The Trap of the Certain

Well, I’m back – back from a week in California with my family and several close friends, and back from two weeks in Indiana on a work-related trip.

It’s been a very insightful three weeks. I feel as though I’m bursting at the seams with topics to write about, but I seem to be having trouble getting them all out at the moment.

There is one story I want to share, though, about a topic near and dear to . . . well . . . everyone. I want to talk today about sacred cows.

There I was, sitting at a table full of my colleagues. There were perhaps a dozen of us, of different backgrounds, genders, ages, races and worldviews.

Eventually, the conversation turned to politics. I happen to have very strong political views on certain subjects, and I jumped into the conversation with gusto. The conversation included a couple of liberals, a couple of conservatives, a moderate or two, and at least one libertarian. The topics included foreign and domestic, intricately detailed and utterly simplistic.

What seemed to me to be uniform, though, among all of us there, was the complete and total certainty of our positions, and the way we defended them without thought for whether those with different views had a point.

While I try, in every conversation, to attempt to see what I can learn from and about the other person or people involved, I found myself falling into this trap as well. My views came to the surface, and I defended them with an instinct honed by four years of college debate.

Why is it that I am so quick to defend beliefs that might well be indefensible? Why is it that I find myself listening only with the design of formulating a coherent rebuttal to what is being said?

Then again, isn’t this what we are taught to do as Christians? Aren’t we taught by each pastor under whose tutelage we sit, that what we are hearing is literally, “the gospel truth,” and that part of our Christian duty is to be able to readily defend our theological positions?

We have, it seems, turned Christ’s inclusive invitation into an exclusive club – we have turned relationship with Him, into a debate against those who are without Him.

What, exactly, do we hope to gain in this?

I remember, a few years back, being over at a freind’s house playing a strategy game, when a knock came at the door. When we opened it, there stood two Jehovah’s Witnesses earnestly desiring to tell us about their faith.

My two friends immediately began hurling challenges at them, “don’t you know that . . . ,” “but the Bible says that . . . ,” “How would you respond to . . . ,”

I stood back in discomfort. All I wanted to do was hear what they as individuals, rather than their religion as a whole, believed . . . but I was not to get the opportunity. Eventually, they uncomfortably excused themselves and fled, realizing that they were playing to a hostile crowd.

Why is it that when we – not just Christians, or those of any particular culture, religion or politics, but we as people – suddenly become a hostile crowd when confronted by anybody who does not think exactly as we do? My wife and I have experienced this even among dear friends who, not hearing what we have to say, hear only the buzzwords that raise red flags with them, and immediately turn hostile.

Why is it that words like “postmodern” or “agnostic” or “liberal” do that to so many of my dearest friends? Why is it that they feel an immediate need to condemn me for asking the type of questions I ask in this blog?

If Christ is indeed “the truth” as He claims to be in John 14, will not that truth stand up to questions and doubts?

If all the elements of what we believe are indeed the truth and will stand as such on their own merit, why do we feel such a need to attack the doubters and questioners?

And if some elements of what we believe are not truth, why do we believe them?

This is not the way of Christ, who Himself demonstrated love to doubters like Thomas, and spent hours in deep and heartfelt conversation with questioners like Nicodemus.

Why then do we feel like we must berate and belittle them, where He did not?

One thought on “The Trap of the Certain”

  1. Really good questions Mike! I think perhaps one reason we defend ourselves is because we are more alive to ourselves than to Christ… When we truly see Him, the “many things” and seemingly “important issues” give way to the infinitely more important “One Thing” of simply Christ alone – HIS Life, HIS Love, HIS Will and Way and Truth! It seems that the more there is of Him in reality in our lives, the less there is of us to defend; He must increase, I must decrease!

    I started writing something a couple of weeks ago about some of these things:

    “Often in my passion for what I have seen as a wrong emphasis in my life or in religion, I have reacted by going to the other extreme.

    “Over the years Father has graciously corrected me through a dear friend who has had to say to me time and time again: “It’s not a case of either/or but both/and. Why does it have to be either this or that, why can’t it be both?” “Either” and “or” are separating words. “Both” “and” are joining words. When we can see only things as either this or that, we divide and separate what God means to be joined. Obviously there are some things which are separate and which we must not join, but I am thinking of our dogmas and opinions of things we have seen, but which are only half of the truth and not the full picture.

    “While the reaction to what is revealed to us may be understandable, if we are not adjustable we can become adamant, dogmatic and eventually blind to further truth. There are many spiritual truths which initially appear to be opposites – a paradox – and yet both are true and both are necessary in order to achieve a balance. The word “paradox” comes from the Latin word para meaning “beyond” and the Greek word doxa meaning “popular opinion or belief” – in other words it is beyond orthodox. Too often it is merely our opinion that prevents us from seeing beyond the veil of our present understanding…”

    I guess “beyond orthodox” is often challenging to both others and ourselves! Someone we knew in NZ years ago wrote a book on tithing called “Eating Sacred Cows”; great title doncha think? 🙂 Let’s have us a feast! 😉

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