The Threefold Power Of Doubt, Faith & Wisdom

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‘The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.’ Pierre Abelard

I am a man of faith. I live my life following the principle of walking by faith and not by sight.

And yet I still question. I doubt. I seek. For I have a burning desire to not only seek the truth, to tell the truth, but to also live true to my convictions.

I search out for integrity in others. I see good character as a far more precious possession than even gold. And yet I do see how faith and doubt can dwell comfortably together in the pursuit of wisdom, just as Pierre Abelard expressed and Leigh Sales has eloquently presented in her book ‘On Doubt’.

‘ The twelfth-century French philosopher Pierre Abelard …was revered as a significant teacher, philosopher and theologian. Abelard taught his students that the path to truth lay in the systematic application of doubt. Not only should doubt be brought to bear on external issues, but it should also be turned inward to test one’s own assumptions. Abelard preferred statements of proof and fact rather than those relying on faith and rhetoric alone. He did not accept that something was true or right merely because somebody in leadership said it was so. As a result, he was targeted by authorities and frequently charged with heresy.

Like Abelard, many great thinkers throughout history have been branded heretics for publicly voicing skepticism. Those who have sought truth – be they philosophers or scientists, artists or writers, revolutionaries or explorers – have always begun their quests from a premise of doubt, not certainty. Their questions have most often run counter to the prevailing wisdom or authorities of the day. Copernicus asked whether the earth really was at the centre of the universe. Martin Luther asked whether the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on salvation was biblical. Thomas Jefferson asked why Americans couldn’t govern themselves. Mary Wollstonecraft asked why women shouldn’t have equal rights. Nelson Mandela asked why blacks weren’t entitled to the same privileges as whites.’

So let me encourage you to doubt. Question. Seek, and you will find the truth. And that truth will set you free indeed.

Source: ‘On Doubt’ By Leigh Sales  – published by Melbourne University Press

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