Some books change your life. For me, one of these is Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Pulitzer prize-winning author, Annie Dillard, which I read about 20 years ago. This literary masterpiece tells the story of Dillard’s year at Tinker Creek, diving into the mysteries and wonders of the natural world. I remember being amazed, shocked, awed, and amused at what she discovered as she described her revelations with both strikingly intelligent scientific insight and a deeply spiritual reverence.
After reading her words, my experience of the world changed completely. The universe I saw through Dillard’s eyes was far bigger, more diverse, more plentiful, more beautiful, and more mysterious than anything my years of faith had taught me. Under her guidance, my simplistic faith, so certain that everything could be explained and understood in the pages of Scripture, was severely rattled. Suddenly I discovered the magic of questions, of curiosity, of not knowing, and of seeking even when it was clear that no simple answer would ever be found.
A FAITH OF ANSWERS
Growing up in church we used to sing a song that began “Jesus is the answer for the world today…” The faith I was taught was presented as:
- the solution to every problem,
- the answer to every question,
- the map for every terrain.
I soon learned that there were questions that just were not to be asked, and that doubt was a sure ticket to hell. So completely did I absorb this faith that when I completed my undergraduate studies in theology, my peers awarded me an Ostrich Award – for successfully burying my head in the sand and rejecting the wisdom of modern biblical scholarship!
Eventually, thanks to thinkers like Dillard, I learned that my answer-based faith was too small, too confined, and too blinkered to be sustainable in the real world. My questions did not go away, they simply waited in silence until life knocked down my certainties one by one, and then the questions came bursting out with a force that was both frightening and liberating.
As Richard Rohr notes, Jesus seldom gave straight answers. Apparently he is asked 183 questions in the Gospels and only answers 3! But Jesus did ask a lot of questions – 307 of them!
LIVING IN PERPETUAL CURIOSITY
At least part of what Jesus meant when he called us to become like children is that we should never lose the childlike capacity for curiosity and questioning. In Michael Dowd’s Advent of Evolutionary Christianity (http://thegreatstory.org/ec-leaders.html) (a series of conversations with scientists, theologians, philosophers, artists, and speakers) we are offered three basic truths that form the foundation for a curious, childlike faith:
- A “deep time” framework of 14 billion years for understanding the universe and our place in it;
- Evidence as Divine communication, in which science, reason, and experience are recognised as valid sources of Divine truth;
- A global perspective in which we move out of self-centred, nationalistic, or in-group thinking and recognise that we are all connected, beloved, and intrinsically valuable.
When our spirituality embraces an evolving, evolutionary perspective, it stops being closed, certain of its own correctness, and static. Instead it becomes open, creative, dynamic, growing, and much more welcoming and compassionate. In a world where information is seen as power, it can be revolutionary to make curiosity our priority, but I encourage you to take the chance, ask lots of questions, and discover the difference.
Perhaps you’d like to explore a curious spirituality right now?
- Leave a comment below: How have you engaged with evolutionary thinking in your own faith journey? How can you bring your faith and the revelations of science together more this week?
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- And don’t forget to invite others to join the journey!
Over to you!
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