In the beginning, God created lamb poutine

My wife and I had a getaway this past weekend and it was inspiring. We enjoyed great food and drinks prepared by artists. It’s amazing to see the imagination and creativity of the chefs. From the menu to the plating and the cocktail glass. The words chosen to describe the dishes and drinks are meant to stimulate your imagination so that you can foresee that which is yet to come. The arrangements on the plate and the glass are a beautiful canvas and a feast for the eyes. The ingredients selected to make them are fresh and delicious so as to awaken your taste buds and increase sensations throughout your entire body. An experience that comes together as you read, see, taste and savour. Each plate and each drink is a creation brought into existence by its creator and meant to capture all your senses. It is good.

None of these were put together in a rush nor were they put together at random. They began in the mind of a genius. Someone not afraid to try new things. Someone put ideas to paper and then put ingredients to the ideas. Someone created and re-created until the perfect plate and the perfect drink were formed. Words are limited in the way they can describe someone else’s art. As close as I got to those plates and those drinks, my words can’t appropriately capture the creator and his work. They are an oversimplified breakdown of what actually happened, a limited description conveying truth but not meant to be accurate. The best I can do is describe what I see and taste using words and concepts that I’m familiar with. Someone with a culinary background could use a completely different set of words to describe to you the same experience.

As I was enjoying a Lamb Poutine at the Andaz’s Feast & Revel, it got me thinking.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Maybe it began with a spark, or as some have called it, a bang! A big bang. How could it be otherwise? Life in the hands of creative genius. Free from the limits of time and not confined by due dates or someone else’s timeline, God began shaping his canvas. With no one telling him his project needed to be completed within a certain number of days, he began his endless work of art. One day as one thousand and one thousand days as one. Stroke after stroke. Breath after breath. Movement after movement. Attempt after attempt. Color after color. Each step slowly shaped into its next form like a potter shapes her clay. Declaring as good every step, every detail, every addition, every change.

As we ate, I was sharing why I think, for example, that reading Genesis 1 and concluding that God created the entire universe in a literal 6 days just a few thousand years ago lacks imagination, understanding and, I would add, robs and discredits God. If God is eternal, why is it so difficult to imagine he could have been busy shaping the universe for millions and even billions of years. He’s always been there, and he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so why the rush? Our growing understanding of how the world works at the very least makes it plausible even if we don’t have all the pieces and are just scratching the surface. Why couldn’t he be slowly shaping and designing the world we know? Given the quantity of galaxies currently identified in the universe and all those our telescopes have likely not yet reached, it stands to reason that there might be much more going on out there than we can grasp. The chef is capable of much more than words can describe. Not grasping it all is not an excuse for not dreaming. Not fully comprehending is not an excuse for rejecting ideas simply because they don’t line up with what we had previously believed to be the truth. It’s a beautiful and wonderful thing to grow in our understanding of the world and universe we live in as we discover new facts. Just as we are limited in our ability to describe what we now know, so were the authors who wrote texts like Genesis 1. They communicated the reality of a world desired and created by a loving God. They did not claim to know how it had come to be but simply that it had.

When my lamb poutine was brought to me I had little idea how it had come to be but there it was. If I tried to describe it, you would literally think I was describing a cake and I would not be lying. Yet, it was a poutine. Just not the traditional kind.

Advertisements

Epistemophobia revisited

Epistemophobia

This is something I wrote a little over two years ago with the intention of following up with a few related posts. Obviously, I didn’t. Why am I bringing it up again?  Well, I was listening to a sermon recently and it got me thinking. Below you can read or re-read what I had written but first here are a few thoughts by way of introduction.

First, I think it’s normal to fear knowledge to some degree. I’m thinking specifically of learning new things which either a) force us to abandon a previously held notion in favour of something else, or b) push us to gain a better and clearer understanding of a previously held notion. This fear intensifies as the idea/belief being examined and challenged grows closer to my core and fundamental worldview.

