The Road of Unknowing

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going.” -Hebrews 11:8

God is a mystery
Jesus is the answer
-Paul (Colossians 2:2)

Life is a mystery
Love is a dancer
-Larry Norman (1948-2008)

Whatever faith may be, it’s certainly not certainty.
Certainty is an edifice built on empirical proof.
Faith is a journey on the Road of Unknowing.

The “need” for certainty is a birth defect in the children of the Enlightenment.
Confusing faith with certainty creates a lot of needless anxiety in the children of God.

We walk by faith, not by sight.
We walk by faith, not by certainty.

The desire for certainty is the desire to live without faith.
Certainty concerns itself with logical proofs.
Faith concerns itself with the word of God.

2 + 2 = 4. Certain
Jesus is risen. Creed
Credo (Latin) I believe

The things you can know with certainty are not the things that ultimately matter or the things that ultimately satisfy. You can be logically certain 2 + 2 = 4.
But you cannot be satisfied in life by cold logical certainty.

Thou canst not prove that thou art body alone,
Nor canst thou prove that thou art spirit alone,
Nor canst thou prove that thou art both in one:
Thou canst not prove thou art immortal, no
Nor yet that thou art mortal—nay my son,
Thou canst not prove that I, who speak with thee,
Am not thyself in converse with thyself,
For nothing worth proving can be proven,
Nor yet disproven: wherefore thou be wise,
Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt,
And cling to Faith beyond the forms of Faith!
-Alfred Tennyson, The Ancient Sage

What matters most of all is God.
And God cannot be proven.
Proofs have to do with propositions and, as Alister McGrath points out, God is not a proposition — he’s a person!

According to Jesus it’s an evil generation that says, “Prove it!” (give us a sign).
We’re given one sign — the sign of Jonah.
The Resurrection.
(Matthew 12:38-40)

Many try to stop me, shake me up in my mind,
Say, “Prove to me that He’s Lord, show me a sign.”
What kind of sign they need when it all comes from within,
When what’s lost has been found, what’s to come has already been?
-Bob Dylan, Pressing On

To encounter God demands faith.
It cannot be otherwise.
That’s just the way it is.

“He who comes to God must believe that he is.”
-Hebrews 11:6

Faith must walk the road of unknowing.
Faith must leap the gulf of uncertainty.

By the way, all dealings with God are faith dealings.
The Christian has faith in God’s existence.
The atheist has faith in God’s non-existence.
Atheism is as much faith as theism.
If the Christian cannot properly say, I know God exists, but only, I believe God exists
So the atheist cannot properly say, I know God doesn’t exist, but only, I believe God doesn’t exist.
Yep, everybody’s doing some kind of faith.

So the Christian life is to walk the Road of Unknowing.
We like to pretend that we know more than we do.
We especially like to pretend we know the will of God; i.e. what God should do and how he’ll do it.

I used to say faith begins where the will of God is known.
There is some truth in this, but only in a general sense.
I know God’s will in general terms of justice, redemption and a world ultimately made right.
But the particulars? I’m afraid I have little more than assumptions and guesses.

“And they were on the road…”
“‘You do not know…'”
-Mark 10:32, 38

As James and John followed Jesus on his final march to Jerusalem they walked a road of unknowing, though they hardly knew it. Mark tells us that apprehension was in the air. What would happen in Jerusalem? They all hoped that Jesus would be crowned king — that’s why they were following him to the capital. But to crown Jesus king would constitute rebellion and rebellions can get people killed. What was going to happen? They weren’t sure. It was a road of unknowing. James and John though, seem to have been more certain about what was going to happen. So they petitioned Jesus to be on his right and left when he came into his kingdom. But Jesus flatly told them they didn’t know what they were asking. James and John thought they were asking to be seated on thrones on either side of Jesus, but they were in fact asking to be crucified on either side of Jesus. As it turned out, Jesus was crowned king in Jerusalem, but it was two thieves that were positioned on either side of Jesus when he came into his kingdom. James and John didn’t see that coming. Their certainty on the road of unknowing turned out to be mistaken.

And now I tread cautiously upon holy ground…

Jesus in Gethsemane.
Venturing onto his own Road of Unknowing.
He knew the road would lead him into death…but…what would that be like?
Think of it: To bet everything on doing what no one has ever done–
Go all the way into death…and come back again.
It’s enough to make you sweat blood.

Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa as a Road of Unknowing.
Jesus faced death with anguished faith, not with cocky certainty.
Jesus was not an actor in a passion play where the outcome is certain–
Jesus was a human living his life by faith on the Road of Unknowing.

And we cannot expect to live our lives any differently.
None of us are given a script so that all we have to do is act out the scenes.
No. We must live our lives. By faith. Uncertain of the outcome.
That we are children of God and that God causes all things to work together for good.

What exactly will happen?
We don’t know.
A Road of Unknowing.
All we can do is believe.
This is how we walk the Road of Unknowing.
By faith.
It’s what Abraham did.
It’s what Jesus did.
Let’s follow them.
In steps of faith.