The Power of Admitting Doubt
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also known as Britain’s most senior churchman recently disclosed that even he doubts whether God exists. John Bingham writes about the Archbishops surprising admittance of uncertainty in The Telegraph on September 17, 2014.
The statement made by the Archbishop is powerful, not only for his 80 million followers, but for all people, religious and non-religious. Such a disclosure from a very influential voice in the Christian church prompts an interesting reaction. A positive reaction may be formed because it is natural for people to like knowing that others relate to them, especially those in highly regarded positions. Many Christians can relate to doubt and may be comforted knowing their leaders have doubts as well. On the other hand individuals could become discouraged by the words of the Archbishop because many Christians reply on the expert for truth. Often the leader is expected to have knowledge and certainty about their faith, and that certainty is a source of comfort to the religions followers.
It is important to appreciate the Archbishops honestly and humility in admitting doubt and uncertainty in aspects of his faith. I would be willing to assume that anyone raised in a religious environment has come across a type of religious leader unlike Justin Welby, a leader that seems to have all the answers, and not an ounce of doubt. It would be difficult to imagine these individuals admitting to being unsure about their teachings, especially something as fundamental as the existence of God. This has become a frustrating phenomenon for many church goers and I would argue is a significant factor in turning people away from churches and church leaders. Christians have been left feeling isolated in their questions and doubts. I find it comforting that the Archbishop of Canterbury does not let his ego get in the way of admitting and openly discussing his doubts.
Although it is comforting to know that even the most influential figures in the church can relate to the doubts and struggles of many Christians it can also create a feeling of unease. If the Archbishop of the Anglican Church has doubts about God’s existence, is it possible to move beyond doubt to a place of certainty in ones religion?
I think what can be learned from this article is that people cannot rely on their religious leaders for assurance of their beliefs. Peace about religion has to be found in ones own search for truth. The other valuable lesson from Mr. Welby is that not only is it okay to doubt, but it is okay to admit those doubts even when in a position of authority. He say’s “We can talk about Jesus – I always do that because most of the other questions I can’t answer.” He sends a great message to all religious people, talk about what you know and be honest enough to admit what you are unsure of.