Doubts, Black Clouds, and Alexander Pope

Doubt.

All of us know what that word means. Most of us have felt it. It’s something that cannot be explained in words very well, but doubt is a sort of black cloud. It follows you and overshadows anything good that you might experience, never mind how foolish the doubts themselves are. Pretending to be “good sense” or “rationalism,” the black cloud hovers over you and makes you question everything.

I know what doubt is like because over the past week I have had to wrestle with my own doubts.

Now, I consider myself to be a pretty good apologist. I can argue with almost every opposing worldview- except Freemasonry, mainly because nobody ever told us much about that one- and not lose my head. (I am also very humble about it.)

But last week, I read a few things that asked questions about God. Questions I couldn’t answer. I started to wonder and then to doubt. I had to sit down and try to think my way out of these seeming quandaries (NT, anyone?), and I probably spent a solid hour just picking apart the questions in my brain. Now the very nature of the questions rendered them impossible to answer; they were on the subject of infinity, which is something that no human can understand. So here I was with my finite brain, trying to understand infinity. Needless to say, it didn’t work, and I remained frustrated.

Then I started reading about Alexander Pope- long story short, I was taking a test on English literature. Most people know Pope for his heroic poems and satires, but he also had a lot to say about philosophy. Now, before you say “bo-ring,” you should know that he wrote An Essay on Man, which was summarized as defending faith in God because we cannot see the world from his perspective.

That sounded interesting. So I plunked down and read it, and am I ever glad that I did.

Alexander Pope (whew, let’s just call him Alex) wrote this essay in the form of a poem, extolling God.

Say first, of God above, or man below
What can we reason, but from what we know?
Of man, what see we but his station here,
From which to reason, or to which refer? (source)

In case you are confused by old fancy poems (which most people are), Alex is saying that God is so high above us that we cannot possibly understand him. All we have to look at is the finite world in which he has placed us, and the rest depends on divine revelation. Echoing the book of Job, Alex affirms God’s greatness and his trustworthiness in the past, and we are challenged to rely on God to handle the rest. (And the way Alex says it is simply so eloquent and beautiful. Maybe you’ll want to click that link and just read the poem yourself…)

Some doubts, such as seeming contradictions in the Bible, can be quickly dispelled, even by our human minds. Yet others, like questions about God and infinity, cannot. When we encounter a question like this, we have to remember God’s faithfulness, his love, and his wisdom that He has proved to us in the past. Alex knew this. He points out to us myriad examples of questions about the world and God that people couldn’t answer for years, but Christians took them on faith. And then, in later years, their faith in God was confirmed by some new discovery.

We may not like that answer, but the very nature of faith in God is that we cannot do everything ourselves, including think our way out of every problem. It all comes down to this. If you cannot answer a question, you need to choose what to believe: God or the question. Which would you pick?

 

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2 comments

  1. Caity says:

    I know this is an old post but I just want to say how much it helped me! I tend to overthink things like that and your post came in great timing. 🙂

    • Ashlyn says:

      Hello, Caity! I’m glad it encouraged you when you needed it most. Thank goodness for old Alexander Pope. 🙂

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