Can we have more Doubt and less Certainty, please?

I have long appreciated  Richard Holloway’s deep probing writing on questions of faith and doubt as he looks steadily upon the ever-present gifts and frailties of humankind – admiring his blend of humour, erudition, compassionate feeling and dispassionate analysis. Since this is the Christian season of Lent, I thought the following quote would be an appropriate one to offer as food for thought. 

We are living through a time where fundamentalist certainties in science, politics and especially religion are creating various kinds of turmoil and havoc worldwide. Perhaps the leavening humility of more doubt and less certainty would be of ultimate benefit to us all?

Spiral of Rebirth
The Circle of Life

Because there is such an intrinsic connection between faith and doubt, the Church ought to be big enough to contain both sympathetically… 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… 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…

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


350 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Richard Holloway 2016
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10 thoughts on “Can we have more Doubt and less Certainty, please?

  1. Yes, please… “Perhaps the leavening humility of more doubt and less certainty would be of ultimate benefit to us all?”

  2. Personally, I think of on the corners we box ourselves into is that doubt/certainty pairing. I’m much happier with doubt/faith being paired, because — let’s face it! — much of our knowledge is provisional. Of course we can say we’re having a nice grilled cheese for supper with a fair degree of certainty, but what we’ll do tomorrow? Less certain. There are too many variables at play.

    And, of course, when we get to the big questions, a certain modesty had better be a part of the equation. One reason those discussions about climate change become so fraught is that people resent being beat over the head with the phrase “settled science.” They know darned well that the weather forecasters can’t get next Tuesday right, so there’s some scepticism about whether they can get 2050 right. An acknowledgement that answers are provisional leaves the door open for discussion.

    As for more personal issues about dying, death, and the hereafter — even there, I tend toward a certain modesty. Perhaps that’s why I so love this song by Iris Dement. THere’s a time to “Let the Mystery Be.”

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