Ek lees Philip Yancey se boek “Reaching for the invisible God.” Hy beskryf die boek as “undertaking a journey to know God.” Eintlik gaan die boek oor onsekerhede in die geloofslewe – twyfel, en dit gee my hoop. As ek met twyfel mag lewe, dan het ek hoop vir myself. Hy skryf met die doel om bietjie realisme te bring in die Christelike wêreld waar soms onrealistiese verwagtinge geskep word, en die wat nie inkoop op hierdie onrealistiese verwagtinge nie, word as kleingelowig of selfs sonder geloof beskryf. Wanneer ek ‘n kansie kry gaan ek ‘n paar parragrawe uit die boek hier kom plaas. Ek sou graag julle kommentaar wou hoor.
“I have lived most of my life in the evangelical Protestant tradition, which emphasizes personal relationship, and I finally decided to write this book because I want to identify for myself how a relationship with God truly works, not how it is supposed to work. The stance of the evangelical tradition — one person seeking God alone, without priests, icons, or other mediators — peculiarly fits the temperament of a writer. Although I may consult other sources and interview wise people, in the end I must sort things out in solitude, introspectively, with blank sheets of paper on which to record my thoughts. This creates its own hazards, for the Christian life is not meant to be lived by a person sitting alone all day thinking about the Christian life.
When I begin a book, I take up a machete and start hacking my way through the jungle, not to clear a trail for others, rather to find a path through for myself. Will anyone follow? Have I lost my way? I never know the answers to those questions as I write; I just keep swinging the machete.
That image is not quite accurate, however. In carving my path I am following a map laid out by many others, the who have preceded me. My struggles with faith have at least this in their favor: they come from a long, distinguished line. I find kindred expressions of doubt and confusion in the Bible itself. Sigmund Freud accused the church of teaching only questions that it can answer. Some churches may do that, but God surely does not. In books like Job, Ecclesiastes, and Habakkuk, the Bible poses blunt questions that have no answers.
As I investigate, I find that great saints also encountered many of the same roadblocks, detours, and dead ends that I experience and that my correspondents express. Modern churches tend to feature testimonies of spiritual successes, never failures, which only makes the strugglers in the pew feel worse. Books and videos likewise focus on the triumphs. Yet delve a bit deeper into church history and you will find a different story, of those who strain to swim upstream like spawning salmon.
In his Confessions Saint Augustine describes in pinpoint detail his slow awakening. “I wished to be made just as certain of things that I could not see, as I was certain that seven and three make ten,” he writes. He never found that certainty. This North African scholar in the fourth century contended with the same issues that plague Christians today: believing in the invisible and overcoming a nagging distrust of the church.
Hannah Whitall Smith, whose book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life beckoned millions of Victorian-era readers upward to a higher plane of living, never found much happiness herself. Her husband, a famous evangelist, concocted a new formula for ecstasy that satisfied spiritual longings with sexual thrills. Later, he drifted into a pattern of serial adultery and denied the faith. Hannah stayed with him, growing disillusioned and embittered. None of her children kept the faith. One daughter married the philosopher Bertrand Russell and became an atheist like her husband. Russell’s own depictions of his mother-in-law describe anything but a victorious woman.
Contemporary author Eugene Peterson attended in his adolescence a religious conference where people met by a lake each summer. They had fiery spiritual intensity and used phrases like “deeper life” and “second blessing.” As he watched these people’s lives, however, he noticed no continuity between the exuberance at the conference grounds and everyday life in town. “The mothers of our friends who were bitchy before were bitchy still. Mr. Billington, our history teacher, held in such veneration at the center, never relinquished his position in the high school as the most mean-spirited of all our teachers.”
I mention these failures not to dampen anyone’s faith but to add a dose of realism to spiritual propaganda that promises more than it can deliver. In an odd way the very failures of the church prove its doctrine. Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part. We in the church have humility and contrition to offer the world, not a formula for success. Almost alone in our success-oriented society, we admit that we have failed, are failing, and always will fail. The church in A.D. 3000 will be as rife with problems as the church in A.D. 2000 or 1000. That is why we turn to God so desperately.
The Christian has a great advantage over other men,” said C. S. Lewis, not by being less fallen than they, nor less doomed to live in fallen world, but by knowing that he is a fallen man in a fallen world.” That recognition forms my starting point in undertaking a journey to know God.”