With apologies to physicist Werner Heisenberg, who posited the “Uncertainty Principle” in 1927 about particle velocity and position, I have a spiritual corollary. It goes like this: all healthy relationships are bound together by faith, whether we love our mother or board a bus. Married couples, for example, strive daily to help each other keep faith in their marital vows. Friendships, also, are based upon the faith that if something bad happens in the middle of a night, a friend will show up.
This trust is a delicate and strong bond holding together the parts of life and love that matter most. But imagine being married to someone where you’re regularly required to prove your fidelity; or being with a friend who felt the need to test you for tangible evidence of your faithfulness. I would back away from such a friend.
Now let’s apply it to our faith relationship with God. Since the movement called the Enlightenment—only for the last 300 years—detractors challenge the veracity of our faith by asking for proof, by demanding evidence. Sometimes we act like we can “prove” God’s care and concern for us by citing times when we were delivered only because God interceded on our behalf. That doesn’t satisfy them. They will explain away our “God-moment” as random or owing to other reasons.
Did you know that dodgy Christian doctrines like “papal infallibility” (Catholics) or “biblical inerrancy” (Protestants) were only developed since the Enlightenment as defensive attempts to answer the critical demands of Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, Jefferson, Hume, and Kant? These doctrines are not our faith at its best. They are pinched, narrow, and wooden attempts to justify our very dynamic faith.
Maybe God doesn’t need or want defenses any more than my love for my mother requires a factual demonstration by way of logical proofs and adducing evidence. But in our fevered attempts to legitimize our faith in the acids of modernity, in our desire to invite or include everyone, we buy into this thinking. Still, it never works. Answering demands to ‘prove God’ is as crazy as doing so in love and friendship.
Do you recall Jesus’ second temptation in the wilderness before launching his ministry? Satan challenged Jesus to bodily throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple so that God would be forced to save him, proving God. Jesus answered no. Note the message: the temptation to expect certainty from God is very wrong.
This is no mere speculation. Folks considering FCC, D or wanting to baptize their young, will ask me: “How can I proceed with my doubt?” A great Bible story has Jesus challenging a father’s faith (Mk 9) before healing his convulsing son. “Lord, I believe,” he told Jesus, “help my unbelief.” Jesus of course healed the little boy.
That is where we all live, if we are being fully honest. If we feel doubts like ants in the pants of our faith, get used to them. They are not going anywhere. Just be grateful for how they can keep us moving, pushing, and daring even greater faith. Having faith in God is better than certainty about God. Faith takes us into realms that certainty will never touch. Even Plato said, “no serious thing can be proven.”
We don’t expect you to prove anything here at FCC. We invite you to offer faith.