don’t wait until it’s too late

death bed confession cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

I shared this on The Lasting Supper and I thought I’d share it with you guys as well.

I’ve developed a workshop on questions. I show my many cartoons on powerpoint while I talk about what I think are different questions. I use the analogy of a doorway with hinges to represent the three kinds of questions:

  1. closed: These questions have yes or no answers. They are the questions with simple answers that children love. Is there a God? Is there a heaven? Am I saved? Did Jonah really get swallowed by a whale? Yes or no. You can’t stay here. It is only the first step.
  2. swinging: These questions are ambiguous. They are a step removed from closed questions. This represents a very anxious time for people as the firm categories in their minds begin to get challenged. Is this person who is so good and gracious but isn’t a Christian still going to Hell? If we have concluded it is unjust to condemn homosexuals, then what does the bible have to say about morality in our time? These questions are disruptive and begin to open the mind to mystery
  3. open: These questions are without a clear answer. They are open precisely because they continually let the air of mystery in. There is no yes or no answer, but neither are they filled with anxiety. What does it mean if there’s no God “up there”? Are the Buddhists right that the soul is a mental construct of the ego? If there is such a thing as immortality, what does it look like? The mature understand that these questions don’t need answers. They are comfortable with the mystery and experience a peace that transcends certainty.

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  • Trevor

    I like the subtle nature of the door analogy. Ironically, the questions with definitive answers are represented by a closed door. Cartoon is great too. I imagine that the exclamation mark would have wasted away some by then, while the question would loom larger.

  • I am hoping on my deathbed to have more certainty and less doubt. Doubt will abound.

  • And peace that “transcends understanding”, is not the same as a peace that “transcends certainty.” Relying on God’s promises in Christ, is a peace that transcends understanding but not one that transcends certainty.

  • Adam

    That’s interesting with your different definitions of questions David. It was whought provking for me. Also the sick “!” and the caring”?”.

    On teading your calssifcation of different questions, my thoughts were with different satges of maturity:
    1. “closed” – childhood.
    2, “swninging” teenage years
    3. “open” adulthood.

    And then I thought of Fowler’s different stages of faith. Are you familiar with that? It is healpful to think of things that way and how different interaction is appropriate at different stages.

    And witht the “!” symbolosing dogma with the “?” symbolising a loving, openness and enquiring. Did I understand you rightly? Is this what you wanted to convey with the cartoon and what you wrote?

    I like the idea of the “open” – maintaining a clild like curiouslty and wonder and enquiring about mature things with wonder. That sounds to me like what Jesus said to his disciples that they must become like little children in order to see the kingdom. Or the directive to lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge God and he will direct your steps. However much I know about life and the universe, I know there is a lot I don’t know and I will never know.

    Can we also say that sometimes questions can be asked rhetorically. And then their purpose could be for dogma. And that satements made forcefully could also be be used for good. i.e. there are times when a “?” is not used helpfully, and times when a “!” is used helpfully?

  • ccws

    Understanding transcends certainty.