Religious Doubt: Faith-Shaping Tool, or Instrument of Destruction? Patricia Schoenrade and C. Ray Owens, William Jewell College Copyright © 2007
Paper presented at the Annual Vision Conference, International Institute for Christian Studies, July, 2007, Kansas City
2 Abstract Tennyson (1850) declared, “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” Critical thought, doubt, and skeptical inquiry are central to modern higher education, no less so when the scholars are people of faith (see, for example, Myers,2007). It is impossible to deny the importance of doubt in normal human development; Piaget’s formal operations stage includes the ability to evaluate hypotheses, and to doubt, or even disregard, those that fail to meet the test. The possibility has been raised--indeed, in research in which one of the authors has been extensively involved--that religious doubt reflects greater integrity than does its avoidance (Batson, Schoenrade, & Ventis, 1993). Yet the very theme of this conference reflects one of the chief concerns regarding pursuit of religious doubt.. That which fails to meet with the approval of admittedly limited human thought processes may simply be disregarded. The empirical, the senseverifiable, once subject to expert scrutiny, is regarded as the defining standard for what is true and good. Bloom (1987) warned that “almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative”. We argue that both of these lines of reasoning may indeed apply to religious doubt; but that true scholarship requires the acknowledgement of two additional principles. The The first is motivational: doubt must be servant, not master; it must be a tool in pursuit of truth, not an end in itself. (see Barr, Schoenrade, & Holt, 2004). The second is more theological: human reason, along with every other human tendency, is limited and distorted, for no aspect of human nature entirely escapes the impact of... [continues]
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