Favourite Quotes: Richard Holloway on Doubt

Along with most people in Scotland who have more than a passing interest in matters spiritual, religious and theological, I have known about Richard Holloway for a long time. (see below this quote for biographical details) However, until recently I had not got around to reading any of his writing.

I had, however, listened to a eulogy for my late mother-in-law, written by Richard Holloway for her funeral service ten years ago. She had been a Samaritan volunteer and churchgoer in Edinburgh for many years and as such knew Richard Holloway, then Bishop of Edinburgh, quite well. I was struck by the straightforward fluency and honesty of what he wrote, delivering an admiring and affectionate word portrait, but not shirking mention of the more problematic aspects of her character.

I have always appreciated honesty which avoids unkindness, but values truth more than comfort. That is what came across during the eulogy, revealing itself again as I work my way through Holloway’s deep probing writing on questions of faith and doubt as they thread themselves though the ever-present gifts and frailties of humankind – admiring his blend of humour, erudition, compassionate feeling and dispassionate analysis.

If  you appreciate and are challenged by this quote, join me in reading through his books!

Light - and Dark....

Light - and Dark....

Because there is such an intrinsic connection between faith and doubt, the Church ought to be big enough to contain both sympathetically.This is the kind of theological magnanimity that is important for itself, but it is also important for secondary reasons. Since it is possible to believe and to doubt for the wrong reasons as well as the right ones, and we don’t always know the one from the other, we need the constant challenge of the other tendency to keep us honest. This will make life uncomfortable, of course, but the work of our purgation demands it. Growth is painful, but no element in our nature is exempt from the process of  sanctification. The Church….should be as inclusive as possible. It should be big enough to hold Thomas the empiricist, as well as John the mystic, and Peter, who was often baffled and confused…..the paradox of justification by faith is that it is God’s faith in us that ultimately matters, and not our faith in God. There is a faith beyond faith, which is deeper than trust in our own trustfulness and is an abandonment to the ultimate graciousness of the universe….This is the trust beyond trust that says ‘yes’ even to the night.It is close to the dereliction of Good Friday….

Light - and Dark....

Light - and Dark....

(from Anger Sex Doubt & Death by Richard Holloway, SPCK Publications, 1992, UK, pp 81-82. I realise this is quite a lengthy extract! Should Richard Holloway or SSPK object, please let me know how many words I can quote and I will edit accordingly….)

Richard F. Holloway (born 26 November 1933) is a Scottish writer and broadcaster and was formerly Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church. To read more about him and his writing, click HERE


500 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Richard Holloway 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


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