I attended a Christian liberal arts college in a small town with a 600 student enrollment. Overall, I enjoyed these four years as the Christian faith became broader and deeper to me. It also allowed me four years to wrestle with aspects of skepticism, especially as a philosophy major.
Yet, one of the best contributions of my liberal arts education is a three worded dictum from my best friend who summarized the Christian tradition as that of “Wonder versus Doubt”.
The point of my friend is that we all have the volitional ability (before seriously engaging with Christianity and this world) to presuppose Wonder or Doubt. We may either engage this world with hopeful and hope-filled curiosity as to how the story will be told, or we may see this place as a mere jumble of molecules clanging together that give the appearance of truth, goodness, and beauty but without the reality.
Wonder doesn’t dispel sorrow, questioning, depression, mental illness, or poverty. It doesn’t put a bandaid on one’s problems, but it does provide the starting point for navigating the brokenness of the cosmos so that there is still apparent beauty in the brokenness.
Doubt can’t even make sense of brokenness. Doubt is the twenty-year-old student who drops and ‘f bomb’ every other sentence and has no connection to anything larger than him or herself. It is nihilism in its most depressing state.
We can’t ‘prove’ that wonder is better than doubt. There is no logical syllogism which would make it certain and indubitable that wonder is the way to go. This passion/heart-level starting point has more to do with the human person as imaginer, not just a mere thinker.
While I do think there are plenty of good reasons to believe that Christianity is true, it is Blaise Pascal who accurately summarizes the predicament, “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”
I’ve lost a father. My wife has had health problems. I am sorrowful in planting and pastoring a church full of broken people. I have experienced vocational crisis. Yet, Wonder has saved me every time. As a Pastor, it is my calling to proclaim Wonder over Doubt. (Not that we don’t wrestle with doubts, but Wonder must overcome Doubt.)
This is the task in dialoguing with my non-Christian neighbors. We are engaged, ultimately, in a debate of Wonder versus Doubt. The Dutch philosopher Cornelius Van Til showed that the actuality of debate seems to give Wonder the victory, but my vocation as a disciple-maker and neighbor is to aid my friends to ‘see’ Wonder and not just prove it to them.