Recently, I listened to Francis Collins' Veritas Forum lecture. Dr. Collins is perhaps best known for heading up the Human Genome Project. He is a world famous geneticist and a practicing Christian. He is very thoughtful in his presentation, and his take on the relationship between faith and science is well worth listening to.
In the Q & A portion of the video, Dr. Collins is asked about certainty, and in his response he makes the claim which I have heard on numerous occasions--doubt is a part of faith.
Throughout my life, I have heard many pastors say the same thing. The first Sunday after Easter is traditionally the Sunday we read the account of Jesus' appearance to Thomas--Doubting Thomas, many call him. Recently, this has also become the Sunday when some pastors, particularly those of a mainline denomination bent tell their flocks, "It's perfectly O.K. to doubt. Faith requires doubt."
I understand why this is said. I also preached this early in my ministry. And one might justify this kind of preaching if one focuses on Thomas and sees in Thomas a reflection of ourselves.
But as I said in a blog post earlier this year, this text isn't about Thomas. It's about Jesus. And what does Jesus say to Thomas? "Do not doubt, but believe."
Pastors say, "It's O.K. to doubt," and encourage it.
Jesus says, "Do not doubt, but believe."
There is a disconnect here!
How can it be resolved? Is it possible to resolve this? Can one believe without doubt and somehow have absolute certainty?
Believe with out doubt--I think we can come close.
Have pure certainty--no.
But is what I am suggesting even possible?
If someone gets the gumption to ask me about this matter, I will respond, "I believe in God/Christ/the resurrection with the same certainty that I believe the sun will rise tomorrow."
"Aha!" you might exclaim, "You are talking about absolute certainty!"
Let me ask you: are you absolutely certain the sun will rise tomorrow?
Prove the sun will rise tomorrow using the scientific method. Bet you can't do it. You can make the hypothesis, and that hypothesis may or may not be confirmed. There is a very high probability that it will, BUT, it is not absolutely certain. Consider the possibility, however remote, that the sun suddenly goes supernova on us unexpectedly. Stars do explode. Or consider there is a giant piece of space matter which has been obscured and unseen by our telescopes. What if such a thing were large enough to smash into our sun without incinerating causing our sun to explode? What if such an object were to slam into the earth knocking us out of orbit? These are possibilities. Very, very remote possibilities, but still possibilities. Nothing in this world is absolutely certain.
Yet, I don't know many people who live their lives worrying over such matters. Not too many people go around doubting the sun will come up tomorrow. They live their lives with the conviction that it will--even though they can't see it until it happens.
My faith in God is very much like the belief that the sun will rise tomorrow. I can't prove it with certainty, but I have the conviction that He is there; that He became God incarnate; that He died and on the third day was raised from the dead. I don't doubt this. I believe it like I believe the sun will come up tomorrow.