EDITORIAL: Faith exploration

By NEMS Daily Journal

Certainty isn’t always the best indicator of spiritual health
Absolute certainty in all things – religion, politics, science, social and cultural matters – is seen by those who insist on it as God’s way. The absolute truth is clearly evident and inescapable; it need only be learned and ingrained.
But the active human mind is naturally curious and questioning, and human experience – especially in relation to encounters with God – is full of mystery.
The Bible tells in many ways of the unfathomable mystery of God, that we can never fully comprehend that mystery, that knowing the mind of God is impossible. We must simply dwell in the divine presence, confident in the knowledge that God is with us and for us and loves us.
That means those who claim to know what God’s will is in all manner of things are treading on thin ice.
The attempt to discern God’s will is an important practice for Christians if they are serious about living out their faith. But there should always be an acknowledgment that where we feel led is just that, and not the last word on the subject.
Similarly, strong faith is not the same thing as blind faith, and questioning certitudes shouldn’t be equated with challenging God – though plenty of biblical heroes were pretty brazen in confronting their maker.
God gave humans “minds to think, hearts to love and hands to serve.” Each is important to a well-rounded, faithful life, and that includes the rational mind.
The process of exploration and questioning is a path for many to a deeper faith. Wrestling with questions about God, the universe and everything within it is the historic practice and experience of some of the most heralded of the saints.
A faith without questions may serve us well for a while, but ultimately it may wither away when a crisis confronts us or the answers we were given without exploring the questions no longer make sense for us.
Exploring matters of faith – and probing the questions that inevitably arise in any faith journey – are keys to a mature understanding of what our faith means.
The poet T.S. Eliot, a faithful Christian, put it this way: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring shall be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
We cannot know God fully without faithful study and exploration, and that sometimes involves venturing out from the comfortable certainties of spoon-fed religion. We need to know it, to learn it and to feel it for ourselves.
Some may never return to the old certainties after the exploration, but their faith may be strengthened nevertheless, while others may find themselves grounded even more strongly in what they knew and felt from the beginning.
Certitude about all matters of faith is not guarantee of a relationship with God. It may even reflect a relationship not yet fully developed.