March, 2010

Faith, Hope and Love, Moving Beyond Unreasonable Doubt

by Adam J. Wehrley

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Hebrews chapter 11 briefly relates to stories of the heroes of faith in the Old Testament, people who, hoping in the promises of God, faithfully stood their ground in various trials. In chapter 12 they remain witnesses to the power of faith and faithfulness, examples to be followed.

I realized a couple months ago that I have reached a point in my life, I some how always thought I would avoid. I realized that I prefer watching police dramas to other TV shows. I find something gratifying in watching smart people stop bad guys. This condition has been progressing over the past several years, slowly at first. Now I find myself thinking in ways typical of each show’s slightly eccentric heroes.

I don’t pretend to understand all the contradictory facets of human nature, but I think we can all sympathize with a sense of justice that believes strength and intelligence ought to be used to fight evil. Like heroes in history and heroes in our own hometown, heroes in fiction must believe in truth and justice beyond themselves.

In contrast to faith, there is a level of skepticism in our world which denies both evil and truth, both justice and sin – an unreasonable doubt which leaves us adrift in the storm and then cries out rashly that both the gale and the harbor are myths, leaving no room for heroes, saviors or villains, only victims – no foundation upon which love, mercy and sacrifice make sense.

The Lone Ranger, Superman and Caped Crusader of my childhood have given way to a less flamboyant form of heroism in my new choice of entertainment. My son Elias, on the other hand, still plays in a world of super heroes, dragons and dinosaurs.

He hums the Superman theme when he runs and his only fear seems to be things he calls “T-Rex-eaters and Pliosaur-eaters.” He’s only afraid of monsters which (in his imagination) feed on the two most powerful predators known to science. I find something encouraging in that, the seed of a heroism I hope will last.

In the midst of playing or storytelling it’s hard for Elias to be what police shows would call “a reliable witness.” No dinosaur-eaters have ever really attacked our house or sat down with him for hot cocoa. As he grows he is getting better at discerning reality from fantasy, and that’s a road we must all walk down.

Everything we do requires discerning reliable information from errors and lies, finding a phone number, buying groceries, purchasing a used car, voting, seeking medical advice. Unreliable witnesses can cost us dearly, whether through selfishness, delusions or through honest mistakes.

As the disinformation age rolls along, our ability to find thousands of erroneous opinions on any topic increases by the minute. The discernment to know which opinions are reliable seems rarer.

We can become paralyzed by unreasonable doubt, embrace a manic self-destructive glee in the chaos, or we can seek the wisdom and discernment to find reliable witnesses and evidence on which to base our lives. We can waiver between multiple opinions, tossed on the ever-changing sea of blogs, gurus, cynics and experts that bombard us, or we can move beyond our unreasonable doubt and build a foundation for our lives on Christ.

Opinions multiply, but wisdom, love and virtue remain unchanged over the millennium. With these any of us can become a hero, but there can be only one Savior.

The problem of discernment verses unreasonable doubt is not new. It wasn’t new nearly 2000 years ago when it confronted Christ’s followers as He died on the cross. After trusting Christ for several years, they all abandoned Him the night He was arrested. For weeks He had been testifying to what would happen. They had claimed to trust Him, but they ran and hid, they lied and doubted. They lost hope.

The name of the Apostle Thomas has been synonymous with unreasonable doubt, since that first Easter. All the apostles and other followers of Christ had doubted, despite His detailed warnings. They had failed to believe the one reliable witness they had. Even after the rest returned to belief, Thomas failed to trust the other apostles and believers who had just spoken with the risen Christ that day. He said, ” Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25).

In response to Thomas’ unreasonable doubt, Christ came to them again, using Thomas’ own words to rebuke him, then saying, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

It has never been true that seeing is always believing, the cynic’s capacity for doubt in the face of evidence is as great as the saint’s capacity for mercy and sacrifice when hope seems lost. But there is Christ’s presence. Thomas’ unreasonable doubt was finally overcome, and Thomas confessed, “My Lord and my God!”

Seeing his faith, Jesus responded, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

It is not unusual for young children to believe everything, nor for adolescents to doubt everything, but at some point we must take our stand on something firmer than doubt or fantasy.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:11,13)

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Adam J. Wehrley is a fourth generation member of the family that has owned and operated The Clatskanie Chief for the past 88 years. He, his wife Molly and their three children are currently living in Santa Cruz, Bolivia where Adam is a member of the faculty at Hebron Seminary. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies and pastoral ministry, and is studying for a master’s degree in Biblical languages.

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