Parched Ground to Pools
It is a little ironic that the greatest enemy of those that followed Christ in the early days of the church was what was assumed to be known (Gnosticism). The irony occurs because in these days of easy access to almost anything regarding information, the trend is to that which cannot be known. The Gnostic is the person that says I know, while the agnostic is someone that says I don’t know. As one person put it, the battle has shifted from a spurious (disingenuous/false) knowledge to a spurious ignorance.
An Ellipsis or A Period?
When we are confident of our ignorance and choose to leave it there, there is something that is very certain: we will never reach our potential. No one has ever established their credibility or professionalism by what they didn’t know. Some in the Christian community do harm by attributing what they don’t know to faith. Yet faith is the most fundamental of scientific approaches. It is turning something over in one’s mind, examining it, and finding its primary components to be sound enough to result in mental persuasion. It also involves accountability to what is evident or at the very least theoretically sound. We will always be held accountable for what we know, should have known and could have known.
The wise person, because they have discovered much, will always take the approach that what they have discovered shows them that they do not know it all. However, that should prompt us to put an inquisitive ellipsis to what we do not know, acknowledging that because we are open to learning, there is more to come in the way of expanding our conclusions.
An Unsure Faith
George Morrison (1866-1928) was one of Glasgow’s most prominent pastors. He assisted in the creation of the Oxford New English Dictionary. Morrison once said that modern times have brought an appeal to lift up the voice and say “I do not know.” That is in response to a dogmatic stance taken by the church of a faith without reason. Yet, not knowing is one of the most intolerant of all dogmas. An unsure faith is no faith at all. One author said the more we know, the less we need faith, but such a position is the same as saying that the more we are persuaded, the less we need to be.
“Hold fast the form of sound words,” as given in II Timothy 1:13, gives a very interesting translation from the Greek. It means hold on to what you do know (form) that is spiritually and mentally healthy (sound) and that which has been intelligently expressed (words). Paul is acknowledging that there may be some things that we are uncertain about, but we must not adopt that incompletion as our creed or ethic. We have to take what we know and build on it; substantiate it and if it can’t be substantiated, get rid of it.
Paul dealt with the “unknown God” of the Greeks (Acts 17:23). As Paul would walk among the statues and altars of every conceivable god in Athens, he would come to one inscribed to the “unknown God.” Paul stated that when you seek without reservation and research without preconceived notions, you find God because you don’t have to travel very far to do so (Acts 17:27).
No one drifts for very long without being one of two things: caught by a current or setting their sails for a greater say about how and where they will go. We gravitate toward nothingness or we move toward a God that wants to be known and has made His Presence clear. Playing it safe in this regard only means we will eventually stall out or just continue to drift. Turning the parched ground of ignorance to pools of knowledge is a specialty with a God that desires to be known (Isaiah 35:7). Life is simply too challenging to be fought out by what we can’t know.
Dr. M. Hildon Guy is the President of the University of Christian Studies and Seminary in Eagle River, Alaska and a Board Member of Love INC in Eagle River.