Guiding principles: No easy answers

No easy answers

Loving the Lord with all we have, including our minds, means that the answers to life’s questions may not always be simple. And we may not even come to an answer. Sometimes we have to live with ambiguity, and that can be scary.

I was listening to a Christian call-in show in the car one day on my way to work. A woman wanted to vent her frustration with the “liberals” who claimed that human activities were changing our atmosphere, in this case, the ozone layer. “How can my choice of deodorant change the planet? Give me a break.” She wanted to dismiss decades of highly technical, nuanced scientific research by experts, authorities on atmospheric science, to a simple, sarcastic phrase: “Give me a break.” Unfortunately, most topics just aren’t that easy.

If we’re going to love the Lord with all of our mind, we’re going to have to acknowledge the fact that many of life’s toughest topics are highly complex, and we’re going to have to be willing to either think deeply about them or at least acknowledge their complexity.

As a society we’ve become rather lazy. We have fast food, microwaves, online shopping, overnight delivery. We’ll recycle, but only if we don’t have to separate the different items into their specific recycling streams: paper, plastic, aluminum. In the church we expect Sunday service to be no more than an hour. And the pastor had better not go on blabbing for more than 30 minutes or we just might rebel.

In the church, we’ve also come to expect easy answers. We want clear answers for every question: salvation, homosexuality, heaven and hell. We also want clear answers for questions outside of the Scriptures like which political candidate to vote for and whether to trust scientists.

We’ve gotten so lazy as consumers that we don’t want to have to purchase our cable TV from one provider, our phone service from another, and our internet from a third. Instead, we want it all bundled. One-stop shopping. We’re too busy to shop around for the best deal, so we just bundle them together. So what if we didn’t really want all those cable channels. We actually don’t need wireless, but it came with the bundle, so it’s part of our deal. Is digital phone really necessary when everyone in the house has a cell phone? Doesn’t matter – it came with the bundle.

Similarly, we can get so intellectually lazy that we simply want to bundle all of the ideas that make up our world view. We don’t have the time or energy to research every issue, so we look for a bundle that has answers to all of them, and we buy it all. In one bundle that we call “conservative Christianity” we find ourselves having answers to all of our spiritual, financial, political, and social questions. We may not have thought all of them through ourselves, but they’re part of the bundle. So we adopt them as our own.

One bumper sticker that illustrates this approach to our faith says “God said, I believe it, that settles it.” On one level, there’s great truth in this trite little saying. As Christians, the Bible is our foundation for spiritual truth, and there’s great comfort knowing that we can trust God. On the other hand, it embodies a lazy faith – it says, I’m too lazy to wrestle with the complexity of controversial issues or the possibility that our interpretation of particular Bible verses may actually be missing the mark. It’s so much easier to simplify things to an eight-word bumper sticker and get on with life. Right?

Jesus’ response to the Pharisee in Luke 10 includes loving God with all our mind. There’s no room for intellectual laziness in our faith. We have to resist the temptation to oversimplify the tough issues and be willing to face them objectively, on their own merits. When our best response to a challenge of something we believe is “give me a break”, we’re probably being intellectually lazy.

 

Questions for thought

What are the elements of your worldview and how did you come by them?

Are you willing to hear and consider the challenges to your views?

Are your responses to challenges simple and sarcastic like “give me a break”? Or are they well thought out and rational?

 

Prayer

Lord, show us what it means to love you with all our minds. Give us the courage to reject intellectual and spiritual laziness and to contend with complex issues without oversimplifying them. God I pray that our faith would be founded so firmly on you, the solid rock, that no challenge to our worldview would shake it. Be with us, Lord, as we wrestle with these tough topics. And remind us in them all that you are much bigger than any doubts or fears we may have. In the name of Christ. Amen.

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About Dave Cummings

Dave Cummings is a husband, father of three, college professor, biologist, and urban outdoorsman. Most importantly, he is a Christ follower.
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2 Responses to Guiding principles: No easy answers

  1. Ryan Botts says:

    Your comment about the woman calling in and venting about how it isn’t possible that her deodorant could be changing the atmosphere is something that has been on my mind recently. At work they are building a new building right outside of ours. Every day they are moving truckloads of soil with heavy equipment. The kid in my is excited about what they are doing, but another part of me is sad. Not because they are disturbing pristine forest (there was a building there already), but because it reminds me how much power to change the world we have and how infrequently this is part of our decision making.

    I am just as guilty as the rest, but when I go shopping I don’t tend to think about what purchases make the most sense and have the least impact. What is tough is that on a small scale most of my decisions don’t have that great of an impact on the environment, but those small effects multiplied by billions of people become huge. Recently I ran across this quote from John Muir’s journal “My First Summer in the Mountains:”

    I saw a specimen that had only one flower, and another within a stone’s throw had 25. And to think that the sheep should be allowed in these lily meadows! after how many centuries of Nature’s care planting and watering them, tucking the bulbs in snugly below winter frost, shading the tender shoots with clouds drawn above them like curtains, pouring refreshing rain, making them perfect in beauty, and keeping them safe by a thousand miracles; yet strange to say, allowing the trampling of devastating sheep. One might reasonably look for a wall of fire to fence such gardens. So extravagant is Nature with her choicest treasures, spending plant beauty as she spends sunshine, pouring it forth into land and sea, garden and desert. And so the beauty of the lilies falls on angels and men, bears and squirrels, wolves and sheep, birds and bees, but as far as I have seen, man alone, and the animals he tames, destroy these gardens.

    He goes on to point out that this damage actually makes it harder to see God:
    “No wonder the hills and groves were Good’s first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.”

    What would it take for people in the church to think about this? To perhaps change their actions to protect God’s handiwork?

    Your point about Christians avoiding engagement with thinking about what Christianity means and making it an “all in” decision has done significant damage to the church, to the God’s image (as we reflect him to the world), and to the earth and society we live in. The other frustrating part is that many churches encourage avoiding thought about these tough things, perhaps because they are afraid that different people will arrive at different conclusions.

  2. Muir’s experience with God in nature is much like my own. I came to trust the Lord first through experiencing Him in nature. The Bible and church came later. In my eyes, He has to be Creator before He can be Savior, Counsellor, and Our High Priest.

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