August 4, 2007

Maha: The Wisdom of Doubt

Filed under: Philosophy — Bob Gifford @ 7:05 pm

Maha has been writing a series on The Wisdom of Doubt, which she has now wrapped. Given the name of this blog, I have been reading it with great interest. Maha is a former Christian, current Zen Buddhist, and as you can imagine, has a lot of interesting things to say about Christianity as well as religion in general. I highly recommend the whole thing, but there are a few of my favorite quotes:

Doubt in the Zen sense is not knowing. A Christian might use the word humility instead of doubt to mean about the same thing. Doubt means you don’t know with any certainty who or what God is, or what’s going to happen next, or how your plans for yourself will turn out, or even what happens when you die. But though you doubt, yet you trust. This is faith.

Doubt also means you are open to all possibilities, all understanding, because you haven’t filled up your head with certainty. Zennies sometimes use the phrases “beginner’s mind” or “don’t know mind” to mean the same thing. That’s why this kind of doubt is about being open. The other kind of doubt, the one that causes people to fold their arms and say religion is just superstitious crap, is closed.

This captures so well why I, a believing Christian, yet embrace doubt as an essential part of my personal philosophy.

Maha also includes a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr, the 20th century Christian theologian:

When we look into the future we see through a glass darkly. The important issue is whether we will be tempted by the incompleteness and frustration of life to despair, or whether we can, by faith, lay hold on the divine power and wisdom which completes what remains otherwise incomplete. A faith which resolves mystery too much denies the finiteness of all human knowledge, including the knowledge of faith. A faith which is overwhelmed by mystery denies the clues of divine meaning which shine through the perplexities of life. The proper combination of humility and trust is precisely defined when we affirm that we see, but admit that we see through a glass darkly.

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