Thursday, April 05, 2012

casting doubt

Darryl Dash has posted an insightful thought on keeping silent in our doubt. Clearly this is not a rule. Clearly we encounter doubt. At the same time, there is a time and place to express these doubts and healthy, as opposed to unhealthy, ways to process these.

I'm sure I've read it many times before, but Psalm 73:15 leapt out at me the other day. Asaph is struggling with the prosperity of the wicked, while the righteous don't always do so well. Asaph ultimately finds that things make more sense when he takes the long view and considers the destiny of the righteous and the wicked. It's a fairly well-known psalm.

I was struck by this verse:

If I had decided to say these things aloud, I would have betrayed Your people.

In the middle of his struggle, Asaph says, it would have been harmful for him to give voice to his doubts. Sometimes it's best to keep our mouths shut.

We tend to like people who are vocal about their struggles these days. I appreciated Asaph's reminder that if we're not careful in how we give voice to our struggles and doubts, we could undermine the faith of others and do a lot of unnecessary damage. A good reminder indeed.


dle said...


I wonder if this verse should be intrepreted differently within OT and NT contexts. How might it work differently to an audience that did not have the Holy Spirit indwelling versus one that does?

Case in point, Paul drags out the junk of the Corinthian church for all to see. Wouldn't knowing how messed up the church was cause some people to doubt? I know that doubt only afflicts me when I see notable churchpeople doing stupid things (or omitting doing smart things).

Just wondering, since I'm unsettled on the issue.

Brendt said...

Kudos to Darryl for using the word "sometimes" (i.e. implying that there could be times when you *should* be public about your doubts), and to you for -- approvingly, I assume -- quoting it. I've been struck lately how many Psalms *do* express doubt or just plain throw a temper tantrum in God's direction. Most of them resolve to (at least) "Well, I don't get it, but I'm going to praise/trust God, anyway." But some don't even do that -- they just end with the Psalmist's anger, confusion, etc.

Please know, though, that by employing the word "sometimes", you now have a lifetime ban from the Kevin DeYoung Fan Club. The legal paperwork is being overnight'd to you, but the ban will be retroactive to 1 second after you clicked "Publish" on this post.

Also, know that your Calvinism (at least as it is popularly defined these days) is on probation. You will be receiving counseling shortly.

Rick Ianniello said...

Dan - I understood Asaph was questioning his 'theological grid' and decided it was best to keep that to himself. That's different than Paul's confronting the incorrect orthodoxy/orthopraxy of the Corinthians.

With that said, re: Brendt's point and my reply to him.

Brendt - I think it is foolish for us to lie to God given He already knows the truth. One should be commended when honestly expressing thoughts and emotions. On the other hand:

- our goal is not the questions/doubting thoughts/ fearful emotions/anger/etc... the expressing of these is only commendable as it is a step toward rectifying. Many today seem to simply celebrate the questions and even get angry with those who attempt to provide answers.
- bare naked expressing of everything unfiltered to everyone is typically not wise. But in some scenarios, especially in communicating with God, that open and complete exposure is best. So I also liked the use of the word sometimes because it depends.
- Calvinist as well as DeYoungists are allowed to question, doubt, etc. ... we just prefer finding answers more than languishing in those other states. We also recognize that over the course of life only a fool does not acknowledge having had or benefiting from these processes. It's just not our end goal, that's all ...

dle said...


For me, the question is one of creating doubt in less strong people. The means of creating that doubt is less essential. Witnessing a dressing down of leaders supposedly in tune with the Holy Spirit can create just as much dissonance in one's faith as a leader questioning certain aspects of the faith. Imagine what would happen to the Piper and MacArthur fanboys if the Apostle Paul suddenly returned and gave those two leaders a swift kick for their "inadequacies." {Fact is, I'm sure some of the fanbase would strike back at Paul. ;-) }

Brendt said...

First, let's be clear that I am referring to Calvinism *as it is often expressed today* -- not *real* Calvinism. In fact, I'll use a nonsense-word -- narfs -- to delineate those folks from *real* Calvinists.

Second, I don't believe that you (Rick) are a narf. The fact that you (on several occasions here, and in other places) allow exceptions to the rule -- whatever that rule may be -- is evidence of this fact.

Case in point: I agree with you completely that doubt/anger/etc is not our goal. And yes, there are those who celebrate the questions and get upset when someone tries to answer them. But there are three problems with this scenario (we'll use "Joe" as shorthand for the questioner):

1) Too many narfs assume that *any* expression of questions (in any public setting) by Joe *always* means that he is celebrating the question, languishing therein, and viewing the question as the end of the journey.

2) There is an underlying thread in much of narfdom that if Joe does not *always* reach the goal -- and as fast as he darn well can -- then there is something wrong.

Now the terrifying thing about this is that there can only be two people who are "wrong" if you follow this logic -- either Joe or God. The good money is on Joe, but what if he's not wrong? Then that means that God is wrong, and we're all in deep chocolate yogurt.

Or, the narf could admit that maybe there's a third option -- and that maybe God didn't mess up by putting the non-resolving Psalms in the canon.

You stated that "the expressing of these is only commendable as it is a step toward rectifying", and I agree, as long as it is admitted that sometimes rectification does not come in this lifetime (i.e. you may take *several* steps, but not ever get there). Such, sadly, is not the perception of the narf.

3) If Joe asks a question, and a narf provides an answer, if that answer does not satisfy Joe, the narf just writes Joe off. The narf perceives that the goal in this instance is XYZ. For whatever reason, Joe does not agree. Therefore, Joe must be in error, languishing, etc.

For excellent examples of this chutzpah, see Dan Phillip's "Next!" series over on Pyromaniacs (and the slobbering praise that he receives in the comments section for taking us all to the gun show and letting us see his mad logic skillz).

*** thus endeth the 3 points ***

To be frank, I see DeYoung as king of the narfs, as he has often managed to put into crystal clear words that which the narfs have usually only vaguely exhibited. This is why I stated that your fan club membership is toast, whereas your Calvinism is only on probation.

You state that "DeYoungists are allowed to question, doubt, etc". In and of itself, this is an accurate statement. But add the word "publicly" to that sentence (even just occasionally), and it's 100% wrong. Note this quote from DeYoung/Kluck's "I Thank Thee That I'm Not Emergent":

I agree there must be space for Christians to ask hard questions and explore the tensions of our faith, but I seriously question that this space should be hugely public where hundreds of thousands of men and women are eagerly awaiting the next book or blog or podcast arising from your faith journey.

We are told that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time. This means that the book of Psalms (which contains many hard questions) is "hugely public" and read by a whole lot more than "hundreds of thousands of men and women", who (one would hope) are "eagerly awaiting the next" opportunity to read it more. But DeYoung doesn't want this, apparently.

Going back to the OP, Asaph said "I perceived that this time, it was wiser to keep my mouth shut". DeYoung tells Asaph that all the other times when he didn't, he was wrong.

Rick Ianniello said...

well crap ... what is this world coming to when one can no longer just follow someone blindly ...