It is a joy to have the Rev. Malcolm back with us. This blog was started by an Anglican laywoman, and since her retirement from blogging, we have missed that irenic Anglican voice – and have been much the worse for it. One of the pleasures of having Malcolm back with us is that his posts breathe the air of a Christian who is on the journey we are all on, and who is capable of standing back and reflecting on the experience in a way that helps us all.
His most recent post, Journeying is a perfect example of his reflective writing. He does not shy away from using words like ‘doubt’ and ‘uncertainty’, and when he writes:
One has to be suspicious of individuals who think they have everything worked out, because invariably they haven’t. There is an un predictability about life that is valuable
I sympathise. As Malcolm says, life is more complex than any set of rules and regulations can encompass, and we need, always, to remember that the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way round. Repentance is a crucial part of the Way, for sure, but we must not not make the yoke of regretfulness heavier. There may be fortunate people who, after they have confessed and been absolved, can consign the burdens of past sins to the scrapheap of their own history, but for those of us not granted such Grace, we need to be able to look ahead and set our face to the far horizon.
It is not for nothing that Christianity was first called ‘the Way’. For all the certainties sometimes enunciated by those who feel ‘once saved. always saved’, for myself, and for others I know, our faith is a journey – it is a way we are treading. We know where it leads, but to continue to tread the way requires, as Malcolm has pointed out, faith. The Lord seems to my mind to promise us a reward for our faith in Him; He does not promise us a reward for our certainty. Blessed are those who, having seen, believe, of course, but it seems to me that those who believe through faith are also blessed – and it is harder to have faith than to have certainty. It is there, I sometimes think, that the sort of certainties put out by those such as our friend here, Bosco, are of far less help to the Christian and to the seeker than the language employed by Malcolm.
Saying, ‘all you have to do is knock’ is all very well, but what about those who have knocked until their hands and heads hurt? One answer would be the one offered in classic Calvinism – you are simply not one of the elect, Jesus did not die for you. That is an honest answer to the enquirer and the seeker who has not found answers, but is it consonant with the tenor of the teaching of Jesus? Whenever He encounters faith, he praises it, but it is plain to see that faith is not the same as certainty. The Roman Centurion has faith that Jesus can cure his servant, but that is not because he knows who Jesus is, or because he is certain from past knowledge of Jesus; he simply has faith in the authority he sees in Jesus.
Malcolm makes a profound point when he writes: ‘Real faith is about trust and not certainty’. The Way is long and it is winding, and sometimes it seems uphill all the way. But the alternative would be to abandon it – and faith says ‘no’ to that. Lord, help though my unbelief and see me safe to the harbour at the end.