Ever heard the phrase “the heretical imperative” ? I recently came across it, when doing some research into the Northumbrian Community. Not easy to track down its origin, but I’d say it’s a strong argument in favour of relativism, and the right of people to make their own choices when it comes to matters of faith and morality. It implies the necessity of questioning ‘accepted’ dogmas, and not taking everything for granted, as a ‘given’.

Bringing me rather niftily to the subject of doubt … with which I recently had a powerful encounter.

Allow me to share: The venue heaved with people, excitedly jumping & jigging, often punching the air with clenched fists, as the band pumped out its rocky rhythms. The oft-chanted lyrics swished around, reminding me of a packed Kop at Hillsborough, BUT declaring “God is good and great” – when it hit me like a juggernaut, throwing me into frantic consternation – “How can He be so good with all the stuff that’s happening in our world ? Syria – millions starving – harvests failing – a 12-yr old schoolgirl murdered & dumped in a black bag in an attic … and on and on.”

For some, doubt becomes a way of life, for me it was an unwelcome visitor, intruding into what I consider a ‘sacred space’.

Afterwards, I thought of the philosopher, Descartes. He set himself deliberately to doubt everything, even his own existence, until he could be persuaded rationally, beyond any shadow – eventually coming up with that immortal phrase “Cogito ergo sum” which, being interpreted is: “I think, therefore I am”.

Shakespeare in ‘Troilus & Cressida’ claimed: “Modest doubt is call’d the beacon of the wise” –  implying that doubt has its positives.

He’s joined by other notables who have written on the subject. For example, Mark Buchanan (American pastor/author) states in ‘Your God Is Too Safe’: “Sometimes doubting is not a lack of faith, but an expression of it. Sometimes to doubt is to merely insist that God be taken seriously not frivolously, to insist that our faith is placed in and upheld by something other than seeming conjuring tricks.”

Again: “Authentic doubt has the power to sort out and clarify the difference between the certain and the uncertain, the genuine and the spurious” declares R C Sproul (theologian, author, and pastor).

I’ve actually concluded that God is NOT threatened, NOR greatly angered by my questions … and neither is my salvation … thankfully, I was not struck down dead for daring to think. Seems like He has afforded us mere mortals that very privilege – rather than asking us to blindly follow !

I hope you have a thoughtful September !