Obstinacy

Found this draft from two years ago…

I have always felt very young. I think it has to do with always being the shortest of a group. Being a child, you always physically look up to your parents, and now that I am grown, I still physically look up to people. My mind has decided they must all be older and thus wiser than I am. (This gets strange when my students are taller than I am…)

I think this manner of thinking has shaped by worldview. I tend to (and occasionally force myself to) see things with a sense of childlike wonder. The stars in the night sky, Advanced Calculus homework, the functioning of kidneys, the graceful movement of horses, the etymology of words, you name it.
I promise I have a point.

Just before Christmas, I read the Christmas story. Like Jill Pole, I was too tired to sleep and decided to read both Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts in one sitting. I had apparently never read the two stories in quick succession before, and the differences startled me.
Luke tells about the shepherds, Matthew about the wise men. No problem, just focusing on two bits of the story, right?
Luke discusses the flight to Egypt and the massacre of Israel’s children, which Matthew omits. Strange.
Luke seems to say Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth and returned there after the birth; Matthew seems to say that they moved to Nazareth after leaving Egypt. Hmm.

These inconsistencies bothered me for about 10 minutes as I lay there approaching sleep and talking to God. I then realized that it doesn’t really matter. Wherever Mary and Joseph lived before and after the birth, whoever came to see the infant King, Jesus is still God. He still came to save us. Both Gospels agree that He was born to a virgin in Bethlehem, which is what the prophets predicted; the other details are unimportant.

I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’s essay, “On Obstinacy in Belief.” If you have access to JSTOR, go search for it. He talks about how Christians are sometimes accused of clinging to beliefs despite copious amounts of evidence that the beliefs are false (for example, inconsistencies in the Scriptures that are supposedly God’s inspired words).
While people trying to determine if God is who He claims should poke and prod and search for evidence, we who have met this incredible Person simply must always believe that He is who He is. We can’t do otherwise.
Lewis says things better.

There is, you see, no real parallel between Christian obstinacy in faith and the obstinacy of a bad scientist trying to preserve a hypothesis although the evidence has turned against it. Unbelievers very pardonably get the impression that an adherence to our faith is like that, because they meet Christianity, if at all, mainly in apologetic works. And there, of course, the existence and beneficence of God must appear as a speculative question like any other. Indeed it is a speculative question as long as it is a question at all. But once it has been answered in the affirmative, you get quite a new situation. To believe that God, at least this God, exists is to believe that you as a person now stand in the presence of God as a Person. What would, a moment before, have been variations in opinion, now become variations in your personal attitude to a Person. You are no longer faced with an argument which demands your assent, but with a Person who demands your confidence.

Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the little children. They have a sense of awe and wonder about the world. They do not know about supposed inconsistencies in the Gospel or the nuances of communion or all the myriad of things that are debated among Christian academics; they simply know Jesus.
And that’s enough.

At this point, I am obstinate in my belief.  I still learn, I still question, and I still get confused, but none of these questions will ever shake my belief that Jesus is God incarnate who came to rescue me from death.  I rest, childlike, trusting that He knows the answers.

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