Saints & Idiots

In advanced matters of theology absolute confidence is possible only for two classes of people, saints and idiots.

Origen of Alexandria

Origen is not widely regarded in Church circles because some of his beliefs were deemed heresy and understandably many people are reluctant to listen too closely to him. I find I become more guarded when reading Origen than with someone like John Chrysostom or Gregory the Great. Origen is also the perfect person to have made the above quote. It is a reminder to me that I can be wrong about theology, the mind of God, and practical living. It is a reminder that though I think I am right– after all who would hold an opinion one believes to be wrong– I must be willing to listen to and learn from others, else I fit into the category of IDIOT. Idiots are those who think they have a solid understanding of the Divine with little investment in understanding God. The danger is that it is easy to fall into that category and so we must humbly acknowledge the limits of our individual perspectives. I do not know everything about God and there are continuously things which surprise me about God, like any other intimate relationship “the other” or “loved” is ever deeper than one imagines.

Now I recognize that some ignorant individuals might retort, “all Christians are idiots”, of course their scoff reveals them to be precisely in the category of idiot Origen was talking about, but let me field this objection. Essentially the objection is that because we cannot have certainty in some (even most) areas of our knowledge of God we therefore can know nothing. This objection plays out in two distinct types, atheism/agnosticism and relativism. The relativist will say that because we must hold our notions of God loosely we therefore must accept everyone else’s notions of God as equally valid. The atheist will be harsher and say that the lack of certainty proves God false. Of course there is also a great lack of certainty about quantum theory, the nature of reality, cosmology, what is outside our universe, how life started, and math but all of these are very real, a lack of certainty does not invalidate a concept.But we also note from Origen’s quote the existence of saints, this curious category of individual who does seem to know God and know God well. These individuals are important to us and our world because they provide a level of certainty about God for the rest of us. One thing about being a saint is that it is difficult to recognize when one achieves this status, but others striving after God see it more clearly. Saints vary in their work, their writings, and their lives but they all strive to connect to God and in this connection leave us a path to follow as we walk in Jesus’ footsteps. Are saints perfect guides, no, but they are honest and reliable guides. They help point us toward the nature of God through their lives and writings. They show us there is a consistent avenue toward God and though you and I might not have great answers about God, those answers exist. We are not confined to a languid relativism or agnosticism; there is a deep and certain knowledge of God and there are people’s voices which we can confidently trust.

In that vein I am rebranding this site Saint’s & Idiots! It is a reminder to me that I must not be an idiot and that I am not yet a saint. Further, as I intend to expand the resources I provide to include greater discussion opportunities (see the Facebook page), recognizing we all grow together. I also intend to provide other materials to help people connect directly with the saints who have impacted my growth. We might not be saints but we do not have to be idiots. Though I am rebranding the site, I intend to leave the blog title alone; A Brief Pause has always been for me a commitment to try to summarize my thoughts clearly and succinctly. My goal in this blog remains to provide my reflections on the world and how Christians can and should relate in it. I never have thought of my answers as definitive or normative for Christians, my attitude is to pen what I think is right and engage in thoughtful dialogue. I invite you to search the site and provide me with feedback so I can improve the content. I hope you enjoy SAINTS & IDIOTS!

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