Pastoral letter from Richard Steven, The Rectory, Herstmonceux Tel 01323 833124
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Dear Church Members and Friends, earlier in this month in the Church Calendar we had St Thomas’s Day. I have a link with Thomas for various reasons and I suspect we all have at least one. I was educated at St Thomas’ School in Sevenoaks, also I was ordained on St Thomas’ day in 1999, and just like St Thomas’ I tend to have doubts along with my faith. I believe if we have an adult Christian faith, as opposed to a childish faith, we will at least from time to time have doubts. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this, but rather that it is bound to happen as we take on board new realities from this wonderful, complex and also troubled world that we live in. Doubt has an important place in our lives as we work through our thinking and understanding about God, life and the universe we live in. One of the purposes of doubt I believe is to drive us on to strengthen our beliefs further by looking for more information from the Bible, people who are seeking truth, especially fellow Christians and their writings, and by prayer. Every time I have had serious doubts by this approach I have always eventually come away with a stronger adult faith in Christ with more understanding and more of His peace inside me. But, there are real dangers for us if we just follow doubts. “Theologian Leslie Newbigin writes that we live in an age that favours doubt over faith. We often speak of ‘blind faith’ and ‘honest doubt’. Both faith and doubt can be blind or honest, but we rarely speak of ‘honest faith’ or ‘blind doubt’. Both faith and doubt are needed, yet it is faith that is more fundamental. Even if I doubt something. I must believe something before I can doubt anything. Doubt is to belief what darkness is to light, what sickness is to health. It is an absence.” (Quoted from Know Doubt by J Ortberg) The greatest danger is if our doubts are allowed to cause us, for various reasons, to drift away from being committed to a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who came to save us all from sin, as well as all errors and wrong understanding. I am convinced that we should all believe our beliefs and doubt our doubts while we look further into the matter causing us to doubt carefully and prayerfully. Of course belief is always a belief, whatever we believe will never have 100% proof in this world or it wouldn’t be belief or faith. Your Christian belief should be a trust based on good reasoning plus encounters with God’s Holy Spirit. Belief, an aspect of all good relationships is viewed in the Bible as being very important and of great value. And when it is tested there is always a positive outcome in view “It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world’.(1 Peter 1:7). Please let me know if you ever want to discuss any issues this topic might raise, I am very happy to do so.