11.08.2007

A Thinking Faith

An email from a friend lately said:
I've been doing a lot of thinking about what's really important to me and how my perspective on so many issues has changed so much over the past two years and has drastically changed since I graduated from high school.
A discussion ensued between us, and I agreed that I was in the same position. I look back to what I was involved in and what I believed then, and so much has changed. Later, she said
"It is SO NICE to know that someone is going through the same stuff I am... I think we have changed how we think partially because of who we are: thinking, intelligent individuals. I think it is also because of Taylor. We were taught that all truth is God's truth so we shouldn't be afraid to look into controversial issues. The problem is, I feel like a lot of Christians don't really think about why they believe what they believe. "

"All truth is God's truth so we shouldn't be afraid to look into controversial issues" I love that.

I wholeheartedly agree with her on the point of having a "thinking faith". I want- and need- to know why I believe what I claim to (whether the answer is logical or scientific or scriptural or experiential... answers can be informed by any or all of these types of information). I feel like I am being intellectually dishonest with myself otherwise. I also don't want to be afraid of saying "I Don't Know." I don't want to claim support one side or the other of an issue when I am not convinced I know the right answer, or that the side I am supporting is right. I don't want to make arbitrary stances.

Living in the Not-Knowing is hard. The Modern mindset wants black-and-white lines drawn, easy explanations given, and simple, 4-point summaries of how the world and faith works. I want intellectually honest answers and humble discussions, where participants will admit that all is not certain, answers aren't easy, and God and the world are complex.

Is this OK?

Will anyone join me?

4 comments:

Lisa said...

Of course it is "ok."

Do you run in some circles where you are *not* encouraged to think hard about your faith?

I am curious about this. I seem to be in a lot of circles with unbelievers, and it has always had the effect of challenging me continually in this area. And that keeps me thinking. Anf that is good.

Joanna said...

Lisa- Unbelievers do challenge me to think about my faith, and I appreciate that immensely. Unfortunately, it's some Christians that are afraid of thinking. They wouldn't say that, of course, but I have certainly run into some who Must Be Absolutely Sure of Everything, and when I question a point of theirs, even if they have no way to back it up, they insist on believing it, and are frustrated when I don't take a side on the matter, because I really Don't Know. When I state the impossibility of knowing for sure, or leave open the possibility of being wrong (on a side issue, not a foundational issues), I am shot down.

Matt said...

I wouldn't go so far as to say if someone is claiming certainty or taking a stance on things you personally aren't sure of, that they're not thinking hard about it.

Questioning and exploring uncertainty is not the only way to engage in critical thinking. The efforts in assembling and testing a systematic theology have involved some hard thinking on the parts of many people throughout history, and it takes hard thinking for a believer to prescribe to that theology as well. So for someone to say "I'm sure of XYZ and cannot be swayed" may seem stubborn, but it's not inherently naive.

I could just as easily say "I'm certain of this because someone told me to be certain" as I could say "I'm uncertain of anything because someone told me I can't be certain." Both are the fruits of shallow thinking, no? Hard thinking leads to personal conviction. I don't see how that favors either certainty or uncertainty.

Joanna said...

I wouldn't go so far as to say if someone is claiming certainty or taking a stance on things you personally aren't sure of, that they're not thinking hard about it.

I totally agree. There are things I take a strong stance on, primarily because I have thought hard about them. I would say (and, I meant to say), that if a person is taking a strong stance on something they personally aren't sure of (self-admittedly, after I ask them why they believe the way they do), they aren't thinking hard about it and are being intellectually dishonest. As you said, "I could just as easily say "I'm certain of this because someone told me to be certain" as I could say "I'm uncertain of anything because someone told me I can't be certain." Both are the fruits of shallow thinking, no?"

Also, I've been in conversations where the person with the strong stance does not allow me to admit I Don't Know. They say "You must take a side on this, because I'm sure of it. If you come to a different conclusion than I do, you're against me (Even if that conclusion is You Don't Know)."

The example that has been on my mind as of late: Someone asked me if I believed the Apostles Creed. I said I did in spirit, but there are parts that I don't know about (specifically, the "he descended into Hell" bit, which was discussed a while back on this blog). Does that mean I'm not a Christian, because I cannot with certainty defend the Apostles Creed? Must I be be intellectually dishonest and say I am sure of it? I was in a corner. This is one of the issues I was thinking of when I said "When I state the impossibility of knowing for sure, or leave open the possibility of being wrong, I am shot down."

And then the discussion ensued with Josh- is saying I Don't Know a show of little faith? Because I'm not taking tenets at face value, "on faith", without answers? These are the hard questions I've been asking lately.

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