by Laura Walker Dunn · February 2018

Recently, the subject of faith and what that means to us Christians has come up in a number of settings at Pilgrim Church. In our Wednesday morning Bible study, we raised the topic of Jesus’s divinity. Rev. Tom asked us, “Was Jesus human?” And we were off and running with what that means. Was he divine? Yes, we all agreed. Well then, how much of him was human and how much of him divine? Not surprisingly, we didn’t have a definitive answer for that question, one scholars and theologians have been grappling with for centuries.

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Which then led us to a discussion of taking things on faith. I mentioned to our group a quote I read years ago that helped me with the concept. Writer Anne Lamott always seems to get right to the heart of the matter. She writes

“the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”

My Tuesday night Faith and Fiction series at the church concluded with a discussion of Marilynne Robinson’s acclaimed (and Pulitzer Prize winning) novel Gilead. We all agreed it was one of the most moving and beautiful books we’d ever read. In the novel, the main character John Ames is an aging minister with a young wife and child. He has just been diagnosed with a heart condition that means he does not have long to live. In coming to terms with his future, he writes a long letter to his 7-year- old son, initially to write down the family history for the boy. But eventually it becomes more of a meditation.

Here is a passage in the letter where Ames is advising his son:

“So my advice is this—don’t look for proofs. Don’t bother with them at all. They are never sufficient to the question, and they are always a little impertinent, I think, because they claim for God a place within our conceptual grasp. And they will likely sound wrong to you even if you convince someone else with them. That is very unsettling over the long term…. I’m not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I’m saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own, not, so to speak, the mustache and walking stick that happen to be the fashion of any particular moment.”

Such good stuff our discussions. Though we don’t solve much, we appreciate learning about and growing our faith.  But sometimes, when I feel a need to know rather than accept, I am reminded of a favorite poem by Emily Dickinson:

“Faith” is a fine invention

for gentlemen who see

But Microscopes are prudent

In an Emergency!

After all, I’m human….

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