THE REV. BOB HILL, pastor emeritus, Community Christian Church: To cling to absolute certainty about what one believes about God can border on idolatry.
In the end, God is a dynamic mystery, and we are wise to clothe our beliefs in an attitude of humility whenever we approach the intersection of divinity and humanity.
If you’re uncertain, that’s OK. And it’s OK to share your uncertainty. Our nation’s public discourse (including conversations about religion and culture) would be much more civil and inspirational if more of us would admit, on occasion, “I don’t know.”
Trust and confidence are better strategies than certainty for belief and faith, because they’re not normally derailed by questions and doubts. Questions and doubts can, in fact, keep our faith vividly alive and open to the light of new knowledge.
Trust and confidence were supremely evident in Jesus’ life and among his followers.
The Gospel of Mark records Jesus teaching about belief as he encounters a boy possessed by an unclean spirit. In the midst of Jesus’ healing the boy, the boy’s father proclaims, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
As we seek clarity about what we believe, three things are paramount — we are all “works in process”; sacred texts and holy traditions provide great examples of how to grow in faith; believing is developed best in a faith community where questions are welcomed and loving God and neighbor are encouraged as the best ways to live.
And remember Gracie Allen’s famous declaration, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.”
THE REV. PERRY SUKSTORF, lead pastor, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Olathe: A few years ago when Mother Teresa’s journal was made public, the media made a big deal about the doubts she expressed in that most private volume. It’s an unfortunate stereotype, or assumption, that people of faith do not have doubts. This is not true, so then we must ask, “What now?”
In Mark’s gospel (9:22) we hear a man pleading to Jesus to help his deaf-mute son saying, “if you can.”
Because Jesus’ disciples were unable to heal the boy, the father wondered if Jesus could pull off what seemed to be impossible. And in Jesus’ reply we see two immediate answers to the question, “What now?”
Somewhat incredulously Jesus says, “If you can! All things are possible for the one who believes!”
By this statement Jesus places faith as the key empowerment tool for the supernatural. Elsewhere he says that those with a faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains (Matthew 17:20).
Yet we are faced with the fact that the believing disciples could not heal the boy. They asked Jesus about this and Jesus said, speaking of an evil spirit that possessed the boy and caused his disability: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Prayer does not have magical incantation powers. Rather, prayer brings us into communion with the heart of God and seeks him. Jesus was saying, in a way, “Leave it in my hands. This is not your burden to carry.”
Satan uses doubt to tempt us away from God. But, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can use doubt to lean even harder on God to reveal his plan for love and mercy in our life.
To ask questions or comment on the Voices of Faith column, email email@example.com.