Thursday, October 15, 2015

Confident and Mysterious

I'm taking this online course from Peter Rollins in a few weeks (it's a pretty cool deal). So, I'm re-reading his five major books in the five weeks leading up to the class. I finished How (not) to Speak of God yesterday. It was a pretty seminal book for me when it came out. It was 2006, I was still pretty early on in my seminary time and it was just mind-blowing. Looking back on it now, the Peter Rollins who did (and continues to) seem so avant garde and out there and boundary-pushing, in this book now seems pretty squarely inside the typically Christian box. Certainly his ideas were boundary-pushing, but they were pretty limited boundaries to begin with. That's completely beside the point here, but I thought it was cool to see how someone who's been instrumental in my thinking has also changed and grown over the past decade.

But anyway, I was reading this book (which I find stronger and more accessible now) and there's some really great stuff there. I shared a quote on Facebook yesterday - there will probably be at least one more blog post from that re-reading. He hits on this idea that what we consider dichotomies don't necessarily have to be. I don't know if it was one thing in particular (if it was, that location or quote is lost to me already), but I had this realization about myself and my evolution of thought and belief and faith over time.

Growing up, I felt like the big questions of faith were real mysteries - why are we here, how did God make this world, what do heaven and hell look like, how is the world going to end - typical big question stuff was just beyond me. I mean, I knew the "right" answers to those things, but my understanding of them was far from concrete. At the same time, though, I was pretty darn certain about what the right thing to do was in any given moment. I had this ethical framework that, even if I didn't always live up to it, was very black and white.

It was a sort of marriage of mystery and certainty and really left me empty and unsatisfied.

The real realization, though, that I had whilst reading yesterday, was that I still have a great marriage of mystery and (fairly) certain-ty, but it's the complete opposite of what that looked like as a child (and probably up until about the period where I first read this book). I generally feel like I've got the big questions figured out. I could explain to you how I view the formation, purpose, and future of existence, given the realities of science and scripture and human nature and discovery. Those views might be nuanced a bit over time, but I'm pretty confident I've got a good framework from which to build.

But the mystery these days is about the details, the day to day stuff, choices and relationship and interactions with the world. I'm essentially asking - "So I live in X world, what does that mean for my schedule today?" The answer to that question is really the one that drives my imagination and discussion and passion these days. Now obviously those discussions move backward to the assumptions I've made at the beginning and I'm always looking for good critiques and challenges to those assumptions, but the real meat of the faith mystery is how to live in each moment.

I find this marriage between confidence and uncertainty to be beautiful and life-giving and brilliant. Maybe because a willingness to hold things lightly is sort of built in to that overall structure of understanding, it's just less stressful, I don't know, but it was very interesting to immediately sort of see in my own life how things have been sort of paradoxically melded together in my own journey of belief moving forward.

Perhaps one of the things I like about Rollins is that he's constantly focused on the day-to-day. That first book especially emphasized the importance of relationship and reality to our doing of theology and belief - challenging us to embrace the bias inherent in each of us and use it for the purpose of strengthening our position in the world.

To put it simply - God loves the world; God's love is transforming the world; Love will win - so what?

It's mighty beautiful to say, "I've got it all figured out," and "I have nothing at all figured out." To make it fancy, you might say, I've discovered my epistemological framework to be both radically known and radically mysterious at the same time. THAT is simply beautiful and invigorating and it's what drives me to continue living and exploring such intelligible and inscrutable faith.

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