posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 05:51 AM
I wouldn't myself equate imperfect knowledge with doubt. For example I know God is omnipotent, my knowledge of omnipotence is imperfect so my
understanding of it is "belief" but I don't doubt that God is omnipotent. There's a healthy tradition in theology of dialogue between the via
negativa and via positiva and, from Aquinas, the via media. So I can say the following (using a formula employed by Eriugena): God is omnipotent - God
is not omnipotent (in so far as I understand it) - God is "beyond"-omnipotent (in so far as I understand it).
As far as pastors, priests etc. are concerned I would only dare to reply from my own, Catholic, perspective. It would be a foolish priest who would
claim to be an "expert on God", indeed as I noted earlier Aquinas at the end of his life called his whole corpus of work "straw" when compared to
the reality yet to be experienced.
A priest does indeed spend time in study (in the Catholic tradition it is generally 5-7 years) during the course of which he will study philosophy and
theology. These, if you will, as well as involving the matter of study itself also train the priest how to study in preparation for a lifetime of
doing so. It might be called the "theological method" akin to the "scientific method." A Jesuit philosopher of the last century Bernard Lonergen
in his epistemlogy discussed the process of discovery and insight at quite some length and indeed the whole area of epistemology is a signifigant area
of study in philosophy. All this gives the priest a certain knowledge base with which to answer doctrinal/moral queries and the "skills" to find
answers (in so far as that is possible) where they are not already known.
Another very important aspect of the Catholic priesthood is that the priest is one of the people, called from the people - indeed at an ordination the
people assembled must give their consent to the candidate's ordination. The priest will have (hopefully!) due to his training and continual lifestyle
of prayer, study, pastoral work and personal development a degree of "expertise" but his primary role is to act in persona Christi in the
Sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. In areas where questions are asked he should not give his
"opinion" but what he knows and has
researched and belongs to the faith as manifest over 2,000 years of prayer, writing and instruction.
(If you were interested in reading more about the above processes you might like to look at