Second, thinking about this from the church insider point of view, it’s interesting to see the defence mechanisms the church has built around this fear and to protect what it believes to be true/right/correct. It’s more than a simple fear of being wrong. It also very quickly becomes a strong dislike, even hatred (holy hatred of course), for anyone who would propose a different take on a commonly held belief. Especially when that someone is within the community or has influence on the community in some way. This is not only true of the church.

Third, The term “heretic/false teacher” is tossed around and associated with people who hold theological ideas that don’t line up with our own. There is an invisible line that you simply cannot cross. If you do (if you dare), you are regarded as a disobedient, rebel, unloving and divisive person who should be warned and shunned (out of love of course) lest you lead others astray.

Remember when Galileo insisted the earth was not at the centre of the universe (a.k.a. Heliocentrism vs Geocentrism)? Maybe you missed it. It was a little while ago after all. What I find interesting about that little piece of history is the pushback Galileo received from the people of his time. Not only did some people within his own field react strongly but so did the Church. Of course, as we know very well today, Galileo was right. At the time people weren’t in much of a hurry to accept this ‘new’ knowledge as true.

The Church, for example, had this to say about it. They concluded that heliocentrism was:

foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture. (Source: Galileo Galilei – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Why is it difficult to accept that something we think is true may not be? Or that something we believe is true may be slightly different than we think? The Church figured that Galileo must be wrong because there are verses in the Bible that seem to suggest the earth is a the centre of the universe and doesn’t move (Psalm 93:1; Psalm 96:10; Psalm 104:5; 1 Chronicles 16:30). How can the earth revolve around the sun? After all, Ecclesiastes 1:5 clearly says that it is the sun that “rises and sets and hurries around to rise again.”

It reminds me of a saying I learned growing up:

The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.

Did the Bible get it wrong? In Galileo’s day they certainly didn’t think so and Galileo was treated harshly for it. But today, even the most serious christian has to admit that on this side of history, knowing what we know about our solar system, those verses are to be understood as expressing the human experience within the limits of the author’s knowledge of the world in his or her day. It’s writing from ones own point of view. That, by the way, is the best any one of us can ever do.

So back to the question, why is it so difficult to accept that something we thought was true might not be? It’s unsettling sometimes. Especially in regards to issues that are more fundamental to our particular worldview. If I got that wrong, what else could I be mistaken about?

I was listening to a podcast on my way home from work this week and it got me thinking about this. Trey Pearson was being interviewed and he said something about knowledge that stood out to me.

That is the interesting thing about knowledge. We are so scared of it sometimes ‘cause it might mean something is different than how we thought it was.

Are you Epistemophobic? Can you remember moments when you realized some fundamental things you had always believed were in fact incorrect? How did you feel? Was it a positive or negative experience? What is your default stance toward those who hold different, maybe even contrary, beliefs?

It’s ok to Doubt

Church is often the riskiest place to be spiritually honest. – Pete Enns

I don’t think it’s possible to be spiritually honest without acknowledging the reality of doubt and its part in the journey of faith.

I know there are many people in the church who have their doubts and questions about it all. I also know most of these people wouldn’t feel comfortable coming out and being honest about those doubts for fear of being told they lack faith or that they must not be true Christians. If church is your community, where your friends are and where you’ve spent many years, if not all your life, then risking the loss of that in any way is scary. (there are those looking at the church who are interested in coming in but fear rejection because they can’t embrace everything that the church seems to hold so tightly – but that is for another post)

It’s ok to doubt. It’s ok to question. Yes, doing so is very uncomfortable. Being open to the possibility of being wrong or having misunderstood is not a pleasant process. Maybe you’re not wrong but for some reason are questioning and aren’t certain if you are correct. Not knowing what will happen when you come out on the other side of your questions, is a very, very, scary place to be.

Some deal with their doubts by anchoring themselves deeper in their tradition’s accepted beliefs. They may even become fierce advocates of the faith, numbing down their own true sense of everything and putting on a mask of certainty and anger toward anyone who would question their belief or dare to offer any alternative way of thinking.

