It seems to me at this stage of my life that one of the harder parts of maturing in faith is coming to grips with the fact that all of scripture, all of our experience in Christ, all the core beliefs and convictions of the Christian gospel, all the ancient writings and great teachings and profound ideas of all the saints—all of this put together is still not enough to answer some of the profoundly difficult questions we face.
I believe in the absolute, unwavering, constant goodness of God—God cannot not be good. But that belief, which is slowly becoming a deeper trust, is simply not able to explain certain realities, and an essential incompatibility between painful reality and God’s goodness cannot be denied. I can say it is an apparent contradiction, not a real one, because I clearly do not and cannot have all the facts. Nevertheless, it is a dark faith that clings to truth about God despite the absence of “answers.”
It would be easy to pitch all the faith overboard in light of these incompatibilities if there were better answers to the mysteries and miseries we encounter on this journey, but if I did so, bigger, more daunting problems and enigmas would rear their ugly heads, and still I would be left with essential contradictions and incongruities. Atheism, even agnosticism, is no satisfying answer, only a chosen posture in the face of our common dilemma.
There is also this undefinable awareness that part of the conundrum, part of the tension, is due to the smallness and boundaried nature of our thinking about God. He is greater than our carefully articulated doctrines will allow. But this “greaterness” is more, not less. In this restless awareness that evangelical faith cannot “hold” all the inscrutable twists and turns of knowing God in our midst, some have dissolved (not rejected, just redefined) the historical outlines of faith. Resurrection is not really resurrection, just an inner awakening; holiness is not really holiness, just a sense of wholeness; sin is not really sin, just brokenness; repentance is not really repentance, just accepting yourself; salvation is not really salvation, just awareness of salvation. The real challenge, I think, is that Reality can only be found by plunging ourselves more deeply into revelation. These ancient teachings are, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, bigger on the inside than they are on the outside. We too often live with them on the outside, and out there, they’re just not big enough.
Our thinking gets stuck in the irrigation channels that bring the Living Water to our souls, but those channels connect to wide rivers rushing toward a vast unboundaried ocean. All that Jesus revealed about God is true, but it is the beginning, not the end.