One of the great virtues of our post-modern era is the growth and cultivation of doubt. We are a generation that cannot stomach the notion that we are to merely accept, without questions, that which we are taught by those who come before us. Things must be questioned. Ideas must be tested. This growth of skepticism is in many ways a healthy opportunity for people to reevaluate why they think the way they think. The history of the world is like a flowing river, and though much is the same, we must also admit that no two twists or turns in its path are quite identical. Every generation has the responsibility of rethinking and reapplying the ancient answers to modern times. Without a healthy dose of skepticism and questioning, people are left without defense to being manipulated and falling into the same mistakes of the past.
But there is one element of today’s doubt which for many is a deadly blow to the legitimacy of all their thinking – the tendency to doubt all things except the very things that we stand on. Too easily we fall into the pattern of seeing the many flaws in the ideas and perspectives of many around us, all the while failing to truly apply the same measure to our very own perspectives. True and healthy doubt is always a humble thing. It is rooted in the awareness of the limitation of individual people and their ideas. That awareness always spreads to ourselves first and foremost. Are you aware of the fact that you too, like everyone else, have a perspective? Are you aware of the fact that your own perspective has limitations and weaknesses?
But doesn’t this causes us to be totally unsure of everything? Actually the opposite. It helps us stand even more confidently on our ideas. We have more confidence in our perspectives when we are aware of their weak points. You really can’t fully live out your worldview unless you are honestly aware of the limitations of your perspectives. This humble kind of doubt causes us to listen more carefully to other people, appreciate their viewpoints, while also having clarity on how and why we disagree with them.
The problem today is that doubt and skepticism have been a fad, a popular position that people hold simply because its the thing to do. To many, the skepticism of today is rooted in ignorance, not in knowledge. For example, we often hear the statement that “all religions pretty much teach the same thing truths”. And yet, a simple and honest look at the different religions will show that this is simply untrue. The only people who say this are those who don’t really believe in any of the religions, and haven’t taken the time to examine their actual claims. Its a position that is accepted on blind faith, a position that assumes knowledge of things far outside its scope.
The simple test of honest doubt then is this: are you aware of the weaknesses in your own perspective? When you criticize the perspectives of others in your mind (and we all do), are simultaneously aware of your own limitations?