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What if . . . ?

Current knowledge is not perfect, there is always more to explore in both faith and science.

I am currently reading The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns. Enns’s main argument is that Christians have become enamoured of true beliefs at the cost of trust as our faith’s central virtue. We are too concerned about being correct, and we require others in our community, especially our leaders, to hold correct views on matters of doctrine above all else. Too often we act as if we have a handle on the truth (or are close to it) and that there is no need to explore and imagine other possibilities. Perfection becomes our end state and cannot be bettered. But in scripture, God’s creation is described as good and very good; it is not described as perfect.

Enns argues that trust in God, rather than truth, should be at the heart of our faith, even in the face of doubts and uncertainty. While beliefs are important, they are not the heart of our faith. We can be wrong about our beliefs – indeed we are likely to be – but trust in God is nonnegotiable for a Christian.

The creative mind of God

Science has consistently argued that what we know today is only a stepping-stone to a greater understanding of the world. The truth we know becomes only a particular case of a more extensive understanding. Isaac Newton was a great scientist who discovered and described many of the laws of physics and gravity. These laws were definitive to scientists for over 200 years. But then Albert Einstein imagined what would happen if he rode on a beam of light, and his theory of relativity became a better way of understanding gravity in the cosmos.

Perfection is the opponent of imagination.

At other times, observations give rise to a completely different way of understanding the richness of creation. Charles Darwin spent time studying finches on the Galapagos Islands on his journey on the Beagle. These observations, along with some other incomplete theories, led to the theory of evolution. With the discovery of genes and their role in development, evolution has become the framework for all the life sciences. The explosive richness of life, coming from a much simpler beginning, gives us reason to praise the majesty and creative power of our God. We should take this expanding richness of life on earth as a metaphor for how we should come to better understand God and his will, Word and world.

Not accepting the ultimate truth of current knowledge and using our God-given imagination to explore new ways of understanding has led to advances in science. If we believe that our understanding is a perfect reflection of the truth and existence, we stop looking closely at the world to see if better ways can be imagined. “What if . . .” is one of the most vital openings into the creative mind of God.

If we are willing to use our imagination to explore God’s world (and Word), we must recognize that sometimes we will be wrong. But if holding true beliefs is no longer central to our faith, then we can have the grace to live with each others’ differences, mistakes and misadventures. Over time, we have furthered our understanding of what our humanity means in treating and respecting each other. Slavery, in the light of Exodus, is something Christians can no longer accept – we are all made in our Father and Lord’s image and can only belong to him. The place of women in our community has changed, again recognizing the humanity of both genders. If holding on to our truth is no longer critical to our relationship with our Father, it need not divide us. Instead, we can give full rein to the gift of our creativity and imagination, which are a blessing from God.

  • Rudy Eikelboom is a Professor of Psychology, at Wilfrid Laurier University, who has emerged from the dark side of the University after being department chair for 9 years and now teaches behavioural statistics to graduate and undergraduate psychology students. His retirement looms and he is looking forward to doing more writing on the implications of modern science for our Christian faith. Currently, he serves as a pastoral elder at the Waterloo Christian Reformed Church.

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