Thankful Tuesday: Mystery and the Rally to Restore Unity

If you haven’t heard, Rachel Held Evans has officially declared this week the Rally to Restore Unity in the blogiverse. What does this mean? It means we’re making awesome pictures of ourselves holding signs that are adorable and clever. And it means we’re actually communicating with each other about our differences within Christianity.

 Look at the Facebook page. And read Rachel’s blog posts about it.

It’s Thankful Tuesday. And in honor of the Rally to Restore Unity, I’m thankful for a word I spent most of my life never hearing in church: Mystery. I’m not thankful for it because I subscribe to some wishy-washy faith that says I can’t KNOW anything for sure. I think there are plenty of things within the Christian faith that I can know, that I must claim to know in order to call myself a follower of Christ.

But I also know there are a lot of causes for division within the faith, and scripture passages to “back” those divisions up. Each side of every divisive issue can justify its position with its own handpicked passage and some famous theologian’s interpretations.  

Last week, my father in law was in town. He’s a dear man who, though he doesn’t believe in Christianity, is often kind enough to ask us questions about what we believe. Somehow, the issue of predestination came up around our circular table at the Italian restaurant. He turned to me: “Micha, do you subscribe to Calvinism?”

I laughed, friends. Because, seriously, is there any issue in the Church more divisive and more disturbing, more confusing and more unsettling? I made up my mind a long time ago about where I stand on the issue of predestination.

“I subscribe to mystery,” was my answer to the table of faces awaiting my response. “That’s why I love Episcopalians!” Then I winked, smiled sweetly and ate a large mouthful of lamb ragout.

After years of struggling with difficult questions about God’s character, the portions of the faith that don’t fall out of scripture into an obvious order (at least for me), after years of doubt and fear regarding science and gender roles and what it means to be “biblical,” I heard some life-affirming words in my former Anglican church’s membership course five years ago.

There are some things that are vital for Christian belief: Jesus Christ as our rescuer, the Triune God, salvation through faith in Jesus. But, there are some issues that are just not that clear:  tongues, baptism, communion, gender roles, sexual orientation, predestination, evolution. Anglicans affirm the reality that some things in the faith are mysterious. That means that we don’t have to take a passionate stance on every issue that has divided the church since the Reformation. We are given permission to ask for God’s help in discerning the truth, to hold loosely, and, ultimately, to love those who come down on those issues differently than we do. I call it “the freedom of godly ignorance,” also known as worshipping a mysterious God, one who doesn’t always give us a straightforward answer to our questions and asks us to love him anyway.

My belief that there are many mysterious ways in which God works is not some weak-willed way to get out of having to draw my line in the Christian cultural dirt, it’s a way of holding tightly to what Jesus calls me to believe, and freely to what can wound and weaken the body of Christ. It’s a way of practicing the calling of Micah 6:8, a passage of scripture that defines what I think it means to follow the God of the Trinity:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”

Conviction can and should be a beautiful thing and it is when it involves discussion and grace. So, I’m hoping that each of us walks humbly enough before God that we recognize that his “thoughts are not [our] thoughts, neither are [our] ways [his] ways” (Isaiah 55:8).

Want my opinion? I think the reason God has allowed portions of scripture to be “unclear” on divisive issues is that this whole Jesus following thing is not about finding answers to every question. It’s about a relationship with our Creator, a God who allows us to struggle because he cares more about our sanctification, our being made into our real selves. And that process is a long, troubling, beautiful wrestle with a God who slowly peels away the shadows.

And I’m hoping that in the midst of our ways, we recognize that our greatest calling in this relationship with a mysterious God is to act justly and to love mercy.

Happy Rally to Restore Unity, people!

Comments

  1. Love this post!

    And your sign is fantastic.

    (…Helps to have a bundle of adorableness in your arms, of course.)

    Thanks so much for participating. What a great reminder to accept, embrace, and celebrate the mystery.

  2. Oh, and your thoughts on why Scripture is often unclear are pretty much the conclusions I’m arriving at through my “year of biblical womanhood” project. Be thankful that you didn’t have to camp out in your backyard during your period to arrive at that conclusion!

  3. Rachel, I will always be thankful that I didn’t have to camp out in my backyard during my period from now on. :)

    Thanks for rallying us!

  4. Jenn says:

    This mama is in! I think the thing I keep coming back to is “hold it loosely”, it ok to have opinions, even ok to discuss them in love, but ultimately there is a lot of mystery and it beautiful and freeing.

    Great post!

  5. Fred Harrell says:

    And you love RCA quasi episcopals too right??? :)

    LOVE this post Micha… well put. I always tell people “If you don’t like mystery than don’t become a Christian”. Love your response to your father in law… well done my friend.

    • Are you kidding? RCA quasi Episcopals are my absolute favorite of all!!!

      Thanks so much, Fred. I’m so thankful to have your encouragement. And I’m thankful I have a pastor who subscribes to a little mystery too. :)

  6. haley says:

    LOVE. One of my favorite publications is Image Journal, whose tag line is: Art, Faith, Mystery. I could not worship a God I could fully understand!

    • Thanks Haley. I love Image Journal as well. Some day we’ll have a cup of coffee and talk about all the things we love and all the great books we’ve both read, since we basically lead parallel lives!

