“To invoke God as a blanket explanation of the unexplained is to make God the friend of ignorance. If God is to be found, it must surely be through what we discover about the world, not what we fail to discover.” –Paul Davies, British-Australian astrophysicist
Whether or not you fully agree with this statement, I think it is a relevant response to the issues that Metzger examines in one of his sections, The Seminary as Cemetery: Anti-Intellectualism, in Chapter 1. I will deal with race and class issues in light of consumerism below, but for now I want to explore how head and heart knowledge are wrongly viewed as competing factors, which I think is shaped by our desire for simple solutions and comfy answers.
The other day as I was driving home, I listened to an interesting report on the radio. It was about a camp for kids–but not a religious one. Camp Inquiry is a “brain spa” for young skeptics, an alternative to a “God camp”. It is not a camp to produce little atheists, a camp counselor explained, but rather, “little thinkers”. But the message sent was clear: if you are to subscribe to a particular faith, then you are, in result, detaching from thinking logically. Faith and reason were communicated as being incompatible.
Metzger explains that fundamentalist evangelicals tend to perpetuate this view, rather than resist it. On p. 17, he explains the view of many in his camp today: if one attends seminary, it is feared that they will open up Pandora’s box to their own theological demise, and soon all the theories, philosophies, theological stances will overwhelm them and compete for their rudimentary God-loving heart. The “‘head knowledge’ will cancel out ‘heart knowledge'” (p. 17). Too much theological debate, it is argued, leads to a dead orthodoxy and paralyzed heart.
As I listened to the report about Camp Inquiry, I felt misunderstood. This is not what I signed up for. So I’m one of those “non-thinkers”, one of those fools who throws reason out the window to embrace blind faith? Does a soft heart necessitate a soft head? I’m not afraid to ask questions, because I believe that if something is discovered to be true, then God is found in– not apart from– that. God created us to be “little thinkers”, he gave us inquiring minds, allows for doubts, and most importantly, a hunger to understand. I think that is beautiful. As I study the Bible, as dire questions are raised in my mind, and as my confusion waxes and wanes, I find God in that.
I do agree that too much academia can threaten a simple, child-like faith in Christ, but it doesn’t have to. A humble, broken heart before God must accompany my quest for knowledge. In the midst of learning, I must embrace the wonder and marvel that, no matter how hard I try, I will never understand it all. But my heart and mind can rest in a loving God who does.
I’m beginning to believe that ignorance is not bliss; rather, ignorance is oppression that keeps us from discovering enlightenment in Christ. I’m not afraid to discover new truths, but I am afraid my understanding of God will be so boxed in and guarded that it will suffocate. I respect the fear many people have of modernist theology that Metzger discusses on p. 18. But I also believe that if I am not asking questions due to fear that I might discover too much and so implode my faith, then I need to ask what is the basis on which my faith stands. God comprises the unknown and the known, and I believe he invites us to investigate these mysteries so as to know him better.
I think this is a driving factor in facing race and class issues. I, like anyone, want the easy way out. The short answer. The one that makes me feel warm and fuzzy, but doesn’t really challenge my life of comfort or fear of the things I don’t understand. Why would I want to go there? But I believe this is what Jesus asks us to do: wrestle with the tough questions and issues of homogeneity, division and oppression while resting in him and allowing him to bear this burden along with us. This then leads us forward to affect real, lasting change. He will see us through it (not see us on the other side, once we’ve wrestled through the hard part). But the message of consumerism is, if the going gets rough, then we are not consuming the right product or answer: the right answer is the easy answer. That is not the message of the gospel. I believe that, like Camp Inquiry, we are to inquire, so as to respond to these complex issues with solid, meaningful and life-giving answers and solutions, whenever possible.
What do you think? Do you think that along with increasing knowledge, your faith is strengthened or weakened, or both? Do you agree that, as Christians, we tend to gravitate towards solving the “easy” problems, while neglecting the complicated ones? If so, what message do you think this communicates?