Christian philosophy - the nature of knowing and believing and understanding - is a sweet spot of mine, so naturally, I follow a good number of Christian philosophical outlets on social media. A couple of weeks ago, one that I particularly love posted a quote from someone apparently well-known. It began with the words, "Doubt is the secret sin buried deep within our souls."
It continues on to say, "We are all afraid to touch it, to unloose the monster. But authentic Christian belief demands that we uncover it, name it, understand it, and make peace with it." (Kelly James Clark)
My immediate response was, "I don't love the notion of doubt as sin."
And I don't.
Someone else chimed in quickly to say that the way the quote continues implies that doubt is not sin like other sins are sin, and in fact, says that we must be comfortable with it and working through it, so it doesn't mean that doubt is sin.
Here's where it gets complicated. And...dangerous.
Yes, the quote continues beyond those first very heavy words. Yes, it goes on to say other things. But those other things that it says are the things that we say about other sin in our lives. Struggling with bitterness or envy? You have to "name it." Struggling with anger or resentment? You must "uncover it." Whatever you're struggling with, you'll never overcome it until you "understand it." The only thing really different here is that we don't "make peace" with our sin; only with our doubt.
Still, to talk about it in these terms, in the very same ways that we talk about other sin in our lives, is to imply, intentionally or unintentionally, that we are continuing in the same vein - with doubt as sin.
Not that it matters, though.
My counterpart in this dialogue went on to say that we need to "give seekers more credit" for being able to read and understand the tone of the quote in its entirety. And while that is true that an earnest seeker will read all of the words, it's not the seeker that I'm concerned about here.
It's the wounded.
Someone who has been told by the church that having questions about faith shows a lack of faith and that doubt is sin...is not reading past that first sentence. He or she is writing off every other word that this person has to say about anything because the first word is one of condemnation, the same stinging, painful word this person has already heard too much in his or her life. This person reads that first sentence, and immediately, his heart says, "Ugh. This 'Christian' is just like all the rest of them" or perhaps she starts immediately beating herself up because she still has questions, and no matter how many times someone tells her that her questions are sin, she just can't help but have them. She is hopeless, a lost cause, a wasted case. She will never be a person of faith.
Just a sinner.
So yes, I told this commenter - more credit for the seekers, but more grace for the wounded. Because this message has been preached so long and so hard in the church that it stabs instantly into the depths of the hearts of the hurting as soon as it is said, as soon as those two words are linked together: doubt and sin. And whether that's what we believe or not, that's what the wounded hear, and that's why we have to be so careful.
Let's be clear: doubt is not sin. Having questions does not demonstrate a lack of faith or a broken soul. Questions and doubt are natural parts of our spiritual growth, our development. They are the very things that lead us deeper into the heart of God.
As I have said before, I will say again: if you never have a question, how is God ever supposed to answer you?