Monday, May 18, 2009

Doubting Obama

Daniel Larison, one of today's most astute political commentators and an Orthodox Christian (he attends this parish), has an interesting post commenting on President Obama's recent speech at Notre Dame, in which Mr Obama touched on questions of faith and doubt. An excerpt from Daniel's post:
Everyone is stricken with doubt at times, but it has to be understood that doubt, like an illness, is something from which one may suffer but which is something that needs to be remedied rather than perpetuated or celebrated. Physical illness can have a humbling effect, but a proper understanding of theological anthropology tells us that illness, like death, is part of our fallen state. Doubt is a function of a mind clouded by the passions–it is the result of confusion. It does not teach us anything, but rather prevents us from learning. It is important to see the difference between doubt and apophatic theology: one is the function of human confusion, the other is the necessary recognition of the unknowability of God in His essence. Obama misleadingly lumps the two together. As Obama would have it, because we cannot know God in Himself and cannot always understand what He wills for us we must therefore abandon all claims of certainty, even when these are founded in what God has told and revealed to us about Himself. Obama said, “It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what he asks of us,” but only for the first part of this is true. What God asks of us is well-known. In the Psalms, for example, He tells us, “Be still and know that I am God.” He has not said, “Be ironically detached and suppose that I might very well be God, depending on how the mood strikes you.” We hide behind doubt and any number of other convenient shields to protect our little selfish empires from the demands that we know God makes of us. He has said, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul and all thy mind and all thy strength.” What He asks of us is quite clear. Indeed, if there is anything we can say that we know with certainty, it is this.
The entire post is worth reading.

In other news, I note with some apprehension that Mr Obama's recent appointee as religious liaison to his Office of Public Engagement, Paul Monteiro, is a Seventh-Day Adventist.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another view:

Bishop Kallistos, The Orthodox Way:

"Because faith is not logical certainty but a personal relationship,
and because this personal relationship is as yet very incomplete in
each of us and needs continually to develop further, it is by no means
impossible for faith to coexist with doubt. The two are not mutually
exclusive. Perhaps there are some why by God's grace retain throughout
their life the faith of a little child, enabling them to accept
without question all that they have been taught. For most of those
living in the West today, however, such an attitude is simply not
possible. We have to make our own the cry, "Lord, I believe: help my
unbelief" (Mark 9:24). For very many of us this will remain our
constant prayer right up to the very gates of death. Yet doubt does
not in itself signify lack of faith. It may mean the opposite -- that
our faith is alive and growing. For faith implies not complacency but
taking risks, not shutting ourselves off from the unknown but
advancing boldly to meet it. Here an Orthodox Christian may readily
make his own the words of Bishop J.A.T. Robinson: "The act of faith is
a constant dialogue with doubt." As Thomas Merton rightly says, "Faith
is a principle of questioning and struggle before it becomes a
principle of certitude and peace."