Brian E Pearson
Wonder, not Belief
Early in its history the church revealed its discomfort with wonder. Though it was born in wonder--at this remarkable man through whom the light shone so brightly, through his sublime wisdom, his fierce compassion, and the life force flowing through him that healed the sick and transcended even death itself--the church was bothered by wonder's lack of definition. What did it all mean?
The early Christians argued. A lot. About whether the Gentiles should be included--didn't they have to become Jews first? About Jesus' identity--was he human, or divine? About the precise language with which to describe the Godhead--was it three Persons, or One? And every time an argument was won, the losers walked off the pages of history into oblivion, their tails between their legs, their truth defeated.
The New Dispensation of Spirit evokes wonder, not definition. It accepts multiple "truths" over a single "Truth." It welcomes ambiguity and the tension of holding opposites together, and the humility of not knowing. It eschews certainty in favour a child's sense ... of wonder. Unless you become as a little child, Jesus said, you shall not inherit God's realm.
When my church, St. Stephen's in Calgary, was renovating its sanctuary, cutting up solid pews to make way for stackable chairs, we were visited by orbs. Dozens of them showed up in photographs, if not to the naked eye, complex geometrical structures floating in midair. Some were the size of dinner plates, some of tea saucers. Those who saw the images debated their origins. Dust on the lens? Angels? The spirits of the dead?
I've gone back and forth trying to land on a plausible explanation. But as understanding eludes me, I’ll never forget the sense of the miraculous that accompanied those orbs. Something momentous was happening at St. Stephen's. Church members were bonding over their herculean task as we prepared ourselves to welcome anew the world into our midst.
I fear if we ever achieve definition about the orbs, we will also lose something of our faith. God's extraordinary universe will have been reduced to whatever we can hold in our heads without making us dizzy. And the Spirit of God will have lost a toehold in our hearts.
For two millennia the church has prided itself on its creedal definitions. Christians who saw things differently were driven out as heretics, some of them burned at the stake to purify their misguided souls. As if faith required the assent of the head, rather than the wonder of the heart.
Next week: Both Head and Heart