Weekly Edgework #1 - July 1, 2004

A Believing Agnostic

We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete (I Cor. 13:9).

For most of my life I have considered being an agnostic a bad thing. To admit to being an agnostic meant to admit you didnít believe in anything, that your life was meaningless and that you lived without hope. I have discovered, however, that being an agnostic need not negate being a Christian. As a matter of fact, being agnostic can be the highest form of Christian humility.

Paul had no problem admitting that there were many things he did not know. In his discussion with the Corinthian Christians about the tough question of whether it was right to eat meat offered to idols he states, We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions Ė but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds ( I Cor. 8:2).

On occasion I meet persons who leave the impression that they know all there is to know about faith, life and God. Apparently somewhere in their journey they were able to cap the fountain of knowledge. Life after that point consisted mainly in proclaiming the whole truth and resisting any new ideas that did not square with their understanding of truth. In such cases it is not hard to detect elements of smugness, pride and even arrogance.

I too once had the idea that after a few years of study and experience, I would be able to cement truth in place and spend the rest of my life pointing others to it. I have learned, however, that the deeper you probe into truth the more you have to admit that you donít know Ė that mystery and paradox abound. But that does not mean that all is lost. It does mean, however, that I must hold what I believe in an open hand, ready to have new light reveal dimensions of truth that I had not seen before.

In her book, Glimpses of Grace, Madeleine LíEngle tells of someone approaching her at a conference asking her, You have referred to your agnostic period. What happened to get you out of it? And I reply, joyfully, that I am still an agnostic, but then I was an unhappy one, seeking infinite answers, and now I am a happy one, rejoicing in paradox. Agnostic means only that we do not know, and we finite creatures cannot know in any intellectual or ultimate way, the infinite Lord, the undivided trinity (34).

As I continue to grow in grace I find it less and less troubling that in this life I donít see everything clearly, that I find myself squinting in a fog, peering through a mist (I Cor. 13:12). I am a believing agnostic.