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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, March 17, 2008
    Rock of Doubt #1: Trust the truth and keep on digging
     
    'Trust the truth and keep on digging' - was what Sydney Carter felt that his sponsors, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, were telling him (in their own way) when he had to admit that the book he'd set out to write for them had exploded into pieces, as 'questions I had dreaded now came flying through the air.' Carter - writer of some of the most popular (and most radical) Christian songs of the twentieth century - had intended to make 'a cool, objective survey of current experiments in Christian worship.' Soon he found himself 'dig[ging] into the roots of my dubious belief and steel[ing] myself to declare (if the truth should demand it) that I was an atheist.'
    Once I began to ask what it was that Christians had to communicate and whether it was true or not, I was in trouble. That is when the book blew up, and questions that I had dreaded now came flying through the air. What did I really think of Jesus as compared to the Buddha, Socrates or even his own follower, St Francis of Assisi? Did I really believe in him or not? What exactly did 'believe in' really mean? Did I really 'believe in' anything at all? Was my haunted feeling that I had to end up a believer based on nothing but panic?

    To face such questions had become more urgent than to weigh the pros and cons of rocking the liturgy or dancing half naked in Liverpool Cathedral. My health, my sanity, my wholeness depended on it. If I could not dare to trust the truth - about Jesus, about myself, about anything whatever - then what in the whole creation was it possible to trust? Loyalty to truth came before loyalty to Christianity.
    I'm reading Rock of Doubt for Holy Week, and will be quoting from it here. It seems a Quakerly thing to do.