Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Defending what you know

Yesterday I suffered a real disappointment, and it gave my faith another punch in the gut. If you are a really strong believer in miracles to the point that you describe anything good that happens as miraculous, then you may not find this post comfortable - please feel free to continue to another blog or post that is more up your street.

Some of you know that if I have turned to theology it is in part at least due to a foot injury I sustained back in Spring 2013, which has had a quite profound impact on my life as I was at that time a passionate distance runner. I proceeded to very slowly accept that I could no longer do it seriously and that I could no longer drive manual gear-shift cars without making the problem worse. Cycling was out too.

In July of this year, while attempting once again to resume just a very little running, I tore my calf muscle on the other side. Six weeks rolled by, and I started to realise that it wasn't improving and did some tests. These revealed a tear and the need for some physiotherapy. Around about this time, it occurred to me that this was maybe "a blessing in disguise". I regret that thought. Despite the multiple unanswered prayers regarding my foot and huge disappointment, something in me always aspires back to hope... culminating in fresh disappointment. This time, I though just maybe I could understand God's wisdom: a second injury, because I was always so obstinate in trying to resume, could be just what I needed to allow the main injury to heal. I wanted to show my enthusiasm and desire to still believe and shared this idea of "blessing in disguise", with both fellow believers and non-believers. Right up until Sunday 8th November, two days ago.

Nope, it was not and is not a blessing in disguise: it is simply a second injury in addition to the first. I tried to believe and make others believe in a good and wise act of God that simply was not true. I defended an idea that was not founded in reality; I did not defend what I know. I felt like a phony evangelist.

I realised with a sinking sense of despair because on the Sunday morning I wore some walking boots, which although I purchased to be lightweight (after 18 months of foot injury I discovered rather strangely that the weight of footwear had an impact on the sense of discomfort in the foot), are still a lot heavier than what I normally wear. As the day wore on, the old feeling of inflammation came steadily back to haunt me. The "rest" afforded by the second injury had not improved my long-term injury. It was not a blessing in disguise.

So I want to conclude today with a question to you. What do you defend that you know and what do you defend that you don't know? Do you defend that someone will certainly be healed without knowing it? Do you believe in the doctrine of the one Triune God because you have been taught that the Bible teaches it? Do you quickly shout MIRACLE when it might have just been a fortunate or good natural event? Do you defend the creation of the universe as an event that took place 6000 years ago? There are consequences to this which I can best describe as a punch in the stomach to our faiths, and I want readers of this blog to think carefully about it. Faith is very important to build wisely; it is a long-term process. It can be genuinely boosted when exposed to well documented miraculous events; but even these can be readily deconstructed because of abusive historical church practices about the workings of the miraculous that actually generates scepticism. Yes, I do believe that: flippant unfounded belief can be a direct cause of scepticism, disappointment, wrong and unbiblical perspectives of divine action sucking much-needed hope and faith out of believers.

We defend often for the wrong reasons, because we are so defensive, fragile and vulnerable.

The Bible does not teach defensiveness, although believers do need to stand up for what the Bible does clearly hold to be foundational about God and faith and our story as a people, but the primary purpose is not to defend it. Furthermore, it is not the starting point. The Bible teaches the church that:

My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Someone defends us; they know us. One often overlooked part of atonement is knowledge about what is being defended. Jesus is often recalled in the gospels as having known men's thoughts. If Jesus is able to defend his own, then it is because he knows them and is known to them. So we are released and required to defend certain things that we know, and to investigate more neutrally perhaps the things we don't.

Please do not try to defend what you do not know, it is not worth the risk and it is not a risk that you are asked to make. Fortunately, there are other risks that are much more worthwhile.

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