What should we look for: right answers or creative solutions?
When you are creating or using your world-view, what should it be like? What makes for a “good” world view? Do you have a coherent framework in which everything makes sense and has a place, or is it chaotic and random? Is there a way life should be, or by having a fixed view are you limiting your creativity?
I have two examples of what I mean, taken from Terry Sissons’s blog – in a pair of posts beginning with “Still thinking like a Catholic.”(Terry, if I have the thrust of your post wrong, I apologise… oh yeah… we are reminding ourselves that wrong answers have a place!…) Here’s the link to the second blog post.
Firstly there is the picture of religion. Perhaps, if you take as your premise that what your religion says is true, then everything else you consider in life, you filter through the teachings of your religion to find out what you think – rather than thinking what you think.
And then there are scientific disciplines – where you come up with a theory and set about substantiating it or modifying it in light of experience – but with the hope that your theory is right – that your original idea was the right one.
In both of these pictures, science and religion come up with an idea that is “right” and then set about showing it and proving it.
The question is whether or not this is a good way to be – or is there another way to see life and truth that doesn’t require life to fit the mould you have ready for it?
I was brought up to question and criticise, to squeeze meaning from scripture and to make my own decisions. Rather than being told “this is fact”, it was rather “…if this is fact, then…?”
Rob Bell, in “Velvet Elvis” argued that, traditionally, belief systems were like “walls”. And if enough of the bricks that supported the wall were taken away, through discovery and life experience and science – or whatever, then the wall came tumbling down. He argued that belief should be more like a trampoline where you bounce on life and find joy in the living of it. I suppose even if a few springs became unattached, you wouldn’t necessarily hit the ground. The same should go for bricks.
Where Terry came from a Catholic tradition and I did not, there is perhaps a different relationship with the concept of authority in religion. As I say, I was brought up to question – but I didn’t have to try and make my beliefs match with Catholic beliefs that I’d struggle with. I don’t “need” to believe in incorruptible saints, various things about celibacy and contraception etc in order to still believe in God, grace and mercy. In my tradition the only authority is the Scripture – and the interpretations are (almost?) infinite – and so, through that filter I try to discern what I think is true. I like the bit in the bible that says we are to “work out your own salvation in fear and trembling” – that it isn’t a belief to be adopted, but it is a lifetime of consideration and figuring out and questioning – all coming down to the key question: if the bible is “true”… then what?
We then have the debate about the bible being “true” – and I find that it is. I don’t need it to be literally true in every story – I have no concern about how long it took to make the earth, how old Methuselah was, how Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal… It’s the whole story I find fascinating – about the relationship between God and his people – and, by extension, me – and everyone else. However, if God is God, then, theoretically, it could all be true, literally… (I never had any bother believing in the Virgin birth, the resurrection etc – should be do-able, if you were God, wouldn’t it?)
Does it not matter that I don’t “believe” every word? Not really. What I think is neither here nor there. Whether I believe in all the core beliefs of conservative evangelicalism, or not, has no bearing on the actual question of God’s existence. Either there is a God or there isn’t. Or there is the Christian God or there isn’t. Or there is precisely the type of God I think there is, or there isn’t. And what’s the chances of me being 100% right? Nil?
Luckily, that doesn’t matter, does it? Or does it?
I can have faith. I can trust. I can live, working out my salvation.
So, are there limitations to “right answers”? For sure – insofar as anyone thinks they have the “right answer”. What are the chances of them being 100% right? I am reminded of the song:
Christ is the answer to my every need
Christ is the answer he is my friend indeed
Problems of life my spirit may assail
In Christ my Saviour I need never fail
For Christ is the answer to my need.
Maybe they are right. It is what I think. Does that make it true? No. Does that make it false? No. But they might be right.
Given that I have a stance, fallible though it may be, does it limit my creativity? Does it force me to think inside a box?
Is there a box?
If there is a box, for me it is Scripture. I enjoy thinking inside that box. So did the Apostle Paul. He said:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
From Philippians chapter three
What I like about this passage is the forward-looking attitude. Despite all that had happened to him, he does not sound like a man with all the answers here. The phrases that show me this are “I want to know”, “somehow”, “not that I have already obtained all this”, “I press on”, “I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it”…
He is wrestling with his hope, his faith and his trust, focusing on it towards his goal. He believes there is a solution – but he is going to have to “press on” to attain it.
So, right answers or creative solutions?
I think I vote for creative solutions… and I will continue to work out my salvation which is certainly creative, and also a solution.