You know, if I was going to be absolutely honest about part of my own character, then I would have to admit that I have always enjoyed a little conflict and controversy. Do not misunderstand me, I do not like starting it, but I do enjoy reading or watching it. Perhaps this is the reason I enjoyed Dominic Erdozain’s book “The Soul of Doubt” so much. The reality I kept finding myself in was that with each religious scholar discussed and the various theological positions they held, my analytical brain was grinding with such furious energy that I did not want it to end. This book was a theological roller coaster of religious thought that at some points I was internally shouting “AMEN AMEN!,” and yet at other moments crying out, “You must be out of your mind!” It was that constant reminder of 1 Corinthians 14:33, which reads, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints,” and yet the curious question of “Then what did mankind do to screw this up so royally?” I still find myself amazed at the plethora of churches in the world that cling to tightly to that “christian” flag, and yet the realization that based on the various doctrines, there are a whole lot of “wrong” people out there.
I often tell people that there are two terrifying passages in the bible…I am talking about scriptures that should really make Christians sit up in their chairs and pay attention. The first is very pertinent here because the text discussed Luther’s relating of the lessons regarding the Sermon on the Mount and his interpreting of the beatitudes found in Matthew 5-6. The verse is Matthew 7:21 which reads, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” The reason this is so scary is because the only people who refer to Christ as “Lord, Lord” would be Christians. The atheists don’t do it; the agnostics and the Muslims don’t do it, nor do the Buddhists; the fact is, Christ just declared that not everyone who perceives themselves to be Christians will make it to heaven. The second verse is in Revelation 3:1 when He says to the “CHURCH” in Sardis, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” What is the name that we wear that tells that we are alive in Christ? “Christian”! So what is the point? This book was wrought with so many highly regarded men of the restoration movement, who many would say brought Christianity to life out of Catholicism, and yet, they were angry, bickering, and even condemning examples of some of the exact opposite messages that Jesus seemed to promote. If God is not the author of confusion, then we must be responsible for it.
I thought for the sake of this discussion however, I would highlight on two areas of conflict in the text that really caught my attention; the discussion of works vs. faith and the discussion on the White Robe parable.
Still following the same discussion from above, it is amazing that after over 500 years of theological study and advancements there is still such a huge debate in the church regarding works and faith only. Luther was quoted as saying, ““This is the reason why our theology is certain, it snatches us away from ourselves and places us outside ourselves, so that we do not depend on our own strength, conscience, experience, person or works but depend on that which is outside ourselves, that is, on the promise and truth of God which cannot deceive.” However, Luther also presented the idea, at least according to Erdozain, that “Christ was more concerned about mind than action: the quality of faith, not the spurious beauty of the deed.” The problem comes in that James 2:17-18 reads, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” So it seems more prevalent to myself to believe that Christ was hoping for both in His people. So why then does it seem that today, just the thought of discussing “works” seems to be such a cause for contention. Is it really a bad thing to encourage God people to serve Him through works?
The second, very interesting topic was the parable of the White Robe told by Castellio in his conflict with Calvin. The frustration of Castellio was very similar to my own frustration with the various views discussed in this book: “Christ is the Prince of this world. His requirement is that people love one another. Instead he finds us bickering over ‘the Trinity, predestination, free will’ and forgetting that love is the basis of all spiritual knowledge. Something had to change.” This is exactly where I sit when I view the tragedy that we call the “church” today. I see so many denominations, sects, and orders that I really wonder if God is sitting up in Heaven proud of any of us. There seems to be this constant struggle to do what is right in the eyes of God as long as we can do it our way. It’s like having a Burger King on the Sea of Galilee… “Lord, I really want to go into all the world and preach the gospel, but can I only go to the tropical islands, they are my favorite? We fill our pulpits with mixed messages of love and hate, and yet feel this godliness about it because we have ordained in ourselves that if we “know that we are right, then that must prove that everyone else is wrong…and thus evil.
I mentioned that I love conflict and controversy, but not because I want to be part of them, but because I pray that the Lord will help me to learn from them. The reality of our situation is that we are supposed to be at division with the world, but God called us to be united with each other. How do we maintain the gospel of peace when His own people cannot stop fighting? I believe we better figure out soon or else we may find that Jesus was talking to us in Matthew 7 and Revelation 3.
“His engagement with the primary sources whenunearthing the religious roots of thinkers such as Spinoza and Voltaire is impressive,and certainly challenges popular stereotypes and scholarly efforts to read these thinkers as much more fully post-Christian than they claimed to be.”
“He writes well and wittily throughout, explaining, for example, how Western Christianity in the wake of Augustine developed an “interiority complex”. That said, he just occasionally over-reaches himself, such as when he writes how “the raging waters of revolt were guided toward the exacting turbine of doctrine”
“Dominic Erdozain is a scholar with a mission: to convince sceptics that religious doubt arises from faith, and more specifically from the religious conscience. It is when faith does not live up to what it promises, argues Erdozain, causing conflict and injustice, that it leads to doubt.”
Erdozain, D. (2016). The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Littlejohn, B. (2016). Review of Dominic Erdozain “The Soul of Doubt”. Political Theology, 1-3.
Methuen, D. C. (2016, December). Reviews in History: The Soul of Doubt. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from Reviews in History: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/2031
Spencer, N. (2016, January 11). Theos. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from Theosthinktank.co.uk: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2016/01/11/the-soul-of-doubt-the-religious-roots-of-unbelief-from-luther-to-marx
 Erdozain, D. (2016). The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx. Oxford: Oxford University Press. P. 23, Kindle Edition.
 Ibid, p 21.
 Ibid, p 23.
 Ibid, p 55.
 Littlejohn, B. (2016). Review of Dominic Erdozain “The Soul of Doubt”. Political Theology, 1-3.
 Spencer, N. (2016, January 11). Theos. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from Theosthinktank.co.uk: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2016/01/11/the-soul-of-doubt-the-religious-roots-of-unbelief-from-luther-to-marx.
 Methuen, D. C. (2016, December). Reviews in History: The Soul of Doubt. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from Reviews in History: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/2031.