Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Gifts of Uncertainty (Part 2)

I've been planning this post for a while (for Part One click here) but life has gotten in the way. I'm not sure how coherent my follow up ramblings will be, but here goes.

As I've been thinking more about Uncertainty, I've been wrestling with our very natural human desire to divide everything into right and wrong, into black and white. The world is a big complex place, and it is only natural that we categorize and order in an attempt to cope with how overwhelming it really is. If we stopped to think about every issue and every event we would become paralyzed with indecision. Consequently we all consciously or unconsciously create our own Paradigms that enable us to function.

We create Paradigms of Theology, Politics, Social Behavior, Health - in fact we create them about just about everything.

So where did this drive come from?

I'm reading 'Things Hidden -Scripture as Spirituality' by Richard Rohr at the moment. In it he makes a very interesting comment about the Garden of Eden. The tree that Adam and Eve were forbidden to touch was 'The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil'. He refers to it in the book as 'The Tree of Moral Certainty'. Think about it for a moment - Adam and Eve were not created to know right and wrong, they didn't have the knowledge to make those kinds of judgements. It's only as a result of the Fall that they gain that knowledge.

Richard Rohr goes on to comment that it is interesting that many people in the church have made a career out of the consequences of the Fall - they issue loud declarations on Right and Wrong, Good and Evil. They create 'insiders' and 'outsiders'.

One of the largest parts of the Hebrew Scriptures is the 'Law' - exact descriptions of rules, violations and punishments. Everything you need to know so you can be certain of your standing within the Community and with God.

All of this writing, posturing and pontificating all because we ate of 'The Tree of Moral Certainty'.

Am I in danger of becoming a total moral relativist? No. There are some things I am always going to call wrong - consider it residual fruit from the Garden of Eden. But I do think some of the potential for divisiveness in the church today could be removed if we could just embrace a the fact that not everybodys' Christianity will look the same. See here for and earlier blog post on this.

I've heard the saying attributed to Augustine 'Love God, and do as you please'. Maybe we should focus more on helping people achieve the first, and less on moral judgements around the second. If somebody is actively pursuing the first then I think the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, self-control etc) will take care of the second.

So what of these gifts of uncertainty? I've already written about Humility, Community and Introspection (Inner work).

Another gift of uncertainty, that is related to Humility is the gift of Learning. If I consider you 'wrong' then I will conclude that there is nothing you can teach me. If I am honest about uncertainty then suddenly everybody in the world becomes my teacher, and everybody in the world becomes my pupil. A quote I encountered on a friend's blog is helpful here:

“I think if more people were willing to treat beliefs as beliefs instead of facts, it would make talking with each other easier... I guess I’d just like Christians and church leaders to be more honest…with everyone. Stop treating faith as a fact. Call it hope. Call it confidence, not certainty.” Matt Casper, from the book 'Jim and Casper Go to Church'.

I sat up late talking with a friend last night who has a lot of uncertainty happening in his life right now - and I reflected on periods of uncertainty in my life. When I was unsure about whether I was moving to the U.S. or not I spent a lot of time in prayer and seeking counsel from others. My uncertainty led me to a deeper faith. Why does that kind of uncertainty drive people towards God, whereas theological uncertainty and differences of opinion become a barrier between people and lead to schisms and new denominations?

Is there a way the church can learn to use Uncertainty to unite them as they sit together in Tension?

I wish I knew.

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