On Being Content with Unanswered Questions
Preparing for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Three Days before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 1
Old Testament: Jeremiah 13:12-19
Epistle: Acts 13:26-34
God of every land and nation, you have created all people and you dwell among us in Jesus Christ. Listen to the cries of those who pray to you, and grant that, as we proclaim the greatness of your name, all people will know the power of love at work in the world. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people (Acts 13:30-31).
A priest was talking to a group of Sunday school children. “And now,” he said, “is there any boy or girl who would like to ask me a question?”
There was silence. Then a shrill voice asked, “Please, Father, why did the angels walk up and down Jacob’s ladder when they had wings?”
“Ah yes,” said the priest. “Now would any child like to answer that question?”*
In my younger days as I explored my faith, I was very bothered by questions of life and faith that seemed to have no answers. I have always been the inquisitive type and I did not like loose ends and wanted all the “jots and tittles” to be taken care of. As I get older I find myself very content to let many of those unanswered questions remain so this side of eternity.
I certainly do not believe that faith and reason are synonymous, but I also am convinced that there is a rational component to faith. I reject the pure and sharp distinction between faith and reason as if somehow the two are diametrically opposed to one another. The theologian Tertullian may indeed have believed because it is absurd. I, however, believe in Christianity because it makes sense. Without reason, faith is intellectual suicide. Without faith, reason can find no ultimate answers to life and its large purpose. While I have become content with many of life’s unanswered questions, I still question and seek for answers because Jesus died to take away our sins not our minds. I reject both fideism and rationalism.
The center of Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus. When I encounter the difficult questions in life for which there is seemingly no answer this side of perfection, and when doubts at times set in (And yes, everyone at times has her or his doubts. All of us live this side of perfection), I just ask myself the central question the gives Christian faith its credibility: Has Jesus Christ been raised from the dead? The answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” Of course, there is an element of faith involved in believing that affirmation, but it is also a reasonable conclusion to draw as one looks at the evidence.
And because Jesus has been raised from the dead, life can be lived with questions for which there are no answers in the present. Faith does not have to be packaged all neat and tidy, and such questions as where Cain got his wife are not nearly as significant as we have made them.
I believe because it is reasonable. Therefore, I am content to take many of my unanswered questions with me to the grave.
*NOTE: Cal and Rose Samra, Holy Humor: Inspirational Wit & Cartoons (New York: Mastermedia Limited, 1996), 99-100.
Check out my YouTube Channel, “Faith Seeking Understanding,” here.