A Practical Christianity: Chapter 3

I find this chapter perhaps the most profound in the book.  Lots of people I know wrestle with questions of religious certainty, either afraid to admit their doubts or rejecting Christianity because they think it’s simply a matter of believing all kinds of impossible things.  I have heard it said and quote it often that the opposite of faith is not doubt … It is certainty.  Chapter 3 reminds us that faith necessarily involves uncertainty, that it is a way of living in the face of unanswerable questions.  I like Jane Shaw’s reflection question: Where have you experienced the dangers of certainty in your own life and faith?  How do we live faithfully in the face of ambiguity and doubt?

 

7 thoughts on “A Practical Christianity: Chapter 3

  1. I was rather fortunate, I think, that my rather literalistic faith “crashed and burned” during my college years. Thanks to the ministrations of a Roman Catholic priest/professor and the campus ministry of the Episcopal Church at the University of Florida, I found my way back (or “was found”) and the continuing search led me off to seminary to get the “answers” to more of my questions and doubts. While others there were in crisis experiencing a critical approach to the Bible for the first time, I was rejoicing and saying “you mean there’s a way I can actually take this book seriously?” I’ve been taking it seriously (but not literally) ever since!

  2. Oh, I don’t really know, but I wanted to post because I just love the questions! I’ve recently read a fantastic book (entitled Loving the Questions, oddly enough) in which the author says a person’s faith that isn’t subject to questions and serious thinking is like a shut up stuffy room. She says rather that our faith should be “well ventilated.” I have used the book in leading a young adults’ group, and they are so grateful to find out that I have many of the questions that they have. They are very happy to hear about how others have learned to think about the questions and how they have deepened their faith without locking them into an untenable position. It is so exciting to be able to have real, adult, intelligent conversations about our faith.

    Having said that, I will look for ways in which I might have fallen into the dangers of certainty. I am so comfortable living with ambiguity that I should definitely explore these questions more thoroughly. Perhaps I’ve gone too far the other way?

  3. I am reminded of that old ditty: the less you study, the less you forget, the less you foget the more you know, so why study…..
    I have had many uncertainties in my faith journey, and find that the best solution is not to worry,
    and let it cook a bit in my heart and my head. I find that I frequently feel assurance when I am
    having these uncertainties and doubts. I try to let go and let God nearly every day , and sometimes many times a day. It is hard to let go. But when I am releasing to Him my concern,
    I feel the Holy Spirit’s assurance that I will know, when it is time to know. In a way, it is an exercise of learning to listen for the still small voice, and accepting the answer when it comes. I also feel that when this happens, I have taken a giant step forward. It’s giant, because it is no small thing to let go completely of myself to God….no matter how trivial or insignificant I think the problem is for me. That assurance of the Holy Spirit is ALWAYS a reminder that God loves me.
    I think that is one absolute that I will never doubt or be uncertain about.

  4. I am responding to: ” When have you experienced this challenge to need others, and attempted to “pull yourself together” rather than reveal your struggle to others?”

    It’s a timely question for me. I waited six months for hip replacement surgery because I had no insurance and had to wait until Medicare was available. By the time I had the surgery I was in so much pain I wasn’t frightened any more – just wanted to get it over. During those six months as the pain progressed (I’m having the other one done in June), I went from walking by myself, to using a caine, to using a walker. I tried very had to hide the pain from others because I thought I should be able to handle it and I didn’t want to call attention to myself. I could handle it. Not! As the pain worsened, fellow parishioners often said to me how sorry they were to see me in pain and that they wished me well. During my time in rehab all I could do was eat, sleep, pray, read and therapy. Parish friends brought me flowers, snacks, communion, cards and prayers. My daughter took care of cleaning and shopping at home and did my laundry the four weeks I was there. For the first time in my life I had to depend on family,friends and staff for what I couldn’t do for myself.

    Before I went into the hospital, fellow catechists came to my house, brought dinner to share decorated my Christmas tree. A fellow parishioner brought me to the hospital and stayed with my daughter until I was back in my room. She also took me from hospital to rehab. My rector came to see me in the hospital. Another friend bought groceries for my daugher. Another picked me up from rehab and brought me home, did my grocery shopping and brought several meals; others brought dinners and flowers and sent cards; the children in my artirum made cards for me and told me of their prayers. I couldn’t have gone through this without all of them..

    The surgery went well and I’m recovering nicely, but because my left hip is bad and affecting the knee, I’m having a difficult time walking because the knee buckles and I lose my balance. So I’m using a walker until June. As my right hip gets better, the other gets worse. This time don’t try to hide it – I just do my best to work through it and let others help me. I’ve learnd that it’s OK to need help and it’s just as important to let others to help me as for me to help them.

    Truly, God has been with me through those many friends who have shared this journey with me and are willing to share the next chapter as well. It is because of these friends that I was able to see Christ in them and accept their gifts. They are with me throughout this time of uncertainty caused by physical challenges, fiancial challenges and emotional challenges.

    As time goes on, when the pain seems unbearable, I have the memories, prayers and support of these dear friends reminding me that Jesus is right there with me. They help me get through it. Even when I’m asking why I have to deal with this and praying that it will go away and asking “why me,” I am sure that God is with me. I’ve never been in a position before where everything in my life is uncertain except for this love from God guiding my freinds and me along the way. What a gift it is. What a relief to be honest, not to try to hide my struggle and to know it’s OK to have it — and to know I’m not alone. I truly appreciate this wonderful grace and feel very “lucky” in spite of not knowing what is next. This time of uncertainty brings me an unexpected gift — the simultaneity of humility and joy!

  5. Chapter three and my current Lenten journey, causes me to think of Jesus’ saying, “…my God why have you forsaken me…again? Jesus certainly suffered, juxtaposed to the risky life he led. The life of ‘uncertainty’ as described in this chapter, by St Marks gospel. I think of all those who have sacrificed for the sake of their/the future and suffered and wondered what will become of all ‘my/our’ deeds? Those of us who have risked for our futures are something of the Jesus suffering force that now and in the future ‘…graces…’ history. The leaders of our institutions had better understand that children, young adults, the persecuted and the imprisoned have all sacrificed for the sake of their/the future. These “…leaders…” must know how to incorporate
    suffering…something of Gods’ purpose? God only knows!!!!

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