Posted by: watchman | January 27, 2009

Pastoral Doubt? Scandal!

Matt Scott has posted a few items on doubt (here and here). Also, Anne Jackson posted this on Flower Dust. I was wondering what your thoughts were on doubt and questioning, specifically in the pastorate.

If you think that pastors never have times where they face hard difficult challenges to their beliefs and assumptions, you are greatly mistaken. In fact, I would guess that pastors face these issues more often than other congregants parishoners. Why I believe that is becasue pastors deal with theological and  philosophical issues more often than most people with “real jobs.”

I have known a few pastors who were brave enough to share their journey and wrestling with their congrgation in one form or another. You can just guess how that turned out.

Why are we so repressive to questioning and wrestling in the American church. Questioning and doubting seem to be the only ways to ensure the soundness of our faith. I think any pastor worth a hoot should question and wrestle and face doubt and assumption head on.

Yet, congrgations more often demand that their ministers act as superhero apologists.

I was being interviewed by a church once and one of the deacons asked me “You’ve never doubted your faith have you?”

The intention behind the question was clear and I knew exactly what he was threatening asking.  I wanted to say “everyday.” Instead, I lied.

If doubt is inevitable and questioning essential, then where is such a thing supposed to occur. Shouldn’t the church, of all forums, be the safest spot for that conversation? Instead, doubters are ridiculed, and questions repressed, especially if the questions come from the pastor’s study.



  1. In “Why Good People do Bad Things”, Dr. James Hollis writes…

    “Does the religious zealot spend so much time trying to compel or convert others because he is truly convinced of serving the well-being of others, or is he or she in thrall to the anxiety of inner doubt, a doubt that must be driven away by the achievement of unanimity? As Author Nicholas Mosley writes, ‘people [are] likely to be Muslims or Christians more from a need to belong to a group that would provide emotional reassurance in a difficult world, rather than as a result of a personal search for truth and meaning.’ So much for divine revelation, and for personal integrity!”

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