Sunday, August 28, 2011

Balancing Mystery and Certainty in Theology

“…Some of us have absorbed a form of theology with all the answers.  We can offer standard answers to every problem that comes along, especially if the problem is afflicting some other person.  Our certainty and dogmatism give us such assurance, our systematic theology is so well articulated, that we leave precious little scope for mystery, awe, unknowns.   Then when we ourselves face devastating catastrophe, and we find that the certainties we have propounded with such confidence offer us little relief, our despair is the bleaker: we begin to question the most basic elements of our faith.  Had we recognized that in addition to great certainties there are great gaps in our comprehension, perhaps we would have been less torn up to find that the mere certainties proved less than adequate in our own hour of need.   

It becomes important, then, to decide just where the mysteries and the certainties are.  Christianity that is nothing but certainties quickly becomes haughty and arrogant, rigid and unbending.  Worse, it leaves the Christian open to the most excruciating doubt that when the vicissitudes of life finally knock out the supporting pillars.  The God of such Christianity is just not big enough to be trusted when you are up to your neck in the muck of pain and defeat.  Conversely, Christianity that is nothing but mystery leaves nothing to proclaim, and makes faith indistinguishable from blind credulity…”

How Long O Lord? – Reflections on Suffering and Evil (2nd Edition); D. A. Carson; (Baker, 2006), page 26

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