Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Agnosticism as a Spiritual Practice

Humility and theology don't tend to go together, but I'm not sure one can do good theology without an extra measure of humility.

I've spent much of my life in a religious tribe with many people who lacked humility as they shared their beliefs. And in any movement that lacks humility, you can expect to experience never-ending fractures and divisions.

So, as I thought about ministry as a career, I went to Abilene Christian University to get the answers to all of the right questions. But what I found there didn't meet my expectations. I didn't get the answers.

It's not that my professors weren't brilliant. Many of them received degrees from seminaries of great esteem,  but they didn't make me memorize information that coincided with the answers they had received from their Ph.D. program. They taught me to think, which is perhaps the greatest gift one can receive.

I've said it before. Today I'm less certain about many things, but more certain about the few things that really matter. I'm committed to being a Jesus-centered person who points people to the kingdom through my words and actions. I believe whole-heartedly that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I'm trying to center my life on his teachings.

At times, I wonder if my lack of certainty on my beliefs about about peripheral matters is a concern to people in my church. Do people need their spiritual leader to feign certainty when he/she struggles with doubt?

And with all of these questions, this question keeps coming to mind: Is agnosticism such a bad thing when it comes to our theology? Is it ok to be an agnostic when it comes to my understanding about the end of the world? Is it ok to be an agnostic when it comes to my opinions about the best practices in corporate worship? I think so.

Hear me closely: I'm not advocating agnosticism when it comes to the essential core of our faith (basically Jesus).

Maybe it's my postmodernism speaking, but agnosticism might just be a path toward greater unity.

Let's face it: We all think we're right about everything. If we didn't believe we were right, we'd change our beliefs.

But there are elements of our faith that are not worth dividing over. Unity is not the same as uniformity. There is room for a diversity of practice at the table of the Lord.

In the words of Ian Cron, "Five words that could change the world - 'but I might be wrong...'" I don't know for certain, but he might just be right.



humbledservant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon said...

Specify/define "preferals"...

Jesus is the way, truth and light! What in your belief is on the outer lying preferals?

Differences in "denominations"?

Al Cantwell said...

If you had been my preacher when I was growing up in the Missouri Ozarks, I might have stayed in the church of Christ. I know all too well what you mean when you refer to "people who lacked humility as they shared their beliefs"! I never met an open-minded CofC minister in the whole time I belonged to that "non-denomination." Bravo to you for your intellectual honesty and spiritual maturity.

Collin Packer said...

Thanks for the comment Al! Great to have you on the blog.