Thursday, March 5, 2009
A couple of weeks ago our church hosted a Bart Erhman, a noted biblical scholar and speaker. To hear his talk go to http://www.holycommunion.org/OurSpeakerOnline.htm#Bart
The reviews have been mixed, to say the least. One friend just can’t stop talking about how wonderful he was and has read two of his books since his talk. Others had a real problem with our church, Christian, but Episcopal, hosting someone who is an open agnostic and honestly states that he can’t reconcile the idea of a loving, powerful God with all the suffering that goes on in the world.
I personally gave up that struggle a long time ago, so his statements were not nearly so shocking to me as to some. Because I have read a good bit about other faiths in recent years in an attempt to understand the world we live in better, I have come to realize that there’s just no way to really know the things we profess to believe. The tangible records that have gone into making our Bible the beloved book that it is are old, damaged, sometimes mistranslated or miscopied, and in my mind at least, kind of unreliable.
Strangely, coming to that conclusion did nothing to destroy my faith, just kind of made me view it from a different perspective.
I can remember a long, long time ago when a priest asked our Sunday School group whether God had ever spoken to them. To my astonishment, I was the only person in the group who raised their hand. I still kind of marvel at that.
No, God hasn’t spoken to me in a wonderful Charleton Heston type voice and told me what to do, but He has helped me to hear Him through others, and even through the power of Him that lives within me. Because He has spoken to me in some way, I am prepared and not afraid of what lies ahead anymore…at least most of the time.
My most significant sense of God speaking to me was in the days following Walker’s birth. For a full account you can go back to early posts on Down Syndrome. http://onlycasualobservations.blogspot.com/2008/05/imperfections.html
What I still cling to is what I do know, and that is that I have not been alone…someone or something has been with me throughout my life. Is it God? Probably not in the sense of a guy with flowing robes and a long white beard sitting on a throne, but that doesn’t bother me.
The Free Dictionary provides the following information about Agnosticism:
Word History: An agnostic does not deny the existence of God and heaven but holds that one cannot know for certain whether or not they exist. The term agnostic was fittingly coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning "without, not," as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic. Gnostic is related to the Greek word gn sis, "knowledge," which was used by early Christian writers to mean "higher, esoteric knowledge of spiritual things"; hence, Gnostic referred to those with such knowledge. In coining the term agnostic, Huxley was considering as "Gnostics" a group of his fellow intellectuals "ists," as he called them who had eagerly embraced various doctrines or theories that explained the world to their satisfaction. Because he was a "man without a rag of a label to cover himself with," Huxley coined the term agnostic for himself, its first published use being in 1870.
When I started writing about not knowing, I initially thought I could probably be classified as an Agnostic myself, but the more I think about it I do know that God is with me, even if I don’t know from one moment to the next what he looks like or sounds like. Ergo, as they say in logic, if he's with me, he must exist.