Fritz von Uhde, “Christ and Nicodemus” (c. 1896)
The true believer is both a dogmatist and a doubter. He believes in his dogma — not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end.
There are two types of people who are like two madmen strapped together back-to-back. They are the dogmatist and the doubter.
The dogmatist is the person who has reduced his religion to dogma. This person has everything worked out. He has all the rules and regulations and rubrics in place. He knows all the moral regulations and restrictions. Every ‘i’ is dotted. Every ‘t’ is crossed. He not only knows it all, but he knows that he knows it all.
Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not opposed to dogma, but religion is more than dogma, not less, and the dogmatist has boiled it all down to the rule book.
The doubter, on the other hand, seems to be the opposite of the dogmatist. He takes pride in debunking everything and doubting all verities. He has no time for the revelation, the rules, the restrictions, the rubrics and the regulations. He does not believe in God. He despises religion. He doubts spiritual realities. He debunks dogma, scorns sacraments, castigates the clergy and repudiates prayer.
The doubter doubts everything, but never doubts himself. In this respect his belief system is as watertight and impermeable as the dogmatists.
Both the dogmatist and the doubter take refuge in their neat and tidy, self-made and self-defended little fortress. Both feel safe and secure, and both are just as locked tight in their own hypocrisy and narrow mindedness.
The true believer, on the other hand, takes what is good of all things and reconciles them. In other words, the true believer is both a dogmatist and a doubter. He believes in his dogma — not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end.
He knows he needs dogma — not to bolster his defense system, but as a map for his journey. The true believer relies on dogma as a man relies on a ladder–as a tool to help him climb. As a result, he spends time making sure the dogmas is right as a man check the ladder for broken rungs before he climbs. However, he does not mistake the ladder for the climb. The former serves the latter (if you’ll excuse the pun).
The true believer is also somewhat of a doubter — in fact he is a more radical doubter than any secular doubter for he doubts the very foundation of belief that the secular doubter takes for granted: he doubts himself.
The true believer doubts his own perceptions and perspectives. He has learned that he is a product of a particular upbringing and set of assumptions. He is the product of a particular culture and a particular age and a particular mix of genetics. The true believer doubts himself most of all because he has learned that there is more in the world than himself, and he has accepted that most shocking truth of all–the truth that mortals dare not contemplate lest their universe disintegrates–that he is not the center of the universe.
The true believer trusts his dogma because it points beyond dogma, and he doubts himself because his self does not point beyond anything at all. The two together enable him to look beyond himself to that force called Love — the force by which all things were created and hold together, the force that ‘moves the Sun and the other stars’ a force which his dogma tells him took human form and was reflected in the movement of the stars, affected the movement of human history and effected an everlastingly new transaction between God and Man.