The Exploring Never Ends

Reviewing Matthew Lee Anderson’s The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith, Timothy King criticizes his understanding of doubt’s place in the Christian life, asserting that faith “is grown not by the removal of doubt but by acting in its presence”:

If we do not experience a deep sense of uncertainty as to how the question we are asking may or may not be answered, then we are not, I would argue, in full exploration of the question. Anderson argues that our questions should occur “within the borders of faith” and that when we question “we do not weigh Christianity in the balances.” These sorts of presuppositions can not only make the questions we ask anemic, they also leave us open to the great danger of assuming that what we believe today as a “border of faith” should actually be a “border of faith.” A growing faith quite likely means that what we think it means to “weigh Christianity in the balances” at one point in our life, will not mean the same thing later. And that’s a good thing.

Anderson and I would agree that good questions have a role in the growth of our faith throughout the life of a believer. We always live with the knowledge that we might one day discover that a belief we have held is wrong, insufficient, or able to be improved upon. But Anderson believes this ongoing pursuit of better questions and answers can continue without doubt. I disagree. Without truly doubting and opening yourself to the possibility that even many of your most deeply held tenets of faith could be wrong or inadequate, questioning will remain a mental exercise that does not reach its potential for personal transformation. Doubt, I would argue, is that state of change that allows for the questions to continue and faith to grow. And as the husks of beliefs that were wrong, too small, or in other ways insufficient fall aside, they join in the process of fertilizing a more perfect faith through their own decomposition.