A Christian Agnostic?

I have a confession to make. Lately, I have found myself becoming an agnostic. Yes, you’ve read me correctly; I’m becoming a Christian agnostic. What’s more, I think we all would do well to become such.
This may sound strange coming from a pastor of an unapologetically conservative evangelical church. I’ll say at the outset that I believe in all of the “fundamentals” of the Christian faith, important truths like the inerrancy of the Bible; the virgin birth, sinless life, and bodily resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ; the total depravity of man through sin; and the blood atonement of Christ on Calvary’s cross that, by God’s grace through our faith alone in Christ alone, we might be saved. I’m no less certain of those vital, non-negotiable points of faith than I have ever been. But again I reiterate: I’m becoming a Christian agnostic, and so should you!
Allow me to try to explain what I’m talking about. Donald McCullough, in his book The Trivialization of God, offers the chapter which set me to thinking in this way. He titles it “In Praise of Agnosticism”, and he calls us to a “reverent agnosticism” such as we hear the psalmist singing when he says “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable”. Read the emphasis on the word “unsearchable”. “Agnostic” is just a high-falutin’ word for “ignorant”. Between Creator and creature, writes Soren Kierkegaard, there is an infinite qualitative difference. A contemporary songwriter similarly (if not correctly grammatically!) puts it this way: “God ain’t gonna stay in the little box I put Him in!” But my, don’t we try sometimes to keep Him there!
Call it the “Golden Calf Syndrome”. Israel assumed that God could be contained in a time-and-space image of its own making. They were really no different than practically every society since the beginning of time. We condescendingly wink at those societies where inanimate objects are lifted up for worship. Is it possible, though, that even as Christians we are all too quick to assume that we have God pretty much “all figured out”, wrapped up neatly in our doctrinal formulations and tamed into a manageable deity? Is it possible that we are altogether too cocksure about what we suppose to be our “corner on the truth” about God? Have we defined mystery and awe out of the equation?
The rub comes in when we act upon our “assuredness” about the ways of God. We sit in church and the last thing we expected is the unexpected! We get out of sorts when people worship in ways to which we are unaccustomed, or when God does something that catches us by surprise, forgetting that Jesus was Himself something of a revolutionary when He walked among men. Or we adopt an attitude of spiritual superiority over our “pet doctrine”, certain that we are the enlightened ones and that other Christians would be closer to God if they only had the good sense to agree with us. Or we align God with a given political agenda and assume that we know just what His stance would be on global warming, AIDS research, or affirmative action.
To be sure, God has graciously chosen to reveal Himself in certain ways to His people. There are some things we can say about God with dogged certainty, for these are the things He has chosen to reveal about Himself to us. He has, in His beneficence, graced us with the privilege of knowing Him through Jesus Christ. But our attitudes ought to be gratitude to Him for His goodness rather than self-righteous back patting at our good judgment to have “chosen” Jesus! And we certainly must not pretend that we know nearly as much about Who God is and why He does what He does as we are tempted to think we do.
McCullough offers three suggestions to the Christian tempted to overestimate his own ability to comprehend God’s ways. I list them here, without comment, for our consideration. Silent Reverence. Humble Civility. Patient Openness.
I thank God that He has chosen to reveal Himself in His ways in His time to fallen flesh-and-blood like me. But I’m a Christian agnostic, and I confess—and I’d encourage you to as well—with Paul, the apostle, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”

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