- At the Desert Retreat House -
I am writing a new book under the working title of A Faithful Agnostic. In point of fact this is how I see myself at this stage on my own spiritual journey - I am a follower of Jesus, a person of faith and yet I cherish the fact that I am a certified, card carrying agnostic. Some may think it odd for an ordained priest to call himself an agnostic - I actually think agnosticism is a noble virtue to be embraced on any spiritual journey.
That word “agnostic” usually carries some pretty negative baggage with it in religious circles. Agnostics are viewed as people who do not “enjoy” the certainties of faith and need to be shown the true way. It’s true that agnostics are people who are unable or unwilling to affirm who "God" is with any degree of certainty, but I’m not at all sure that agnostics need to be shown the “true way,” maybe the opposite is true.
It seems to me that rather than figuring out how to convert an agnostic, perhaps people of faith might look upon an "agnostic mind" as a model of where faith should lead. Any spiritual path should always lead to deeper mystery, a mystery that cannot be explained or named or pushed into pre –conceived categories.
I think about something Jesus once said as he placed a small child upon his knee and told his disciples: The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
As I see it, Jesus was teaching his disciples to have the “mind of a child” when walking in his "Way." Always be filled with wonder, see the world with new eyes every day, don’t ever try to figure “God” out because God is a mystery that can only be experienced and never explained.
Jesus’ teaching is very similar the Buddhist concept of a “Beginner’s Mind” - the more one grows in wisdom the more one develops an uncluttered mind, free of pre-conceived explanations and clear-cut ideas, always open and ready to embrace the world as it happens in every moment as if you are seeing it for the first time.
Saint Augustine once said:
Anything you think you understand about God is not God.
In similar fashion, the celebrated Christian mystic, John of the Cross, said:
The higher one ascends on the ladder of the spiritual journey, the less one understands.
So, whenever I think I have it all figured out (or even sort of figured out) I am probably stuck in a rut and I need to remind myself that the greatest faith to which I can ever hope to aspire is to say:
I don’t know
Over the next few months as I write my new book I am hoping to get as much “feedback” as possible from people who read this blog so that I might reflect on what you say and hopefully include some of your comments in the book.
Please join me on this journey of faithful agnosticism.