Honest Doubt: Another Side of Faith

What is doubt? We typically think of it as a lack of faith, a negative thing that is undesirable and should be eliminated or at least shoved far from our life. We often feel guilt and shame for questioning what we think or what we believe. Yet, to be a Unity student is to remain open to the Truth, to be willing to have our spiritual understanding refined. Unity students are open to becoming ever-evolving beings on a perpetual path of spiritual growth.

In Unity, we are encouraged to read, to listen, to seek and to question. Unity teachings invite us to expand our heart’s understanding, to know for ourselves that God’s Truth is within and being revealed to us on an ongoing basis.  When Charles and Myrtle Fillmore were teaching, they looked on points of disagreement merely as opportunities for everyone to be free to find Truth for themselves. They taught others to look for the Truth in all teachings. Every class they taught began and ended with a period of silence, where each student’s mind was free to contact God in their own way.

Faith & Honest Doubt

Unity history records that Charles never stopped looking for new ideas. Even in his nineties, he was still saying, “I reserve the right to change my mind.” He did not believe in the closed mind. Life to him meant new beginnings. He was a pioneer of spirit, an adventurer in faith. He once wrote: “Beware of the circumscribed idea of God! Always provide for an increase in your concept. Be free to grow and expand. What you think today may not be the measure for your thought tomorrow.”

There is a great quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, In Memoriam, in the section on “Faith and Doubt.” Tennyson stated, “There is more faith in honest doubt, than in half of the creeds.” I feel Tennyson could have easily said, “all the creeds.” Having an “honest doubt” is pivotal to our own spiritual growth. It is our doubt that stretches us to learn truth at a deeper level.

The Faith Of A Child

Jesus modeled for us how we need to question. He questioned those around him focusing on truth principles. His disciples once asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” [Matthew 18:1] Jesus replied, “Unless you become like a little child, you will not experience heaven.” Jesus taught his followers to be childlike in their faith.

So how can we be like children? The one thing I know about children is that they question. They ask, “Why?” They ask it often. They ask with intensity and integrity. They ask honest questions simply wanting to know the truth. Children are always ready for the possibilities in the answers. They wonder. They embrace the mystery. Most importantly, they do not feel guilt or shame for their questions.

Questioning is a key strategy to developing our faith. It is essential to our spiritual growth because it embraces the possibility of imperfection and acknowledges fallibility in our beliefs. An honest doubt allows for vulnerability and authenticity. Our questioning creates a space that allows us to “work out our own salvation in awe.” [Philippians 2:12]

My Questioning Journey

Sometimes in life, we may have a dark night of the soul experience. According to Eckhart Tolle, this “dark night” occurs when the entire conceptional framework for our life and the meaning we have given to it collapses. When we go through such times, we may emerge transformed and renewed. We may awaken into something deeper within our being and experience a rebirth of our faith. Virtually everyone has such experiences. You likely have your own dark night of the soul experience. I know I have.

There was a time that I was certain about who God was up there, and who I was down here. I was convinced that I was going to be judged not just for things that I had done, but for who I was. I was certain that every word I heard in the youth group, the church, and at my undergraduate Bible college was true. As I began to question and to see the world as a bigger place, I began to know some Truths for myself. I felt wounded by the message I had been taught and I sought healing. It was a long road.

I moved from being certain that the true nature of a person is totally depraved to embracing the divinity within my own being and holding that Truth for all others as well. At first, the shifts were small, my progress limited. But, as I questioned and developed an honest, seeking doubt, I began to know the Truth for myself, through my own direct experiences, rather than what had been taught and prescribed to me.

Proactive Faith & Spiritual Growth

In The Twelve Powers, Charles Fillmore describes Faith as the “perceiving” power, the ability to see the creative potential of Divine Substance, even before physical form is expressed. Paraphrasing Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern or illusions of this world like fear and separation, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, your thoughts, your deep knowing. Then you will be able to test, evaluate, discern and prove what is good, perfect, and the highest, best self you came here to demonstrate”.

Faith is a commitment to this vision, despite what our intellectual mind may perceive. It is a stretch into what is not yet our present reality. Hebrews 11:1 states it this way: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith “gives substance” to Truth, so that we may act with conviction on the reality and creative power of Truth principle in our life. A proactive faith embraces honest doubt as a viable and valuable tool in our spiritual development. Honest doubt helps us to strengthen our Faith. It invites us to ask the kinds of questions that deepen our spiritual understanding.

So, if you struggle with self doubt and then shame yourself for a lack of faith, know there is another way of looking at this. I encourage you to release any self-judgment that may be blocking you from a deeper experience of the power of your Faith. Forgive yourself for the past and simply allow yourself to ask questions. Give yourself the opportunity to grow. As divine beings, we have all the answers we need within our very own beings. With an honest doubt, we can seek a deeper, more authentic faith. If we are diligent, we will surely find it.