As I awoke Saturday morning before the rest of the house, the following thoughts were coalescing around and I had a quiet moment to nurture them and write them down. In the following, I put some words in quotation marks. This is meant to denote the common conception or characterization of these terms (e.g. “God”, “Agnosticism” etc.). At other times the very same word will appear without quotations, in this I am aiming at the larger, mysterious, and less concrete reality to which these words point, a reality that is not contained by our common understanding but which is larger, a point on our existential horizon of which we have no clear view and for which our understandings remain appropriately tentative. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THESE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND WHILE ELEMENTS OF WHAT I WRITE HAVE COME TO ME FROM THE JOURNEY OF FRIENDS, THIS HAS MORE TO DO WITH HOW I ANSWER THE ISSUE OF FAITH MYSELF. It is not meant to be a answer for anyone else.
Here is what I was musing upon…
As I encounter more and more friends and aquaintances who, once having a sincere faith in “God”, have now left those moorings and have become “agnostic” or “atheist” and as their stories, doubts and disillusionments become more and more reasonable to where I find myself, I wonder if I am also on the road to agnosticism and beyond?
As I ponder this, my answer to the question of faith (thus far) is that I am rather choosing to alter my conceptualization of how and what I think I understand about God and rather discard elements of my system of belief, which has always informed my ideas about “God.” What I can currently affirm is that God is very much beyond my knowing and also beyond my denying…such is a very humbling reality.
For some of my friends their “Christianity came crumbling down around them.” I have to assume that this was not a one time event but was precipitated by a prolonged incongruity between the faith (system of believing and understanding) they held and the life (personal, societal experiential) they lived. The belief as they held it became untenable. I imagine such a conclusion was denied, ignored and/or spiritualized away for a time but eventually the untenable nature of their belief became unavoidable, leading them to embrace a departure from that belief. This was privately held at first, I imagine, during which another period of evaluation extended until they were convinced that this (agnosticism or atheism) was their only honest path, at which time they entered that path openly.
This process of questioning, discovery and doubt with which many of us today seem to be wrestling is at least on some level a rational one, while at the same time experiential. In this journey objectivity is attempted but it is also subjectively informed too.
As form myself, I would readily admit a state of unknowing, what some call “Agnosticism,” yet thus far that unknowing has given way to a more firmly held belief in God: a less concluded, less defined belief, but a more honest and firm one. Objectively there are too many religious and transcendental experiences of which I am aware (both my own and those experienced by others, which they have shared with me) for me to conclude at this time that there is no spiritual reality larger than ourselves.
However conversely in my more subjective experience, far from feeling that I have more knowledge, the deeper my encounters of things spiritual, religious and human, the more profound is my unknowing and my grasp of that which I have encountered. Yet the more firm has become my faith that there is a divine transcendence to which we all are connected, and I call it God.
The question comes to this, what is more honest for me:
1. a sustained belief yet conceptualized as an unknowing exploration and discovery into the “dark abysses of the wilderness which we call God” (the words of Karl Rahner). This journey requires me to accept my unknowing as the necessary reality of my human limitations and the infinite reality of that to which I gaze.
2. Complete and absolute unbelief in things divine and spiritual.
For me the former is more honest and consistent with what I have heard, experienced and read.
I suppose that there is a third option: to continue with the religious knowledge I inherited and assume that “knowing” (no matter how narrow) to be truer than my questions, holding on to the answers that religion provides but which are answers to questions I am not asking.
Fortunately, this is no longer an option for me…can’t go backwards honestly.
The other part of this questioning is whether this unknowing exploration and encounter will allow me to honestly remain in my Christian faith? Thus far I have found that if I allow myself the option of questioning truths and see my following of Jesus to ultimately lead me in that discovery– then I can remain. As I currently see it, Jesus and all who follow him are on this path of exploration and discovery into the mysterious and wonderful mystery of God. So here I remain.