One of the big philosophical questions that physics threw up when I was about 14, is ‘what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object’?
I remember the discussion, and we all concluded that perpetual stalemate was the answer. However, our rather whacky physics teacher demonstrated that this was a flawed paradox, because something will always happen because energy will always be transferred somehow – probably in the form of heat
So why begin this week’s article with a physics question?
Because a similar question emerges around what happens when unshakeable faith meets unresolvable doubt? Stalemate? I hope not. I suspect that in that situation, faith evolves. Or rather, I hope it does. Because that’s how we grow in faith. A static faith is a fossilised faith.
An important task of a faithful person in trying to navigate experiences of doubt is not to resist or reject doubt, but to sit with it and attempt to integrate it. When we embrace and grapple with those things that puzzle us we tend to grow. Faith and curiosity go hand in hand.
For example, when we discover from experience that praying for healing seldom works, or that in difficult financial circumstances a sincere prayer for economic relief doesn’t quite cut it, then we have to find a way of accommodating the truth of things. It can come as quite a shock to discover that God is in fact not our personal valet meeting all our needs. But rather a mysterious symbol for giving humanity hope.
After the last Federal Election, Scott Morrison asserted that he believed in miracles and the result indicated to him that a miracle had taken place. The implications of such a declaration of belief is that God is more interested in the outcome of an election and the ambitions of a politician than say, ending suffering in Syria or Yemen, or caring for a little child who dies seeking asylum in another land.
These are the kind of realities and assertions that we need to think through, and through that process, let go of the things that don’t hang together with any integrity. In that way, we can uncover a faith that can cope with the truth of things and yet remain resilient. Because, at the end of the day, the kind of God we believe in shapes the kind of faith that we bring to life.
Speaking personally, I’m not keen on having a faith that cannot adapt and adjust to what I am learning about life through either my own or other people’s experiences. That which doesn’t learn to bend usually breaks.