The Value of Being Dogmatic in Our Faith

by Travis Dickinson

For some, I’d be the last guy you’d expect to be extolling the value of dogmatism. On this blog, I typically urge the value of doubt and questioning our faith. I do always try to be careful to say that doubt is not good in itself. It has value, but the value comes when we lean into doubts and are led to truth, knowledge and a more confident faith. And faith certainly is a virtue. So I don’t want anyone to stay in a place of serious doubt. And through the doubt, I want to suggest it’s important to stay somewhat dogmatic about the (important and fundamental) beliefs we have.

Okay, so what do I mean by dogmatism? For our purposes, let’s understand dogmatism as sticking with our convictions in the face of countervailing evidence.

Inappropriate Dogmatism

Now there is no question there are forms of dogmatism that are clearly inappropriate. We should of course follow the evidence where it leads. At some point, the evidence will likely lead all of us to reject some belief we have long held. This can be very, very difficult, especially when we have organized our lives, to some degree, around this belief. This can be a belief in the integrity of some person, organization or institution, or a belief in some political theory, or a theory of science, or even something having to do with sports or a hobby, etc. It can also of course have to do with one’s Christian beliefs. When we remain absolutely stubborn in our beliefs despite unassailable evidence, this is not an intellectual virtue and it’s not what I’m suggesting here.

There is, as usual, another extreme. We can also be unstable in our deeply held beliefs where we fold, so to speak, in the face of any challenge at all. So, as usual, the virtue is somewhere in the middle. The big question is where is that line? To what degree should we be dogmatic?…
 

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The Value of Being Dogmatic in Our Faith