Honest Answers to Honest Questions: Francis Schaeffer and the Dogma of Doubt
by Timothy D Padgett
Christians will doubt, and skeptics will question. This is an inevitable part of the church’s relationship to the world. There will be times when the strength of the faithful in the face of crises will be too fragile for them even to pretend to have certainty, and there will be moments when the challenges of unbelievers to the core doctrines of our religion will unnerve even the most devout. Our demeanor at such times is nearly as important as our answers to the inquiries themselves.
Now, we can veer to one side by ignoring the person before us, treating them as though they’re nothing more than the object of our pontification, making the question merely the opportunity for us to speak and for others to listen. We can veer to the other by making the person the center, acting as though the only thing that matters is that the questioner feels comfortable asking the question, making any answer to the query secondary at best.
Historically, conservatives have erred on the side of obedience, asking “Who are we to question the truth?” This has the virtue of taking the truth seriously and remembering that reality is not determined by democratic consensus. Liberals and progressives, on the other hand, have traditionally gone off course by leaning too much on openness, asking “Who are we to say what is true?” This has the merit of taking the questioner seriously and admitting that humanity’s perceptions can and do err.
One of my theological and personal heroes is Francis Schaeffer, significantly because he threaded this needle so well…