The Myth of Certainty, The Joy of Mystery
Questioning the existence of God was unacceptable in my Christian childhood. Doubting everything is the beginning of wisdom, yet in my world suspending disbelief was all too often the preferred approach.
The ministry I directed lost a chunk of income in the early 90s because I would not say I believed in the inerrancy of scripture. Inerrancy is the belief the scriptures, in their original form, were completely without error. The fact that scripture does not claim inerrancy for itself was irrelevant. Lest I be seen as apostate, I was continually forced to defend my understanding of the subject.
Now if you come from outside of the evangelical world, you are probably scratching your head. Yet within evangelicalism, holding the “right view” on inerrancy was a “test of fellowship.” In fact, the entire Southern Baptist Convention waged war over the issue. The irony is that while everyone was talking about the inerrancy of the original manuscripts, which by the way, do not exist, no one was talking about the formation of the canon, the 66 books that make up the Bible. The compilation of the canon was a messy process completed over centuries by men with egos in smoke-filled rooms. But in the evangelical world they don’t talk much about that, because we like our religion wrapped tightly with a pretty bow.
This is a season of wonder, and I stand in wonder that evangelical Christianity allowed itself to get so caught up chasing the myth of certainty that it ignored the elemental truth that this world is not filled with certainty, but gloriously imbued with mystery.
After my eviction from the evangelical church, my faith is stronger than ever, in fair measure because of my expulsion from the evangelical church. Being set free from their esoteric battles has been life giving. I am no longer forced to waste time defending my doctrinal position on subjects that do not impact the daily life of one single human. Instead I can focus my energies on celebrating the mysteries of the universe, alleviating the suffering of humanity, and sharing the all-encompassing love of Christ.
My faith is rooted in the God who came to earth to suffer among us. I am focused on this Jesus who shed his blood, not to pay a penalty, but to show solidarity in our suffering. This is a dark ride, and without God’s arrival I’d be pretty sure the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train, not the illumination that emanates from unconditional love. But God did come to earth and show us how to love, and if necessary, die with forgiveness for those frightened by our very existence. It is this Jesus I follow, this Jesus I celebrate.
The incarnation of Jesus, the mysterious work of the Spirit, the complexity of God the creator – this is what causes me to stand in awe. This season brings the longest night of the year, but I do not fear the darkness. The light of the Trinity draws me in and fills me with wonder. A God we can explain with doctrines and follow via rules is of little interest to me. This child who came screaming from his mother’s womb, full of grace and truth – ah, yes – that is what lights my soul on fire.
May the peace of that Christ, which passes all understanding, be upon you and those you love this Christmas. Peace on earth, my friends, and good will toward all humankind!