agnostics, agnotiscism, climbing, courage, doubt, doubters, faith, George MacDonald, John 20, mountain, poem, posers, real, Robert Frost, saints, Thomas, top-roping
“…a man may be haunted with doubts, and only grow thereby in faith. Doubts are the messengers of the Living One to the honest.
(Doubts) are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet but have to be understood…Doubt must precede every deeper assurance; for uncertainties are what we see when we look into a region hitherto unknown, unexplored, unannexed.”
– George MacDonald
There are religious believers who remind me of some a kind of “poser” for an advanced rock climbers but who are “top-roping” — trusting the ropes and their pals to make sure he’s hauled to the top in case of a slip up. He’s cockily assured he’s always tethered, for him checking his toe holds are of little importance. In contrast, true “advanced” climbers are the ones who check, but climb, and climb higher. And sometimes choose the wrong toe holds–there will be periods of hardship and crushing difficulties in which the greatest saint will doubt. After all, he is a human.
There is a great group below–the agnostics –who stand on the ground looking up at the climb. Perhaps they’d been tethered and top-roped for a while, but they’re just earthbound now. These doubters are the “Thomases.” (John 20:24-29) One would wish them all to be honest men, who ask only to put their fingers into His scarred hands, and thrust their hands into His sides. Sometimes they seek a faith if only to quiet the gong of small gods and the clang of the corruptible, unresurrected creation. Granted, a “Thomas” hasn’t yet figured it out and maybe he’s still seeking. As long as he has the will (or is it the courage?) to admit that he has been unable to find anything durable but is still actively searching, he deserves and will receive an answer. “Cookie-cutter” statements and pat answers don’t solve the doubter’s dilemma. They are better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others. Whether an earthbound Thomas or an advanced climber, we all have our own tree to cut down:
In winter in the woods alone
Against the trees I go.
I mark a maple for my own
And lay the maple low.
At four o’clock I shoulder ax,
And in the afterglow
I link a line of shadowy tracks
Across the tinted snow.
I see for Nature no defeat
In one tree’s overthrow
Or for myself in my retreat
For yet another blow.
In Winter In The Woods – by Robert Frost