The Doubter

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By Andrea Lingle

“Man is infinitely concerned about the infinity to which he belongs, from which he is separated, and for which he is longing.” Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Volume One

About fifteen years ago, I first heard about sustainable agriculture. Now, I come from a good, composting family. We had reusable shopping bags way before they were cool. But we never used the compost. We just didn’t throw food scraps in the trash. We threw them in the backyard. But in the world of sustainable agriculture, there are ways of doing things. There is tilth to consider. And biome—or was it biomass? And runoff.

There are rules.

I got born again. I bought a garden fork, looked for DIY worm bin plans, and started a blog about my first attempt at gardening. Obviously. I bought all the books, thought about ramifications (of just about everything), and spent a lot of money growing a couple of tomatoes and too many zucchinis .

Fifteen years later, I still have a garden. I still try to talk everyone around me into turning our soil by hand, but I have lost the drive for absolute purity. It’s enough to do my best. If I have to water from the hose or use mulch from a bag, it’s just gonna have to be ok.

It can be that way with theology.

We grow up as a (insert context here), then we deconstruct, then we begin to reconstruct, then we find a view of God that is both expansive and expanding. In this heady rush, we become fervent about our glimpse of the Divine. Every fifth step really needs to be a skip! This is all so amazing. I feel so free! In the rush of discovering that God is wide and full, we are thrilled, but then life drifts in. Doubt drifts in. We find ourselves staring at a new set of expectations and doctrines, and none of it feels...necessary.

We find ourselves wondering why we do this. Is our contemplative prayer practice cosmically valuable or just neurologically valuable? Do we bear the Christ or is that just a construct that keeps us from despair?

Can I still be a theologian if I am not sure my motives are all that good?

What if I don’t feel, as Paul Tillich insists I must, infinitely concerned about the Infinite?

Doubt is not the end of theology. Neither are frustration, confusion, and discouragement. After all, we follow in the Way of a man who was called the Son of God, and died—meaninglessly.

Before there was resurrection there was death.

So, even during this Easter season, let not your heart be troubled by your doubt, your fear, your shame. Claiming the practice of theology does not require certainty, just a willingness to be foolish enough to wonder. Again.