uncertainty

I spent last weekend with my incredible friend Cindy, whom I know from Northwestern.  Cindy went to law school at Georgetown and now lives and works in Washington, DC, and she was kind enough to take the Amtrak to Boston to spend the weekend with me.  So, so good.

We did lots of fun stuff, but to be honest, some of the best parts of the weekend were just all the wonderful conversations.  You have to understand that Cindy is 100% brilliant, and you can talk to her about absolutely anything, and she has all this valuable insight.  One night, we ate a late dinner at the Cactus Club (where, btw, I had the most incredible chicken and avocado quesadillas), and we got to talking about Rene Descartes (since I had begun his book Meditations on the flight out to Boston and because he is playing quite a significant role in my YA book) and about his dream argument and the way he was establishing universal doubt.  It led to a great conversation on uncertainty and how healthy it actually is (in fact, it was the key to my therapy!).

Cindy and I talked about how certain statements and discussions used to jar us in regard to faith, but how as we got older, we both reached a point where we decided, “Look, I am committed to this Christianity thing.  I think it is true, even though I can’t really know that.  But I’m not going to be swayed by every new scientist and fact and detail and argument that arises.  I’ve made a choice and I’m sticking with Christ regardless.”

I’d like to hear what you think about this.  My assumption is that different ages will have different reactions.

Not to go all Narnia-nerd on you (but let’s be honest, I can’t always help it), but I told Cindy it reminded me a lot of Puddleglum the Marshwiggle in The Silver Chair.  Are you familiar?  Let me set the scene for you.

Puddleglum and friends are in the Underworld, and the evil Queen of Underworld is strumming her magical guitar and has tossed some sweet-smelling something-or-another into the fire, and the marshwiggle and his friends are falling under her spell as she tries to convince them that there is no Overworld.

“But we’ve seen the sun!” they argue.  The queen asks what a sun is, and they describe it as very large, very bright lamp.

“You’ve seen my lamp,” she contradicts, “and so you imagine a bigger and better one and call it a sun.”  The same argument is repeated when they bring up Aslan.  “You’ve seen a cat,” she said, “and you imagine a bigger and better one and call it a lion.”

But Puddleglum puts his foot into the fire, shocking him into clarity, and he essentially says, “It’s sad that if you’re right, we’ve still managed to make a play, fake world that licks your real world hollow.”  Then he goes on to say, “I’m going to live like a Narnian, even if there isn’t any Narnia.  I’m going to serve Aslan, even if there isn’t any Aslan.”

Cindy and I feel the same way about Christianity.  Now, don’t get me wrong: I believe Christianity is real, and I believe Christ is real and is alive today and is working in my life.  But I will allow for doubt.  Uncertainty in certain dosages can be very healthy, and I have made a choice to serve Jesus Christ, no matter what.

Thoughts?

 

 

19 thoughts on “uncertainty

  1. Hmmm . . . very interesting post. You’re getting all philosophical on us here! ha ha I definitely understand what you are saying, I get it.

    I was at a Paul Baloche concert last week and he said something that I think will always stick with me. In a way, I do have proof that God exists – because “I have MY story.” I know what’s happened in my life. I did not become a believer until I was in my early 20’s and the change that God brought in my life was nothing short of miraculous. I truly am a new creation (an imperfect one, but a new one nonetheless!). I do at times struggle with uncertainty about my faith (I would suspect most people do), but I guess that’s why it’s called faith. Those days I struggle, I live “like a Narnian” anyway, because where else can I go, but to God?

    Very thought provoking post, thank you.

  2. Very interesting! My philosophy class is actually discussing Descarte right now.
    I think you hit the nail on the head- we can not prove, with absolute certainty, that God exists, that Jesus is God, that we have heaven to look forward to.
    I think that the uncertainty of faith is a part of the beauty of Christianity; the “wisdom of God is foolishness to the world.” It’s a choice to push past the uncertainty; a foolish choice according to some, but a choice as Puddleglum so wisely says is worth it.

  3. Hey! Fellow OCD-er here (former-ish HOCD — still waxes and wanes, but it normally hangs out in dark far-away brain caves that aren’t often paid attention to anymore. Hit me when I was about twelve; I’m now nineteen.) Anyway, have been lurking a bit since the beginning of OCD-week and saw the part about you reading The Casual Vacancy! I’m not sure whether you knew this, but JK Rowling announced not long ago that she had dealt with OCD as a teenager. And there’s a character with severe OCD in the novel. It’s quite dark, but a realistic portrayal and I liked it a lot.
    I also like your blog a lot — I think it’s so incredibly brave to talk about these things, and you do it so eloquently. It probably helps many more people than you know.

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  6. Fellow OCDer as well. In many ways our ideas of how to believe are very similar. The difference between you and I would be that I didn’t assume Christianity true a priori even though I was raised as a Catholic. I basically made the decision to follow the truth no matter where that takes me. it took me to a position known as weak atheism. Basically I currently have no belief in a God, but I do not believe there are no Gods. It amounts to a big “I don’t know.” I sometimes wonder If I’m just waffling, but the moment I declare something with certainty the world stops making sense (if that makes any sense). There are Gods that I believe are more probable than others. Deism, for example, has a higher probability than Thor or Odin or even Yahweh (in my mind at least). I would say that we are limited in choosing what to believe. Not to oversimplify, but I can “believe” that gravity can be suspended for a very short time, that is, until gravity starts to take over. So while I can have a belief that I can fly without the assistance of technology, it doesn’t make it so. Likewise when experience violates belief, experience modifies our relationship to those beliefs. So in my case. I went from believing in a God to believing there might be a god. My overall arch of thought or principle is to go where the evidence leads me. I sometimes hope there is a God and other times I don’t, but like you I have to be comfortable with uncertainty or else my OCD gets the better of me 🙂

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  10. You quote yourself as saying:
    “Look, I am committed to this Christianity thing. I think it is true, even though I can’t really know that. But I’m not going to be swayed by every new scientist and fact and detail and argument that arises. I’ve made a choice and I’m sticking with Christ regardless.”

    Here is a faithful paraphrasing:
    “I will not consider changing my beliefs, even if my beliefs are challenged, or outright shown to be wrong.”

    You rightly say that you’ve made a choice. I don’t question your right to choose, and I won’t criticize the choice you’ve made. I intend only to comment on how you feel about your choice, because you seem to be proud of it.

    A heroin addict may choose to shoot up, but he is not entitled to feel proud of that choice. Similarly, you may choose to reject reason and critical thinking, but you don’t get to be proud of that choice.

    Just a little food for thought.

  11. hi- I just wanted to say that I’ve read a few of your blog posts and literally just finished Truest like ten minutes ago and your writing is simply amazing! you find ways to incorporate religion without making church seem “lame”. thank you for writing all these wonderful words!

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