Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Is Doubt and Faith Compatible?

Is there room for a person of faith to have doubt in their life about God and their spiritual journey, particularly in the Church of God?  Because the church dealt in absolutes and had to have the answer to everything, there was not much room for doubt to find fertile ground to play around in.  Questioning and inquisitiveness were frowned upon.  To do so was to question the leadership of the church, Herbert Armstrong, the ministry, the Bible and ultimately God. To try and solve that "problem" the church had hundreds of books, booklets, articles, and videos explaining everything imaginable.  Because the church was God's specially appointed tool of "truth" it could NOT be questioned. To do so was sin.

As children we were encouraged to be inquisitive and questioning, but as adults we are told to stop doing that.  As a person of faith in the church one must never doubt or be inquisitive, at least in the words of "wisdom" of the leadership.  The problem this creates is that with certainty there is no room for faith to flourish.

At the church I attend I work with new members seeking to join.  We meet for 6 weeks  two hours a week listing to stories of staff telling their journey's of faith and doubt.  Then we break into small groups were we share our personal stories.  Many have come from abusive churches and are seeking a place of refugee.  The interesting thing with so many, including myself, is that in spite of all the spiritual abuse and sometimes physical abuse, there is something that keeps drawing them and myself back to the church.

Here are some screen shots of the meeting we had last week that centered on faith and doubt.  Things like this would NEVER have been encouraged in the Worldwide Church of God, nor will it be in any COG today.

Can you imagine what would've happened to the WCG if we had allowed skepticism?  Most of our baloney dogma would never have been allowed to take root!  Certitude reigned supreme in the church and still does.

This journeying doubt has been a fascinating one to me. I do not need the answers. I seek to understand things, but never to the point I think I have the answer. I tell the people in my groups each class that never should they accept the words of the preacher as the final say on anything.  It should be a jumping off point.  A point to start asking questions and as soon as we think a question is close to being answered we should  have another one.  We will never give them an answer as to how things "should be."  We let them play in the field of questions.

In the COG fear was used as a tool to stop all inquisitiveness.  Fear of disobeying God by doubting, fear of losing ones salvation, fear of never making it to Petra and the ultimate fear tool was blaspheming the holy spirit.  Church of God members have been conditioned to never examine their faith.

“Take faith, for example. For many people in our world, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding, is to eliminate doubt. But faith and doubt aren't opposites. Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that it's alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren't opposites, they are, it turns out, excellent dance partners.”
― Rob BellWhat We Talk about When We Talk about God


anonymous63 said...


If the questions aren't asked, they cannot be answered. The standard reply of, "because I said so" doesn't get the job done. It didn't and doesn't in human families either.

We are to become as little children. Someone told me that meant *only* that we are to OBEY.
Me wittle self doesn't t'ink so.

Anonymous said...

"Whatsoever is not of faith is sin"

That is a bible verse, not just a COG teaching. And that is one reason I gave up the bible. God gave us a brain so we can think, and to think is to question, and to question is to doubt. Yet the bible commands that we have no doubt. No just God will make it a sin to doubt.

Anonymous said...

After you are baptized you are not supposed to have more doubts. You are supposed to have "proven the truth" by that time. But a few years after baptism you think of things that did not occur to you before, so you have new doubts. And life is like that, so you keep on thinking of more things, more ways you might have been fooled, or more things about the theology that could be in error or don't make sense or contradict something or other. So there are always new doubts. The idea that it is a sin to doubt is just bad theology, especially when you were lied to (in the COG case, by Herb and company) in the first place.

Anonymous said...

10.04 PM
There are many scriptures such as 'prove all things.' You didn't give the bible verse for your scripture, but from memory it refers to doing what one believes to be right. If you believe something is wrong, but do it, it is a sin.
Cherry picking scriptures is dishonest.
Many times Christ criticised His disciplines for not thinking, in case you missed it.

Black Ops Mikey said...

Faith is like a mustard seed.

Mustard seeds used to be known as "eye of newt". They were used in witchcraft for potions.

Mustard is a weed:

"Wild mustard can represent a serious weed problem in canola and spring cereals. Germination of wild mustard seed, and rapid early seedling growth under cool spring and fall temperatures, allow wild mustard to compete effectively with crop plants for light, water and nutrients. Populations of wild mustard left uncontrolled throughout the growing season can reduce potential yield and seed quality of the harvested crop".

So faith is like a mustard seed: An aggressive obnoxious weed which can't be readily controlled once it takes root and is a part of magical witchcraft.

Anonymous said...

"Cherry picking scriptures is dishonest."

So is putting your own interpretation on them. But, to get it in context, you are welcome to read the whole bible. You can find it online.

Anonymous said...

Faith is in God, not doctrines really.
Once you are sure of God, then you put your faith in his goodness and trust that he knows what he is doing.
At least that is what I do. I find I usually go in the right direction that way.
I know I will not understand everything but that's okay.
I found Worldwide to be oppressive and misogynistic at best. Very bullying atmosphere and no questions allowed ever.

Hoss said...


My thanks to Bob Thiel, while still at LCG, whose explanations of the cherrypicking methods provided a coup de grace to Armstrongism.

Anonymous said...

1.42 PM
My own experience and observation was that the church and especially the ministers, were partial to women. Perhaps you are mis interpreting the oppression as misogyny (hatred) of woman), but the men were oppressed even more.

Anonymous said...

Women are always complaining about oppression. What crap. The ministers I knew always took the side of the women in knee-jerk fashion. You were found guilty without any chance to speak on your own defense. Those feminist complainers and their whining to hide their hostility towards men. They want the right to steal work from men and make their children starve so they can have a double income. In the mean time they want all the perks of being women. They never demand equal access to conscription or dirty jobs or working in the cold or heat. Just the easy high pay high status jobs. And they run to a minister like a poor damsel in distress at the slightest nothing, and the jerk tries to `rescue' her.

Byker Bob said...

Faith and doubt are flip sides of the same coin. They are one of those pairs in a matching set, in which being conscious of one automatically makes you conscious of the other. Honestly, a human cannot have total or perfect faith. In order for that condition to exist, you would need to be all-knowing and all-powerful. Therefore, perfect faith is something which only God can have in Himself.

You can certainly not have faith in the humans who have found pretense to intrude, and to insert themselves between yourself and God, or in the doctrines which they cobble together and to which they demand
compliance, or in the prophecies which they base on unprovable, dubious theories.

Also, the ACOG ministers destroy your faith in God by implying that on any given day, you might slip up and fail to obey them, and that therefore you will not "qualify". They pretend that they are the gatekeepers, but, that would be God's role (He sees the heart).


Jim Baldwin said...

BB said:
"a human cannot have total or perfect faith".

That is an error as the various believers here prove it wrong as they continue to make believe they know what they do not know.

Jim Baldwin

Anonymous said...

I was not aware that the COGs conscripted...

Byker Bob said...

Oh, there was conscription alright. But the draft was to SEP, or to AC. For most of the kids growing up in the church, AC was the only permissable choice in further education. And since the AC acceptance letters didn't go out until mid summer, those who were not accepted had to scramble around for late admission to whatever other college would accept them.


Jim Baldwin said...

Here are a couple of more definitions of faith:

Ambrose Bierce:
"Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel."

A Dictionary of Common Philosophical Terms by Gregory Pence (2000):
"The belief in the truth of a doctrine that may not be capable of being proven true by reason or evidence, and which may require suspension of rational judgement through an act of will."

Jim Baldwin