bible is written by man and is constantly evolving.

      It’s why in the creation story we realize that Adam and Eve in Hebrew actually refracts humanity, as the word Adam in Hebrew means “mankind.”

      That’s why you have parts of Scripture that make God out to be a warring destroyer God, because it reflects the culture of the Israelites at the time. That’s not the warring type, but the people are. That’s why I believe every time you have passages stating God told them to kill X group of people, that reflection is on the people and not on God. They wanted to kill people but they used God as a scapegoat, it happened in the Bible and it still happens today.

      But even with discrepancies like this, I hold a nuanced open-handed posture towards faith that says I could be wrong about it, that God could have used a literal 6 day old earth technique to set everything into motion, that God could have wiped out the world with a flood and had all the animals on the boat with Noah and his family etc.

      Thats why it’s a matter of faith, it’s a suspension of knowing and believing. The Bible can be questioned and should be questioned, same goes with any other religious text.

      Now I have a question for you, how do you wrestle with parts of the Quran that do not make any sense to you? That give way to figures of speech, and other literary techniques, which clearly point to creativity on the writers part and not necessarily God.

      • Ah
        Thank you for explaining. This is a way of thinking I had not come across previously.
        I believe that the Quran is the literal words of God and have not, thusfar come across any parts of it that doesn’t make sense go me. There are parts that I need to understand the backstory for, but that’s been explained by scholars and there are accompanying stories that help explain them.
        In fact there is a challenge in the Quran for a human to produce one verse like it – the Quran is very very poetic and this was the strength of the Arabs at the time who have a very specific way of writing poetry.
        It’s interesting the way different faiths internet their scriptures.

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