  7. Amelia says:

    I love this! I’m totally using the line “I subscribe to mystery!” We’ve had some interesting family conversations where I’m always at a loss of how to respond as it escalates to “you’re wrong, I’m right.”

  8. mystery, holding things loosely…i love this (and the episcopal church, too–despite her failings!)

  9. mystery, holding things loosely…i love this (and the episcopal church, too–despite her failings!)

  10. nate says:

    The Bible is very clear on tongues, baptism, communion, gender roles, sexual orientation, predestination, evolution. If you are a person who doesnt imput enough energy to come out with a biblical answer and stance on what God has to say about this….dont make God look like the one who doesnt want to tell us (James 1:5).

    He gave us exactly the amount we need to know to come to a place of understanding and salvation. We will spend the rest of eternity searching Him out.

    “the freedom of Godly ignorance” I call laziness. After being tried by so many aethists about different stuff, I’ve realized that if you keep on digging, God will keep on providing the answers. No question on that. (proverbs 18:15)

    I find that a lot of people settle in the camp of “ignorance” because they are afraid of the great commision. Jesus didnt ask us to go and talk about His death and life, He commanded. Can you imagine how upset God is if you are a person who knows about His only Son dieing for your sins and NOT telling people about it because your afraid? We need to train like a soldier (2 tim 2:2-4) to always give an answer to all those people we witness to(1 peter 3:15).

    Always keep on searching for answers.

    • Hey Nate. It’s obvious that you and I have different opinions on these things. And there are a lot of opinions out there (as many as there are protestant denominations!), but I don’t love being called lazy because of my struggle to know where God stands on certain issues. The truth is, I’ve been in asking those questions for the past 14 years and suspect that I will keep asking them for the rest of my life. Along the way, God has made many things clear to me and some he has not. Believe me, I’d love to KNOW and not have to struggle! Sometimes I feel like the struggle is so much more difficult than the knowing. But, I suppose that’s part of the journey God has me on.

      As for the Great Commission, I feel deeply committed to the commands of Jesus. I care passionately about sharing Jesus’ death and life. And I’m thankful you do too.

      I love for people to share their opinions around here, but I hope you’ll avoid making accusations in the future. Thanks.

      • nate says:

        Being a blogger means that you have a following of people who regularly read your thoughts which kindov gives you a role of leadership, does it not? When I read this blog, I felt as though you have given people a good response and excuse for “not knowing”, EVEN THOUGH THIS MAY HAVE NOT BEEN YOUR INTENTION. After reading this one might say “well shes right. I cant know everything and “the freedom of godly ignorance” is cool because I dont need to know everything….therefore….ill stay ignorant.” Dont encourage people to stay where they are when practically all of proverbs tells us to chase after knowledge and understanding.
        I know that the bible is very clear on certain things like sexual orientation and evolution and the other things you mentioned. If you, or your followers, don’t know what God says about these things, please don’t just settle and cry “ignorant”. Instead seek out knowledge (proverbs 18:15).
        I didn’t mean to call YOU lazy, but to say that if you are a person who throws their hands up and quits on the search of understanding…..

        With your blog, you’ve decided to put a mega phone on your voice. Please do not give people an excuse and a clever response for their lack of want for understanding.

        did you listen to the Voddie Baucham sermon “God’s word has not failed” on iTunes yet?

  11. nate says:

    The Bible is very clear on tongues, baptism, communion, gender roles, sexual orientation, predestination, evolution. If you are a person who doesnt imput enough energy to come out with a biblical answer and stance on what God has to say about this….dont make God look like the one who doesnt want to tell us (James 1:5).

    He gave us exactly the amount we need to know to come to a place of understanding and salvation. We will spend the rest of eternity searching Him out.

    “the freedom of Godly ignorance” I call laziness. After being tried by so many aethists about different stuff, I’ve realized that if you keep on digging, God will keep on providing the answers. No question on that. (proverbs 18:15)

    I find that a lot of people settle in the camp of “ignorance” because they are afraid of the great commision. Jesus didnt ask us to go and talk about His death and life, He commanded. Can you imagine how upset God is if you are a person who knows about His only Son dieing for your sins and NOT telling people about it because your afraid? We need to train like a soldier (2 tim 2:2-4) to always give an answer to all those people we witness to(1 peter 3:15).

    Always keep on searching for answers.

    • Hey Nate. It’s obvious that you and I have different opinions on these things. And there are a lot of opinions out there (as many as there are protestant denominations!), but I don’t love being called lazy because of my struggle to know where God stands on certain issues. The truth is, I’ve been in asking those questions for the past 14 years and suspect that I will keep asking them for the rest of my life. Along the way, God has made many things clear to me and some he has not. Believe me, I’d love to KNOW and not have to struggle! Sometimes I feel like the struggle is so much more difficult than the knowing. But, I suppose that’s part of the journey God has me on.

      As for the Great Commission, I feel deeply committed to the commands of Jesus. I care passionately about sharing Jesus’ death and life. And I’m thankful you do too.

      I love for people to share their opinions around here, but I hope you’ll avoid making accusations in the future. Thanks.

  12. nate says:

    ps. the predestination thing….
    pastor Voddie Baucham
    sermon- “Gods word has not failed”

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