Allowing room for doubt as a spiritual exercise; day 14 of Ramadan

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“The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.” – Anne Lamont

There was a time in my life when I read my Bible and I took the entirety of it literally. From a 6 day creation found in Genesis to end times imagery found in Revelation, if it was in the Bible I thought…believed…it had to be completely true and literal.
But I didn’t account for several things; context, audience, hermeneutics, literary techniques, different writers, figures of speech, historicity, etc.
I admit, when I started reading the Bible through a lens that wasn’t completely literal, it shattered me and I was somewhat distraught, because I thought that’s how you had to read the Bible, that’s you had to deem it infallible and inerrant- the classic ALL or NONE fallacy…

But nowadays I examine and read the Bible through the lens of Jesus, in which I do think that is how it meant to be read. I also read it with the mindset of “it being written by real people in real places in real times.” (hat tip to Rob Bell for that terminology)
I think that because I do hold this stance of the Bible, and even my faith, I am at a place where I’m healthier for it. I’m not hung up on parts that I once deemed necessary to my faith; yes I do find myself doing what I can to emulate Jesus in my life in my doing as well as my being, but sometimes you gotta eat the meat and spit out the bones and fat, sometimes you have to take portions of it seriously but not literally.
My church covered this a few months ago as to what a healthy stance looks like when it comes to reading the Bible:
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I agree with all those statements, and so while I might align myself as a Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist with theistic evolution thoughts and ideas, I hold it with an open posture that says I might be wrong…and you know what, that’s okay if I am wrong, my faith is one that’s okay with the challenging that comes from the inside as well as the outside.
Lately I’ve been commuting and listening to the podcasts of Drunk Ex-Pastors. Their views, one of an atheist and the other of a Catholic, are refreshing and encouraging because they too have a nuance of being subjected to scrutiny and the possibility of being wrong and it sure trumps the views I grew up hearing about it’s all about right beliefs, right practices, and saying the right things. I’ve been alive for 30 years and I realize more than ever that God’s bigger than our beliefs, our dogmas, and our doctrines.

I think that’s why all of our religious and non-religious beliefs should be put under the microscope of healthy criticism and skepticism. It’s one thing to say well I believe X because of Y and it’s another that says well I have faith about X and Y, but…I might be wrong. On a human level this works immensely because while we can subjugate ourselves to tribalism, to one view, and to one thought, there’s a bigger world outside of our churches, our synagogues, our mosques, our temples, etc!
Somewhere down the line we’re going to run into people who think and believe differently (gasp!) than ourselves, and rather than retreating to our worship places and our sacred texts, perhaps the healthiest thing to do is get to know those individuals better and dialogue about it all. I wouldn’t be surprised in the midst of such dialogue we’ll find that the commonalities will outweigh the differences we have.
This is also applicable to our brothers and sisters who are atheists and agnostics, because they too experience life like we do, they’re just not bound to a set of religious beliefs and texts. Even in my own life I am thankful to God for the atheists and agnostics in my life, for while there are differences there are more commonalities to be shared.

So with all that being said, doubt was my keyword on this 14th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God for allowing us space to have our beliefs but to accept our doubts as well. May we put our beliefs to the side and allow room for doubting and take things at faith value. May we learn to appreciate the value of our commonalities with everyone we meet and put our differences asunder for the greater good.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

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Of God, the universe, and how the more I know the less I know

Imagine if you will the universe. We as humans have a desire to make sense of the world around us as well as the universe around us, and so we send objects in space to take photos of us and then some. What we can see is appropriately known as “The Observable Universe”;

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and it is as we zoom out we can see the complexity and the magnitude of the universe. We get lost in the bigness of it all, we are enamored of the complexity and we are compelled to travel farther into space.

and in a similar fashion, that’s how I “observe” God.

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It is true, that God is as big as you’ll allow God to be, so if you make God convenient, bite-sized, put-God-in-your-pocket, manageable, domesticated, and so forth…God will remain that small. God will be knowable, comprehensible, understandable, and you never need wonder what is God up to because God has been reduced to a systematic theory and thus is fully known.

But, if you are one for dreaming big and offering up bold statements to God, try this one on for size; “God I want to know more about you, on your terms and not my own”. It’s not an uttering of magic words, it’s simply allowing God to be freed from the constructs we impose upon God.

It is under these circumstances that we go further and further out and see how small we truly are inasmuch how big God is; the box we once contained God to is a mere blip, and the further out we go the less we know and yet it is because of this we are compelled to go out farther still.

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So let go of the God you once claimed to know and go farther. And as you go out you will see your smallness and fragility, but embrace the fact that God loves you deeply and completely!

~Nathanael~