We can so easily pretend that the certainties of Christian faith leave us with no doubts or questions writes Australian apologist JOHN SMITH.
So many of us struggle with how to live with complications and contradictions. An insightful response to this dilemma can be found in a chapter entitled Life's Loose Ends in Still Waters, Deep Waters - an excellent book of weekly "meditations and prayers for busy people" edited by my long term friend Rowland Croucher.
A E Whitham maintains that, "People have an inveterate habit of what I should call a premature tidiness. They are a little previous, strapping up the luggage of their mind before everything is packed in, summing up and pronouncing judgment before they have heard all the evidence, dabbing on labels without noting the contents of the parcels."
We like to have everything tied up, not because we want the truth, but because we don't want the sheer toughness of having to reassess our assumptions and ideas. We want to avoid conflict, trouble and doubt. We prefer to walk by sight and not by faith. R E C Browne states, "(God's gift of coherence) can only be received by those who preserve an untidiness of mind. The tidy mind is not the truthful mind: the utterance that leaves no place for doubt or place for question is the fruit of a mind that is full of unwarranted conclusions."
So how do we deal with belief while being open to legitimate doubt and debate? The disciples struggled with Jesus' more complex responses. "Tell us," they asked, "are you the one John the Baptist said would come, or should we expect someone else?" (A simple "yes" or "no" please.)
Jesus' response, I believe, gives us a vital clue as to how to live with complications and insufficient details. And how to still have faith while facing pain and suffering in the face. Regardless of the situation - whether it regards personal lifestyles, relationship problems, social justice issues or intellectual questions - it is inappropriate to either settle for simplistic answers that close down the mind, or to align ourselves with the modern, intellectual smart-aleck who simply leaves "lesser mortals" with so many propositions but no answers, no hope, no direction, no rationality and no sanity in the final analysis. I don't believe I am abdicating from an intelligent world view when I say that Jesus' response to John the Baptist provides a wonderful focal point to help us live with loose ends without taking the insecure option of needing constantly to have 'certain' answers. Jesus said, "How happy are those who have no doubts about me!"
You will learn to live with the loose ends; you will even love the untidiness of mind, of not being able to answer all the questions, if you allow Jesus to be the one stabilising, still point of your turning world. His life, his teaching, his consistency, his passion, his courage, his self-giving have inspired the lives and minds of countless humanitarians and intellectuals from Tolstoy to Mother Teresa; Bonhoeffer to St Francis of Assisi. Jesus opens up both our hearts and minds and brings them to life in the midst of this often complex and hurting world.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.