Last week, I announced that I would be writing about what I really believe, in these days when it seems like we are all deadlocked in a theological food fight. I’m not writing it to convince you of anything (we’ve had way too much of that). I’m writing because we’re in a time of upheaval, where the tectonic plates of belief are shifting, which can be unsettling and stressful. Whether it be the political unrest that will most likely result in a worldwide epidemic of PTSD or the undeniable changes in the way the church will operate in the next hundred years, very little feels stable.
I’m writing so that I can name the solid places on which I stand. But I’m also writing it for anyone else who feels shaken and confused, too. Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing the different places I’ve chosen to place my feet, even while everything else falls down all around me.
Here’s the first one: The opposite of faith is certainty, not doubt.
I happen to believe that God does not change. I also happen to believe that God is both infinite and knowable (mystery isn’t that which is unknowable, Richard Rohr says, it’s that which is infinitely knowable). If what I believe is true, then my understanding of God needs to keep evolving and progressing. This might feel frightening because before that new understanding becomes a firm place to stand, it will most likely knock you down. But after you’ve dusted yourself off, isn’t it more frightening to imagine that you might come to think you’ve come to know God completely, and then spend the rest of your life defending God?
Now, let’s think about this. Does God need defending? What if we could finally put that heavy burden down?
One day, Moses asked God for God’s name, the cheeky so-and-so. Even more unbelievably, God answered Moses. Eyeh Asher Eyeh, God said, which when translated into English could mean:
I will be that I will be, or
I will be who I will be, or
I will be which I will be, or
I will be where I will be.
Hebrew has only two main verb tenses: perfect and imperfect. The perfect tense describes actions that are completed (I ran to the donut shop, I ate a donut, and then I walked home). The imperfect tense describes actions that are not completed (I will run to the donut shop, I will eat a donut, and then I will walk home).
God uses the imperfect tense to describe God’s name. Maybe God is the cheeky one.
I believe God is going to keep surprising us about who God is, what God does, and where God is. Have you ever experienced that moment of di-ease when a long-held belief gets challenged enough so that it causes you to doubt? What do you do in that moment?
You have (at least) three options:
- Destroy the doubt, hammer it down into dust, and decide that you are not going to entertain it.
- Sit with the tension of the doubt, neither embracing it right away nor throwing it away. Allow yourself the possibility that it might lead somewhere good, or it might lead somewhere not good. But you’re going to sit with it for a while.
- Tweet your doubt immediately, so you can get the wise counsel that will undoubtedly follow.
You may not believe this, but I went to Wheaton College Graduate School. If I seem to break the rules sometimes, it’s because I know the rules pretty well. At Wheaton, one of the treasured phrases is: All truth is God’s truth. That means when you encounter truth, wherever it is that you encounter it, you can trust that it is from God.
So the real question is: how do you figure out what is true?
Well, you would probably have to at least consider the possibility that something isn’t true before you come to believe that it is true.
If you have ever changed your mind about anything, it’s because you went through a process of faith and doubt, where your certainty was challenged. Discovering something is so much more fun than defending something. Unless you’re a lawyer, of course. In that case, you might really blow up my whole argument. Which would kind of be fun in a certain way, wouldn’t it? We’d discover some fascinating things about each other, wouldn’t we?