I am preaching on our lifetimes as journeys of faith in church. Yesterday, I spoke on how childhood is all about exploring, discovering and receiving God’s wisdom. I also lifted up the experience of wonder and how wonder and doubt are closely related. When I opened my email this morning I started the week with the questions in this email from a member of the church. One of the other pastors suggested that I share the questions and my response. So, here you go…
I’ve been thinking about the remarks you made regarding doubt and wonder in your sermon this morning. A couple of thoughts about them:
1. Can doubt be shifted to become wonder? What does it take to do so?– more concrete evidence? Willingness to recognize that some degree of ambiguity exists in all considerations?
2. Conversely, can wonder be transformed into doubt? What does it take to do so? — more concrete evidence? new information? new interpretations of older evidence? reexamination of “first principles”?
3. Does doubt come first, then wonder, or is it vice versa? When/how does wonder and mystery become grinding cynicism?
4. Is faith more wonder than doubt? You started your sermon by a question that would suggest that it is the former, not the latter.
Thanks for such a thoughtful response to the sermon.
I suppose that I begin by delineating wonder and doubt less than most people. I see them more like cousins in our family of emotions. One relies more on past experience while the other relies more on prospect, but they each begin with unknowing. Cynicism is when we do not admit to a lack of knowledge and claim more assurance than we have realistically. It corresponds with arrogance and sadness. We have enough disappointment that is based on past experiences that we do not feel like it is reasonable to allow expectation or alternative. If we’re not careful or encouraged by others, however, that can lead us into feeling like we know and therefore contain the final word within ourselves. There are no questions.
True wonder is when we are profoundly overwhelmed with the immeasurable. From an adult perspective we may see a child’s wonder contained within parameters they cannot estimate, but it is still the same. We hold onto wonder as adults by admitting that even when we find a measurement, our experience is still pretty, freakin’ amazing. The speed of light, the aurora borealis, galaxy UGC 1813, the experience of a hot mineral spring on our skin, the breeze in a spring afternoon, middle C… all measurable in some manner and yet all beyond us.
When we admit this, allow it to reflect what is immeasurable within us, we start to open ourselves to faith. Faith becomes personal when someone is speaking to our immeasurable from their immeasurable and we find an assurance within that allowing us to trust it. Then we are able to step into the unknown. For most people doubt is taught, while wonder is natural. Wonder must be subdued, in the sense of captured and restrained, for doubt to own the field. But doubt can lose and be turned into wonder.
Thanks. Nice way to start the week. Happy to continue the conversation, also.