Is Jesus the Answer or the Question?: rediscovering the role of mystery in our faith

Recent posts on Ur have focused on the nature of Emergent - is it liberal Christianity recast for a new generation, or simply a forum of conversation for those looking for a better understanding of their faith? Critics have accused Emergent's better known participants, Tony Jones and Brian McLaren, of being evasive with answers to pointed doctrinal questions. In response, Jones and McLaren have pointed to the importance of dialogue and thoughtful questions over definitive answers.

Ed Gungor's new book, Religiously Transmitted Diseases (Nelson Ignite, 2006), equates definitive answers with "dead religion." In this excerpt from the book, Gungor affirms the life-giving role of mystery within our faith.

I think Christianity is supposed to be the unreligion. That's because the strictness and predictability of religion causes simple, pure faith to become diseased. If not stopped, religion can even kill living faith. And dead things just aren't very interesting. Case in point?

I was eleven years old the first time I dissected anything. I was on a scouting trip. Armed with flashlights, a few of us wandered into the woods after dark to explore. Joe was the first to spot him. He was a pretty good-sized frog. And he was quick. Flashlights and size 8 feet darted every which way as we scrambled to grab him. Something in us boys wanted to know what was inside that frog, what made that living thing alive.

"Don't kill it!" Joe cried. "Take him alive."

I'm sure that frog had no idea he was going to stumble into the midst of a gaggle of earth giants that night, and he did his best to flee, but to no avail. I got my hand around him as he tried to hop between my feet. Then we each whipped out our scout-issue jack-knives and begged to be the surgeon.

In a few moments the frog lay dead, his inner secrets uncovered. But to my surprise we didn't gain any greater understanding of Froggie when we opened him up. We had lost something. The interest that had charged the air during the hunt completely disappeared when he lay open and lifeless before us. Dead things aren't nearly as attention-grabbing as things that are alive. Only in the presence of life does mystery exist.

My quest to dissect continues to this day. It is as though I am uncomfortable with wonder. I find something full of life and, instead of enjoying the mystery of it, I want to dissect it, to figure out the how and why. But dissecting life results in death. And once death comes, the mystery disappears.

Religion, too, is all about dissecting. It is the nemesis of mystery.

June 06, 2006

Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments

Stephen Harmon

June 08, 2006  5:12am

Everyone seems to be debating what Gungor meant or what Gungor said. Gungor's piece has enough "Mystery" to be considered a collection of thoughts about nothing. I can't apply his premise, don't feel motivated about our faith, and have been left with a "what if" scenario on whether Jesus is the answer or the question. Geez, we sound so high brow sometimes! Succint Clarity would go along way, but then many of these authors/thinkers wouldn't have a publisher/forum.

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June 07, 2006  3:16pm

My first question for Ed is what religion is he talking about? Catholic, Episcopal, Mormon, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Saddleback, Amish, Buddhist, Islam, Taoism, New Age? Or is his criticizism totally non-specific so you can apply his condemnation to the church of your choice? My second question is how do you make the connection between killing a frog to see how it LIVES to seeking to better know the LIVING God? You state, "Religion too, is all about dissecting. It is the nemesis of mystery." Yet dissecting long understood Biblical truth is what emergent is all about. I've never heard socially inconvenient verses more re-thought, chewed up, spit out and gagged on than by Brian and Tony. If you don't want religion, don't have any. Jesus never tried to cram the truth down anyone's throat. When a person has a real, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ you must marvel at the mystery of their joy through tribulations, peace in the midst of the storm, and unquenchable hope for tomorrow. (Some of them even wear stylish clothes.)

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June 07, 2006  6:26am

Why can't we just seek Jesus only? The discourse about religion and religiosity is time wasting. Let us focus on a true realtionship with Jesus Christ as the savior and Lord of our lives. We shall certainly not find peace by provoking scriptural doctrines. Let Jesus point the way - that is what faith is about. Spend time in thanksgiving and praise for the Lord requires that much from us!

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Larry Baden

June 06, 2006  6:28pm

It seems to me that we are a culture that wants to explain and understand everything. We attempt to explain everything from our origins to belief in God, from love to just about anything else you can name. Somehow so many of us think there is some sort of scientific explanation for everything. However, some things are simply not explanable or even open to recognition by scientific process, and I think an approach that demands uber-rationality for everything leaves us impoverished, and in truth, understanding nothing.

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Sam Andress

June 06, 2006  5:44pm


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