Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Crucible Of Doubt

I can't recall how old I was when I first encountered the powerful novel The Brother Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, with its probing analysis of the problem of evil. The problem of evil has always been of great interest for me. If there is anything that makes belief in God difficult, it is the effort to reconcile the enormous amount of evil, seemingly pointless at times, with a creation by God. I don't know where the problem is more impressively laid out in all its perplexing ugliness than in Dostoevsky's novel. Yet Dostoevsky was a believer in God:
It is not like a child that I believe in Christ and confess Him," he said. "My hosanna has come forth through the crucible of doubt.
No spiritual thinker, no theologian, no philosopher of religion worth her salt can ignore the problem of evil in the Cosmos. Still, despite the difficulty, belief thrives. As much as evil tests my own ability to believe, I cannot shake the feeling that universe is not an accident. I find myself compelled to believe in the Logos, or Divine Mind behind the cosmos. And it has taken me a long time to arrive there. I would add that I rest there uncomfortably mainly because of the enormous amount of suffering in the world. In other words, I stop short of shouting hosannas*, even though my faith has been refined in the crucible of doubt.
I hate pat answers. I hate glib answers that gloss over deeper difficulties. For what my opinion may be worth to others, I don't think there is a fully satisfying answer to the problem of evil. At least I will say I have never found one that satisfied me fully, even though I have searched high and low. That is why, perhaps, so many refer to it as a mystery.
It's not as if I haven't considered the alternative: suffering exists because there is no God or Divine Mind, no meaning, no purpose. I respect those who feel compelled to believe that. But for me it leaves the mystery of existence. If love, beauty, and good did not exist in such abundance, perhaps I could rest there instead. Alas, I'm no better able to grasp meaninglessness than I am nothingness. 
My faith is in all senses a humble one. Further, it is not an untroubled one.

* Neither am I confessing faith in Christ


  1. The New Testament scholar that I respect probably more than any other right now, Bart Ehrman, has stated the same thing. Suffering in the world led him, a former, evangelical, conservative, away from his belief into his present state of Agnosticism. If it can happen to him, it can happen to almost anyone. I still am a believer in the "ground of all being". That's about all I can firmly state at this time.

    1. Orthodox Christianity has so much baggage to carry around! Process theology impresses me. Maybe there are some answers to be had there.