Doubt, for me, tends to come in an overwhelming package, all at once. I don’t worry much about nuances of particular doctrines, but every so often I catch myself wondering about the whole grand scheme of faith.

I stand in the futuristic terminal at O’Hare Airport, for example, watching important-looking people in business suits, briefcases clutched to their sides like weapons, pause at an espresso bar before scurrying off to another concourse. Do any of them ever think about God? I wonder.

Christians share a seemingly odd belief in parallel universes. One universe consists of glass and steel and leather briefcases and the smell of freshly ground coffee. The other consists of angels and demons and places called heaven and hell. We palpably inhabit the material world; it takes faith to consider oneself a citizen of the other, invisible world.

Occasionally the two worlds merge for me, and these rare moments are anchors for my faith: The time I snorkeled on a coral reef and suddenly the flashes of color and abstract design flitting around me became a window to a Creator who exults in life and beauty; the time my wife forgave me for something that did not merit forgiveness. That, too, became a window, a glimpse of divine grace.

I have these moments, but soon toxic fumes from the material world seep in. Sex appeal! Power! Money! Military might! These are what matter most in life, I’m told, not the simpering platitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. For me, living in a fallen world, doubt seems more like forgetfulness than disbelief.

Two worlds come together

I do not feel much Dickensian nostalgia at Christmastime. The holiday fell just a few days after my father died early in my childhood, and all my memories of the season are darkened ...

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