Monday, March 17, 2008

The Gifts of Uncertainty (part 1)

(This is a transcription of an old Blog from my previous site. In the past few weeks I've been contemplating writing a sequel, so I thought I would post the original text here.)

I've been thinking a lot the last few days about truth and uncertainty. I recently read a blog online where the writer was defending his right to his opinion on a subject by saying that what he was writing was the 'truth' and if you were offended by hearing the truth it wasn't his fault.

I saw echoes of my former self in his words. I can truly say that there are lots of things of which I used to be 100% right where now I have embraced the gift of uncertainty.

Truth is a difficult thing. We are taught at an early age that 2+2=4. We get a check mark for a correct answer and a cross for anything else. The problem is that truth isn't actually that exclusive. Consider the following:

2+2=4
2+2=11
2+2=10+10=100

For some of you it may appear that I have totally flipped at this moment, but bear with me. I would argue that all 3 equations are correct; you just need to look at them through a different paradigm.

2+2=4 is written in base 10 – the normal base we use for addition.
2+2=11 is written base 3 – 11 means 1 three and 1 unit.
2+2=10+10=100 written in binary – 100 means 1 four, 0 twos and 0 units.

(For those of you who are not math geeks just do some research on wikipedia)
All 3 equations are different and equally valid ways of expressing the 'truth' of 2+2=4.

Many of my former issues where I was convinced I was correct and everyone else could 'either agree with me or be wrong' are like this example. I couldn't agree with that persons answer because I didn't know the paradigm they were coming from. I've since discovered the danger of saying 'You can't possibly call yourself a Christian and believe ________________' (fill in the blank with whatever topic you want). Could it be that you can? Could it be that the other persons Christianity is just a different and equally valid way of expressing the truth that God loves us and longs for us to live for Him (or her)?

Jesus frequently exploded people's paradigms – he redefined the term 'Mother and Brothers' from a biological relationship to one of obedience (Luke 8: 19-21). He expanded the term 'Neighbor' from geographical to relational (Luke 10: 25-37) and he said the way to judge someone was not on their words but on how those words produce fruit in their lives (Matt 7: 15-19)

I once exasperated a friend by pointing out to him that for everyone who agreed with him I could find someone with far more years of study on the topic who would disagree. In frustration he threw up his hands and said 'Well how can you know anything??!'.

Maybe that is one of the gifts of uncertainty – humility.

If I am 100% convinced that I am right and you are wrong then there is a barrier between us. I don't have to be right all the time anymore. As I have become aware of my identity in God I have been able to surrender some of my need to have a narrow dogmatic definition of truth. I've heard it said that whenever we draw a line in the sand and say who is in and who is out, or who is right and who is wrong, that God steps over the line to be with the very people we have excluded.

Certainty erects barriers, but another gift of uncertainty is community.

Another gift of uncertainty is the gift of introspection. I'm slowly learning to ask myself why. Why do I believe this way? Why do I want to reject people who believe differently? What is it about me that needs the certainty?

Richard Rohr writes in 'Everything Belongs'

'There is a small "I" that has to let go so that the true "I" can be born…….The small "I" only knows itself by comparison, by image, by how we look. As long as we are comparing and differentiating from the other, we can't love the other. We judge it. As soon as we are in a judging mode (higher/lower, superior/inferior), we can't love. The small "I" does not permit a realm of freedom where love flourishes. What flourishes is control, comparison, and competition – which blind us to love.'

It tends to be the people who have a strict/judgmental image of God who are the most strict and judgmental in themselves – we become like the God we worship.
I guess that's why I'm escaping Fundamentalism and enjoying life, I'm discovering a God of delight, or surprises, of joy. A God who is deeply and passionately in love with me and delights in my uncertainty, because another gift of uncertainty is grace.

Sermon over!

1 comment:

Brian said...

Peter,
Thanks for your thoughts here. A book you might enjoy is "How Postmodernism Serves My Faith," written by Crystal Downing, a colleague of mine at Messiah College (your buddy Evie put me on to your blog).
Peace,
Brian Smith
bsmith@messiah.edu