by Charles R. Swindoll
The longer I live the less I know for sure.
That sounds like 50% heresy . . . but it's 100% honesty. In my younger years I had a lot more answers than I do now. Things were absolutely black and white, right or wrong, yes or no, in or out, but a lot of that is beginning to change. The more I travel and read and wrestle and think the less simplistic things seem.
I now find myself uncomfortable with sweeping generalities . . . with neat little categories and well-defined classifications.
Take people, for example. They cannot be squeezed into pigeon holes. People and situations are far more complex than most of us are willing to admit.
• Not all Episcopalians are liberal.
• Not all athletes are thickheaded.
• Not all Republicans are Christian good guys.
• Not all collegians are rebels.
• Not all artists are kooks.
• Not all movies are questionable.
• Not all questions are answerable.
• Not all verses are clear.
• Not all problems are easily solved.
• Not all deaths are explainable.
Maybe the list comes as a jolt. Great! Jolts are fine if they make you think. We evangelicals are good at building rigid walls out of dogmatic stones . . . cemented together by the mortar of tradition.
We erect these walls in systematic circles—then place within each our over-simplified, ultra-inflexible "position." Within each fortress we build human machines that are programmed not to think but to say the "right" things and respond the "right" way at any given moment. Our self-concept remains undisturbed and secure since no challenging force is ever allowed over the walls. Occasionally, however, a strange thing happens—a little restlessness springs up within the walls. A few ideas are challenged. Questions are entertained. Alternative options are then released. Talk about threat! Suddenly our superprotected, cliché-ridden answers don't cut it. Our over-simplified package offers no solution. The stones start to shift as the mortar cracks.
Two common reactions are available to us. One: We can maintain the status quo "position" and patch the wall by resisting change with rigidity. Tw We can openly admit "I do not know," as the wall crumbles. Then we can do some new thinking by facing the facts as they actually are. The first approach is the most popular. We are masters at rationalizing around our inflexible behavior. We imply that change always represents a departure from the truth of Scripture.
Now some changes do pull us away from Scripture. They must definitely be avoided. But let's be absolutely certain that we are standing on scriptural rock, not traditional sand. We have a changeless message—Jesus Christ—but He must be proclaimed in a changing, challenging era. Such calls for a breakdown of stone walls and breakthrough of fresh, keen thinking based on scriptural insights. No longer can we offer tired, trite statements that are as stiff and tasteless as last year's gum beneath the pew. The thinking person deserves an intelligent, sensible answer. He is weary of oversimplified bromides mouthed by insensitive robots within the walls.
Perhaps by now my words sound closer to 90% heresy. All I ask is that you examineyour life. Socrates once said,
The unexamined life is not worth living.
If you've stopped thinking and started going through unexamined motions, you've really stopped living and started existing.
That kind of "life" isn't much fun, nor very rewarding. I'd call it about 100% heresy . . . and only 50% honesty.
Excerpted from Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Copyright © 1983 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House.