Does God really exist? How can we be sure of it? Is Jesus Christ divine? How do we know he is not just another legend like myriad other figures throughout history? What about the Church’s moral teachings? Are those truly grounded in reality, or are they just artifacts of a bygone age that we aren’t bound by anymore? Friedrich Nietzsche was one of history’s greatest critics of Christianity who insisted that the Church’s teachings were fundamentally a power play with no objective truth behind them. For this reason, he wrote to his sister, “If you wish to strive for peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then inquire.” So do the Church’s teachings really give us knowledge, or is Nietzsche right and they just give us comfort?
If my experience is any indication, one of the most oft-recurring questions in the minds of college-aged Christians concerns the relationship of faith and doubt that I have just identified. Believers often tend to think that their faith is supposed to be absolutely certain. The reality is, though, that belief experienced in the actual lives of people today often appears more along the lines I’ve just described than by Thomas Aquinas, for whom doubt is incompatible with faith. Check out this talk that I recently gave at the University of Kansas in which I show that the Catholic Church, especially as enshrined in the towering theological figures of Thomas Aquinas and Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, has something profound to say to those of us today who find ourselves caught in the situation of believing while doubting, of being a new apostle Thomas.