Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Paradigm, Part 2

Grab your torches, friends.  Heresy ensues.

I recall a professor at sometime in my past who used the analogy of the circle to illustrate that the more we know, the more we know that we don't know.  The circle represents our body of knowledge and understanding.  The surface area of the circumference of the circle is representative of that body of information that we don't know or understand.  If we have little knowledge, the circle is small, and thus the circumference representing what we don't know is also small.  As our understanding increases (and, thus, the circle size), so does the outer area of the circle reflect the increasing vastness (and awareness) of all that we do not know.

My "circle of knowledge" (as well as my waistline) have both grown over the years, and the once certain know-it-all of my youth is left to wonder if I really know anything at all.

I used to be certain of so many things, and I now find myself questioning faith issues as elemental as Heaven, the Divinity of Christ, Christianity as the "only" way to God, Prayer, just to name a few. I don't want to frighten or deter anyone on their own spiritual journey, just because I am wrestling with doubts. There was a time I might have judged myself as having a very weak faith as a result of these doubts. I won't pretend I don't find doubting disturbing at times, but I do believe wrestling, and even accepting, doubt is part of the journey. At least it is part of MY journey.

I recently joined the "early fifty" crowd, and there is something about that passage of time that causes one to realize you may be closer to death than you really want to admit. It's a little scary. So I think about the "after-life" a bit more.  I ceased to think of Hell as a literal place some years back, but rather as the hell of unhappiness and discontent that we create for ourselves on this earth when we find ourselves at cross purposes with our Higher Power. I now find myself pondering whether or not Heaven is a literal place, and all the inherent questions that follow such an initial thought. It makes me want to hang out around here awhile longer. I can't quite put my finger on how that whole heavenly "family reunion" piece is going to work out. And what would be the point of suddenly ending everything on this world to have ONLY heaven?

The other big issue I've hit the mat with for the past few years is the purpose of prayer. I am of the belief that God gave us free will when we were created; therefore, the Heavenly Genie isn't going to reach down in a cloud of smoke to pluck us out of harm's way when we make a poor choice. Yet we all turn to prayer in matters of great crisis.  I wish I could recall the source of this statement, but it is the best response I've heard to my struggle with this issue - "prayer doesn't change God so much as it changes us."  That's a rationale I can buy into. A reminder that God is there to share my pain, and perhaps, make it easier to bear.  And lest I assume prayer is only for a foxhole faith, God also shares and enhances my joy and happiness.

I could go on with some of the other items mentioned, but I won't.  My modus operandi at this point is to acknowledge my doubt, have faith that God accepts me anyway, and that the only thing I really must understand is that God is love. 
Love my neighbor. 
Love wins. 
The rest is gravy. 
If Heaven is a real place, it is clearly beyond my ability to comprehend it, and my faith isn't dependent upon having all the answers about it. My needy neighbor, struggling student, or failing friend, however, may depend on me for the Love that brings a bit of heaven into their lives.

I am making no attempt with this entry offer easy answers or solutions. But I do think it helps to know that just as we are not alone in our believing, neither are we alone in our doubting. And there is no heavenly host standing in corner ready to snatch our "membership card" away for not believing blindly. Perhaps that is what "grace" is all about - knowing that God loves both our belief and our doubt. And I have noticed that God has often used doubting and troubled humans to accomplish great things in history. Sometimes the last thing a person in need wants is help from a perfect person with all the answers figured out. I want to read Mother Teresa's book. I suspect that if she could have doubts, I am in pretty good company.


  1. Cindy,

    I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts both in this blog and the previous blog. It is not heresy, it is honesty. Your questions and thoughts are not unique to you. It is that most Christians are not willing share their doubts. I support, and join you, in your doubt. I find that I have grown the most when I wasn't afraid to question my faith.

    In short response to your last blog, we need to stop looking at the church as a building and remember that the church is the people. The building should not be a place where the ministry happens, but should be a tool for us to do ministry. I hope the building is a place where people feel they can come and not be judged for asking the questions that you have raised. We all need to work together both to serve others and to challenge each other.

  2. Thanks, John. I agree and appreciate the affirmation.

  3. I've enjoyed reading your posts especially these two. The doubts/questions you mention are fairly common (even among seminary students). One of the funniest moments in seminary was when one of my classmates questioned the literal resurrection of Jesus. (sigh, good times). Personally, I have had doubts and questions about all of these issues and many more. I have come to terms with some and still question others. Some beliefs I have rejected others I have accepted.

    Keep writing! I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

    Patrick Landau

  4. Thanks for reading, Patrick, and for the kind thoughts!