Sunday, May 27, 2012

That Helpless State of Indecision About Doctrinal Truth

This is the day we remember the Pentecost as well as beginning the part of the Church year named after this particular event. How certain are you of the truth contained in the story of the Pentecost? Can you cling to it? 

Today I present three ways of looking at the problem of uncertainty.

The first comes from a self described atheist, Adam Frank who contributed a piece to NPR on May 15, 2012 entitled "The Liberating Embrace of Uncertainty". In it he writes,

The only constant is change. It's the most basic fact of human existence. Nothing lasts, nothing stays the same.
We feel it with each breath. From birth to the unknown moment of our passing, we ride a river of change. And yet, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, we exhaust ourselves in an endless search for solidity. We hunger for something that lasts, some idea or principle that rises above time and change. We hunger for certainty. That is a big problem.
It might even be THE problem.

Religions are often built around this heartache for certainty. In the face of sickness, loss and grief, a thousand dogmas with a thousand names have risen. Many profess that if only the faithful hold fast to the "rules," the "precepts" or the "doctrine" then certainty can be obtained.
Fate and future can be fixed through promises of freedom from immediate suffering, divine favor or everlasting salvation. Scriptures are transformed into unwavering blueprints for an unchanging order. These documents must live beyond question lest the certainty they provide crumble. When human spiritual endeavor devolves into these white-knuckle forms of clinging they become monuments to the fear of change and uncertainty.

Notice how his second paragraph contains a strawman construct based on his prejudices against religion. 

If only he could be shown how to satisfy that "hunger for something that lasts". 

I submit this response from the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool,

H/t Erik 
Do you want to understand what the times require of you in reference to your own soul? Listen, and I will tell you. You live in times of peculiar spiritual danger. Never perhaps were there more traps and pitfalls in the way to heaven; never certainly were those traps so skillfully baited, and those pitfalls so ingeniously made. Mind what you are about. Look well to your goings. Ponder the paths of your feet. Take heed lest you come to eternal grief, and ruin your own soul. Beware of practical infidelity under the specious name of free thought. Beware of a helpless state of indecision about doctrinal truth under the plausible idea of not being party–spirited, and under the baneful influence of so–called liberality and charity. Beware of frittering away life in wishing and meaning and hoping for the day of decision, until the door is shut, and you are given over to a dead conscience, and die without hope. Awake to a sense of your danger. Arise and give diligence to make your calling and election sure, whatever else you leave uncertain. The kingdom of God is very near. Christ the almighty Savior, Christ the sinner’s Friend, Christ and eternal life, are ready for you if you will only come to Christ. Arise and cast away excuses; this very day Christ calls you. Wait not for company if you cannot have it; wait for nobody. The times, I repeat, are desperately dangerous. If only few are in the narrow way of life, resolve that by God’s help you at any rate will be among the few.~ J.C. RyleTract: Needs of the Times

The third way is a little something I got from the readings from John 16 today,
12 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  
We have the promise of Jesus that the Spirit of truth will come to guide us. A lot of time, prayerful thought, and the voice of the Spirit has already been received. Sadly, there are still those who cannot bear to hear what has been passed down to us by the Gospel writers and the Church fathers. People are always eager to reject what once passed for the truth and to claim their new found truth as having come from the Spirit. I guess the older truths must have been from some other spirit.   

Beware of a helpless state of indecision about doctrinal truth. That particular cross, doctrinal truth, is not impossible to bear.  

Beware of false spirits, those that through their contradictions of the Gospel of Christ do not glorify Him nor declare to us that which is His. 


  1. I'm reminded of our pastor's current series of sermons on Exodus. Re: Pharaoh's reneging on his promises to let the Hebrews go in exchange for stopping the various plagues, the pastor noted that Satan's attacks are two-pronged. First, he desires that we ignore the truth, i.e. God will free the Hebrews from the bondage of Egypt (Sin). If that fails, then he tries to get us to compromise with the Truth.

    It is that compromise which causes the ostensible "uncertainty" which Adam Frank praises so much.


  2. Deny, decry, compromise, and finally ignore the truth. These may be considered as steps along the way into the wilderness.