The Opposite of Faith is Not Doubt

The opposite of faith isn’t doubt - its certainty.
— Anne Lamott

This phrase has been a mantra of mine for the past few months as I struggle with some of the bigger questions of the faith. Every question I seem to ask about faith and culture comes back to one shattering question - is the bible the infallible word of God, or is it a book, inspired by God, but written by fallible men in the context of their culture and experiences?

Almost every pertinent cultural question of the faith - what is the role of women in the church? does God approve of committed gay relationships? was the world created by God through evolution? - comes down to this one question about the origin of scripture and how Christians should interpret it in our time and space.

It all breaks down for me pretty early in Genesis 1 - a scripture that God continues to bring me back to time and time again. Please understand I do not pretend to be a bible scholar - I never went to seminary or studied Hebrew. But, I do have a brain and I have been told it works pretty well.

Concerning Genesis 1, most of us have heard about the contradicting creation accounts and that leaves room for questions. But there are some other things I struggle with throughout these early passages.

For one, Genesis documents God creating firmament to separate the earth from the heavens - something that was disproved by scientists hundreds of years ago (Genesis 1:6). God also creates day and night before he creates the sun and moon (Genesis 1:5, 16). And then there are the accounts of Gen 1 & Gen 2 listing different orders of creation (Gen 1 listing the creation of animals before man, and Gen 2 listing the creation of animals after man). The perfection of the book breaks down pretty quickly when we try and scientifically piecemeal a literal account of creation together from facts that do not quite line up.

This begs the question - if this piece of the bible contradicts itself, what does that say for the rest of the document? How much does the context of when the books were written play into their interpretation? How much does the writers experience and tradition play into these books? Scholars have debated these very things for centuries and losing your religion in these questions is very easy. There is only way I have discovered to find solid ground again after drifting in these waters of doubt. Look at the overarching narrative.

When I was reading and re-reading Genesis 1 for the umpteenth time, I read “In the beginning, God created...” and for the first time, I stopped there. In that moment, I felt God or the Holy Spirit or whatever you interpret as the “still small voice” say to me: “that’s it”.

God is not asking me to deduce scientific meaning from the creation account - He is simply reminding me that He created. The overarching narrative throughout the details of Genesis 1 and 2 is that God is Creator, He made us in His image, sin exists, we are imperfect, and someday God will restore the earth and us. Whispers of the gospel of grace speckle the creation account and and remind us that Christ was there from the beginning and that His coming was always the plan. That is all I know. And that is all that God has allowed me to see and understand right now. I do not doubt the scripture, I just do not understand everything. The opposite of faith is not doubt - the opposite of faith is certainty.

God created just enough mystery throughout His great book to remind us that we cannot know everything. Maybe He did not want us to have all the answers - perhaps He just wanted to reveal little aspects of His glory piece by piece, because He knew we could not handle more than that. We do not know all - we do not even know how we got here - and in that, we can wonder at the great mysteries of God. And if that scares you or shakes your foundations, remember this:

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
— 1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV

Faith has always been the point. And we cannot have faith if we are certain of all the answers.