This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series: The Sin of Certainty (Enns)
If we limit faith to correct thinking, we find ourselves unprepared and ill-equipped for what life throws at us. But faith-as-trust enables us to listen to our ‘uh-oh’ moments, and even to grow and mature in our walk with God.
What do we do, for example, with the God of the Bible, with his impatience (Gen 6-9) and violence (Deut 20:10-18; Rev 14:14-16)? How is this any better than today’s ideologically- and religiously-motivated violence?
What do we make of the world-view of the Bible, so completely different from what we now know from modern science? Doesn’t that very science, which speaks of unfathomable distances and eons of time, make us feel utterly insignificant and God impossibly remote? And does not the study of anthropology and psychology describe a human race whose nature and origins are completely different from what the Bible offers? How do we get from neuroscience to humans-as-made-in-God’s-image? In short, how are we supposed to bring the ancient Bible and our modern lives together?
Then there is the random cruelty of life itself. What kind of God would allow such horrible things to happen to decent people? Doesn’t the experience of life itself make belief in an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God utterly implausible? What happened to the Bible’s promises of divine protection (e.g. Psa 121)? I simply cannot explain why God sometimes behaves the way he does. I just have to accept the ‘mystery’, and continue along the path of faith anyway, knowing at least that God himself has entered into human suffering.
What about when we bump into people of other faiths, or none? Who are we to say that we have a monopoly on the truth? Why on earth would we take an us-and-them approach? Does God do that? Correct thinking needs ‘others’ as a contrast. But faith-as-trust doesn’t exclude, it includes. And, who knows, we might even learn from those we might have thought of as ‘others’, as in the case of a Jewish classmate who read the story of Adam and Eve (Gen 3) completely differently. What we think starts to feel fragile; but our trust can grow.
A preoccupation with correct thinking is not only damaging to oneself, it can also have a disastrous effect on others. When we feel that others must think the way we do, we get get nervous and suspicious, we start to badger and bully them. And we might even drive them completely away completely. Not only do people get hurt, but Christianity itself is brought into disrepute. What we call ‘defending the gospel’ is actually a betrayal of the gospel of Jesus Christ when it becomes indistinguishable from back-room politicking and character assassination. Of course, all organisations – including Christian ones – need boundaries. But that’s no reason for defending them tyrannically.
Let’s abandon our need to be right about God, and start loving as God loves (Mt 5:43-48).
Here’s what happens when we abandon the need to be correct in our thinking, and start re-orienting our faith around trusting God:-
- we see that modernity has helpfully shaken up our thinking about God;
- we realise that can’t get our minds around God. Reason is important, but not central. Christian faith is ‘transrational’ and ‘mystical’;
- we understand that the two pillars of Christianity – incarnation and resurrection – express the essential mystery of it. They confront us with the counterintuitive and ultimately incomprehensible nature of faith;
- we adjust our expectations about what the Bible can deliver. ‘The Bible must be thought through, pondered, tried out, assessed, and (if need be) argued with – all of which is an expression of faith, not evidence to the contrary’;
- we find that we can learn more from ‘God-moments’ than from academic enquiry;
- we discover that times of doubt and desperation can by the very times when true communion with God begins;
- we conclude that struggling with faith is normal.