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Title page for ETD etd-07202012-133023

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Stillman, Ari Paul
Author's Email Address ari.p.stillman@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-07202012-133023
Title I doubt therefore I believe: locating doubt within evangelical certainty
Degree Master of Arts
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Shaul Kelner Committee Chair
Graham Reside Committee Member
Lewis Baldwin Committee Member
  • heaven
  • inerrancy
  • infallibility
  • uncertainty
  • certainty
  • doubt
  • evangelical
  • knowledge
  • hell
  • afterlife
  • faith
  • belief
  • believe
Date of Defense 2012-07-19
Availability unrestricted
Thesis under the direction of Professor Shaul Kelner

This thesis investigates how evangelicals accommodate doubt into a theology that more or less demands certainty. By interviewing members from two area evangelical churches -- one Southern Baptist and the other nondenominational emergent -- I encountered distinct differences in both how members confessed doubt and the content of said doubt. I discovered polarized beliefs in inquiring about the infallibility of scripture, the eligibility of salvation, and the content and location of the afterlife. In exploring the nature of these differences and drawing from supporting theory, I propose that the plausibility of belief is secondary to the identity construction that church membership affords. I then conclude that doubt is not necessarily deleterious to one's faith, but if sublimated thoughtfully, can actually augment one's religious convictions.

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