One of the most important jobs I have is to struggle with you to go deeper, never accepting your faith to be complete. This is really important because the development of your faith and a deeper relationship with God is central in the call to evangelism. Why? You may ask. Because the more we question, struggle, and seek, the more we can listen, understand, and accept others. All of this helps us to begin to accept that there is something more than what we might understand.
In the Presbyterian Church one of our great difficulties is understanding faith outside of an intellectual experience. For many in the Presbyterian Church faith is often a logical exercise. Unfortunately, we know that this is a narrow way; God cannot be understood if it is exclusively an intellectual endeavor. However, the same is true of emotional or “spiritual” faith. In its own right there is nothing wrong with it, but an exclusively spiritual faith is not a full witness of God since it often lacks other parts and aspects of faithfulness.
A fuller understanding of faith can only come when we embrace and seek not just spiritual and intellectual but other faith understandings as well. When we do this we are then able to challenge ourselves with things that make us uncomfortable. The gift of discomfort, when we allow it, is that often it exposes us to different theologies, or ways of understanding God. Paul might call this “the great mystery;” and I would expand that by saying that no matter how much we think we know, there is always a lot that we don’t. But that is not really a problem.
As Paul says, “This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, (Message 1 Ti 3:16). This is a foundational statement that recognizes that no matter what we may think or understand there is always something more, a mystery! How we come to understand that mystery depends on our approaches to faith. Obviously, someone who is comfortable with an emotional spirituality is going to have an easier time accepting the Mystery than does the intellectual spirituality.
But Paul in his wisdom does not leave the great mystery alone; he says that while it is a great mystery there are things that all can agree with, specifically that: “He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory. This becomes very important because it gives that balance. While we can accept the mystery, we also have things that are known, things that are witnessed.
When we seek witness or when we seek mystery, what we are really seeking is understanding. What we call this in the church is Faith Seeking Understanding, which is a simplified definition of Theology. The word Theology means Words about God. So you can see how that fits in with God being so mysterious we have to have some place to begin understanding God. And that is the words we use to describe Him and how we can witness Him.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen