Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Doubt and certitude

A book review that my web surfing took me to on Tuesday on the Christianity Today website offered an apt post script to Monday's thoughts about a liberal preacher's nihilistic (that is, death-centered) sermon for Easter by way of the Long Island, New York, newspaper, Newsday. I said in reacting to the Rev. Donna Schaper's praise of doubt that doubt is a universal human trait but that its antidote is the affirmation of faith or belief in the face of doubt, no trace of which was to be found in her sermonette. Rich Dilling sent an encouraging amen to this along with his testimony that being steeped in the Scriptures is the best defense against doubting, which I enthusiastically second.

The passage I found in the Christianity Today book review was discussing "anti-Catholic propaganda" —

above all the notion that Catholic faith entails a blind submission to the authority of the Church, a "comprehensive and hermetically sealed religious ideology that will definitively insulate [the believer] from doubt." Evidently Linker [author of the book being reviewed] has not read, for example, the Introduction to Christianity written by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in the late 1960s, in which Ratzinger observes that

both the believer and the unbeliever share, each in his own way, doubt and belief, if they do not hide from themselves and from the truth of their being. Neither can quite escape either doubt or belief; for the one, faith is present against doubt; for the other, through doubt and in the form of doubt. It is the basic pattern of man's destiny only to be allowed to find the finality of his existence in this unceasing rivalry between doubt and belief, temptation and certainty.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is now, of course, Pope Benedict XVI, who this month celebrated his first anniversary as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rome. The indented text above is in two tiers, the wider of the two banks being the words of the Christianity Today reviewer, and those indented an extra level the words of the former Cardinal, now Pope. His is an unequivocal confirmation of the same point that I made on Monday, but the reason it is quoted in the review is that the author of the book being reviewed (critically) is blatantly misrepresenting the Catholic Church as a "system" that's hermetically sealed to keep its faithful from even being allowed to doubt its teaching. Anyone who has Catholic friends or even reads the news fairly widely knows how absurd this is in describing today's Catholicism. It may have resonated to many before Vatican II, the church council in the mid-'60s that changed Catholicism radically, but is far from a truthful assessment of its "control" over its laity or even its attempts (which no longer exist) to exercise such control.

And all of this is to get around to this, my point: that liberals like the author of the book being criticized above and the writer of the sermonette cited on Monday are preachers of doubt as the ultimate condition of the human heart and soul rather than belief. And the reason the secular (that is, worldly) humanist (that is, believer that the human is his own and her only god) preach doubt, and want to affirm you in your doubts and seduce you into a lifestyle of doubting rather than believing, is that they know humanism has no real hope to offer beyond the grave. This, they preach, is all there is. All you you can hope for is to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps by whatever measure you can, and stand tall as your own savior and lord. And if they twist their doubts about the resurrection (about the existence of God, the truth of the Scriptures, the incarnation of God in the human form of Jesus Christ, or anything eternal) into hope, they risk losing you from sharing their miserable existentially death-centered life. If you have hope, even a smidgen of inkling that there may be something beyond the grave, you may even vote on the election days set aside in your democratic country for someone who says biblical morality is superior to the morality of "the majority opinion" that is the best they can give you and that they cling to.

"Certitude" is the word of the day for today. It's the opposite of doubt, as you've probably guessed. But theologians, those who base their theology on the Scriptures and the person of Jesus Christ as God in the flesh, often use it as a substitute for what most people in daily speech call "religion." Your "certitude" is the thing you know you believe in more than anything else. One of my favorite Bible teachers once entitled a seminar that I took from him as "The Certitudinal Focus of the Scriptures." The focus of the Scriptures is the truth, the truth incarnate in Jesus, inscripturated in the written Bible, and written in our hearts when we ask Him to drive away all doubts.

I'll say more about this matter of doubt and faith on Friday, because although we all doubt now and again, it's not a matter of "whistling in the graveyard" or having to talking ourselves into something preposterous to get us through the graveyard/life...there's much more to certitude than hoping against hope.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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