Others will see their doubts as a lack of maturity or the result of sin in their lives. They will humbly tow the party line and feel guilty about having those second thoughts. They will repent. They will keep going, sincerely pursuing Jesus and hoping their doubts eventually go away.

When it comes to faith, certainty is not necessarily a mark of spiritual maturity. One can trust God without being certain at all.

There are different things that cause people to doubt. For example, doubt can stem from the thought that the foundation for your belief system mostly rests on a book that was written and compiled centuries ago, in a land far away, by people whose understanding of the world was very different than yours. It’s normal to doubt when that very same book, ever since its contents were gathered, has been the object of debate by many sincere individuals trying to figure out what it “truly and clearly” claims. It’s normal to doubt when scientific discoveries and what we learn about how the world works seemingly contradicts the Bible.

If God is all that the Bible makes him out to be, and If, as the Bible claims, God is capable of anything (except of course creating a rock he can’t lift – Isaiah 67:1), then I think it’s safe to assume that he knows who I am and where I am on this journey (Psalm 139). If he is love, his love does not depend on my ability to perfectly understand and master “correct doctrine”. God is not diminished by my inability to understand him. My lack of knowing, my inability to fully comprehend and even my certainties do not change what is true about him. This does not need to make me insecure. Those who are the most ardent, and sometimes arrogant and angry, defenders of “the faith”, can be insecure individuals who find it difficult to handle the idea that something they hold to be true may not be true or that absolute truth about God may not be something we can handle.

If you are someone who has doubts and simply likes to ask questions, to say that “the Bible says it, I believe, that settles it,” doesn’t really settle anything. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

What is one to do? Pack it up and walk away or embrace doubt and let it lead you into a deeper and honest pursuit of truth and the One who claims to be the Truth? Can faith grow amid doubt? Does following Jesus require certainty?

Epistemophobia

EpistemophobiaRemember when Galileo insisted the earth was not at the centre of the universe (a.k.a. Heliocentrism vs Geocentrism)? Maybe you missed it. It was a little while ago after all. What I find interesting about that little piece of history is the pushback Galileo received from the people of his time. Not only did some people within his own field react strongly but so did the Church. Of course, as we know very well today, Galileo was right. At the time people weren’t in much of a hurry to accept this ‘new’ knowledge as true.

The Church, for example, had this to say about it. They concluded that heliocentrism was:

foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture. (Source: Galileo Galilei – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Why is it difficult to accept that something we think is true may not be? Or that something we believe is true may be slightly different than we think? The Church figured that Galileo must be wrong because there are verses in the Bible that seem to suggest the earth is a the centre of the universe and doesn’t move (Psalm 93:1; Psalm 96:10; Psalm 104:5; 1 Chronicles 16:30). How can the earth revolve around the sun? After all, Ecclesiastes 1:5 clearly says that it is the sun that “rises and sets and hurries around to rise again.”

It reminds me of a saying that you’ll sometimes hear in christian settings:

The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.

Did the Bible get it wrong? In Galileo’s day they certainly didn’t think so and Galileo was treated harshly for it. But today, even the most dedicated christian has to admit that on this side of history, knowing what we know about our solar system, those verses are to be understood as expressing the human experience within the limits of the author’s knowledge of the world in his or her day.

So back to the question, why is it so difficult to accept that something we thought was true may not be? It’s unsettling sometimes. Especially in regards to issues that are more fundamental to our particular worldview. If I got that wrong, what else could I be mistaken about?

I was listening to a podcast on my way home from work this week and it got me thinking about this. Trey Pearson, the lead singer of Everyday Sunday, was being interviewed and he said something about knowledge that stood out to me.

That is the interesting thing about knowledge. We are so scared of it sometimes ‘cause it might mean something is different than how we thought it was.

Are you Epistemophobic? Can you remember moments when you realized some fundamental things you had always believed were in fact incorrect? How did you feel? Was it a positive or negative experience?