In this month's guest post, Pastor/Professor Lawrence Ware discusses having certainty of beliefs surrounding divinity.
A part of philosophical reflection involves the reevaluation of concepts and notions formerly taken for granted. For example, many people inherit racial or political ideas from their parents without really evaluating if these ideas are logically consistent or helpful. For many of them, just because their parents taught it means that the idea they have inherited must be correct. Or conversely, just because their parents taught it, the idea must be incorrect. This is especially true of religious belief—there is no middle ground, they think: either the Bible is infallible or it is worthless. Either Christianity is wholly correct, or completely wrong.
Most times, it is neither—spirituality, like all else in life, is about the journey, not the destination.
Growing up, there were so many things about which I was certain: the Bible was true, Jesus was the only way to God, and hell was completely compatible with the notion of a loving God.
Then I started thinking: Gandhi was not Christian, is he a bad person because of it? What about people who never hear of Jesus, will they go to hell also?
I began to realize that certainty about beliefs is not a good thing. As we grow, as we mature, we change. We would be concerned if a child stopped growing; if we did not age; if seasons did not change. We should be equally concerned if our beliefs and ideas do not change as well. To change is a sign of growth—not weakness.
Spirituality is not acquiescence to static dogma or intellectual certitude about theological truths—it is a conversation between us and the divine. When we come to a place of certainty about the divine, we stop listening. Anything that sounds different, new, or radical is a threat to our certainty.
We must not live that way, for God still speaks—and we must be open to new ways of seeing the divine.
This might mean reevaluating what we have traditionally learned in church—or realizing that when we left a religious community, we actually lost something of value. If we desire to grow spiritually, we must be open to change. What we do not know is far less dangerous to us than what we think we do.
Lawrence Ware is lecturing professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University and Pastor of Christian Education at Prospect Church. He writes for Tikkun and Religion Dispatchers all while living in Oklahoma City with his wife and sons.